What I learned from Silicon Valley’s best accelerator program.

Last year a startup I worked for was accepted into 500 startup’s B16. As I went through the program, I learned a few key things that I’d like to share.

  1. BUILD A NETWORK

At 500 startups we were placed within a “batch” of 30 or so startups within a single coworking space. Many of our batch mates came from outside of silicon valley, and became close, particularly on the weekend at bars. If you are serious about your company you need surround yourself with lots of entrepreneurs. Coworking spots are a great way to do this, but only if you actually work to reach out to your fellow founders. By building a strong network we helped each other find new business, and funding opportunities. it was common for angels who previously invested in one of our batchmates to invest in multiple teams after introductions by founders.

2. MARKETING IS EVERYTHING

Dave McClure himself told me that the most important thing that most entrepreneurs lack are marketing skills. In particular startups should focus on creating network effects, even non social products can do this through effective referral programs. within the first few months of joining the program we went through a week of marketing focused workshops called “marketing hell week” a lot of these talks are available for free online, I’d highly recommend them.

3. CRAPPY PRODUCTS MAKE MONEY & GET FUNDING

Poorly built products with good business plans can make money, and get funding if they show potential. If your site isn’t where it needs to be, that’s alright focus on shipping, marketing and raising. After you raise a round then you can improve your product, it only needs to meet the minimal needs of the client. I knew a startup with a website looking like it was built in the 1990’s with about one hour of mandatory downtime each night made 8k/mo.

4. METRICS MATTER

The only way to measure the health of your company is through hard metrics, we were taught that the best KPIs (key-performance-indicators) could be expressed as ratios (i.e. daily active users = users/day). Identify 3–4 key events in your product lifetime, and set up tracking tools so you can identify strengths and weaknesses in your product.

5. RUN EXPERIMENTS OFTEN (software only)

After adding key event tracking, run small experiments and measure the outcome. Repeated small experimentation is they key to rapid improvement, however things can only be called improvement if they can be measured.

500 startups was an incredible experience, and one that i hope all of you will get a chance to take part in. The team of mentors was outstanding, and had a breadth of experiences. The speakers brought in were industry leaders who offered a great amount of insight into success and how to achieve it in the tech world.

I would highly recommend 500 startups.

For more reviews of investors, and advice from fellow founders check out www.frontiernode.com

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