Launching SparkLabs Cyber + Blockchain in Our Nation’s Capital
SparkLabs Group (www.sparklabsgroup.com) has invested in over 200 companies across 6 continents through our accelerators and venture capital funds. Two sectors within our portfolio we have been active in and will be moving forward is cybersecurity and distributed ledger technologies.
Last winter Brian Park, former COO of Startup Grind, and I started talking about his idea to launch a new startup accelerator since he obtain the rights and spun out AOL’s FishBowl Lab in Washington, D.C. He was just seeking for friendly feedback and then it moved into a conversation of working together.
Our team is excited about the the launch of SparkLabs Cyber + Blockchain for several reasons. We are grateful to be working with Brian, we love these two sectors and look forward to working with founders within these industries and this is SparkLabs first accelerator in the U.S.!
Joining Brian on the investment committee will be Rob DeMillo, who has been a mentor for SparkLabs since our beginnings (2012) and a Venture Partner at SparkLabs Global Ventures, our global seed-stage fund. He’s currently CTO at Nimble Collective and has been a serial CTO or CEO at various startups throughout his career. As a VP of Engineering at VeriSign, Rob has managed a group of over 600 engineers, but prefers working with small teams in the startup world. Frank Meehan, my Co-founder for SparkLabs Global who learned his trade at Horizons Ventures (Li Ka-shing’s venture capital firm), will also serve on this investment team. While at Horizons, Frank led DeepMind’s Series A, invested in Siri and sat on their board, and served on the Board of Directors at Spotify along with a dozen other boards for Li Ka-shing.
We have an inspiring roster of advisors, venture partners, mentors and other people committed to supporting and helping out entrepreneurs who will go through this new accelerator program.
The legendary Ray Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes and former Chief Software Architect at Microsoft has joined this advisory board. He is also working on a new security startup, Clear (read “Cracking the Crypto War” WIRED). Charlie Lee, the Creator of Litecoin (7th largest cryptocurrency & blockchain protocol), graciously joined, which I’m personally excited about. Michael Crow, Chairman of In-Q-Tel and President of Arizona State University, who was my professor from graduate school at Columbia University and an advisor to my first startup. President Crow has been one of our first supporters since we launched SparkLabs’ first accelerator in Seoul in 2012. Eric Ly, Co-founder & Former CTO of Linkedin, has also joined. He’s recently launched a new reputation system based on blockchain called HubToken, and he’s told me that he’s “all in” in blockchain since a couple years ago. We are truly honored to have Rich DeMillo, Executive Director at the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Tech and HP’s first CTO, on board as well.
Our Venture Partners are the second line of support for startups in this new accelerator. Honored to have on board Samson Mow, who is CSO at Blockstream and CEO of Pixelmatic. Andrew Lee, Co-founder of Handshake and Chairman of London Trust Media Holdings, is a great entrepreneur and passionate about helping others. Ryan Selkis, Co-founder and CEO of Messari, is the former Managing Director at Coindesk and Director of Investments at Digital Currency Group. We know Ryan since we invested into his startup, Messari, which is seeking to become the “Bloomberg of Crypto”. Monique Morrow is the Co-founder and President of the Humanized Internet, and she came highly recommended by Ann Greenberg, a long-time mentor and supporter of SparkLabs.
Some of the mentors we have asked to help out our startups are shown to the left. These are about a third of the impressive mentors we have signed up so far.
Outside of this accelerator we have other experts and leaders from cybersecurity and distributed ledger technologies within the greater SparkLabs Group ecosystem. Brian Behlendorf, Executive Director of Hyperledger, has been an Advisor to SparkLabs Global Ventures since 2013 while he was a Managing Director at Mithril Capital. He is also a Venture Partner with SparkLabs FinTech and our accelerator with Ping An Insurance. Another Venture Partner at SparkLabs FinTech to mention is Spiros Margaris, who was one of the leading social media influencers in fintech (#1), AI (#1) and also listed here as #2 in cybersecurity. Spiros was a long-time investment professional who is now actively advising and helping out startups.
As brief background, we have been active in the blockchain space since 2014. Cryex, which was eventually acquired by Safello, was our first investment from our global seed fund, SparkLabs Global Ventures. They were trying to build a FX cryptocurrency exchange in Stockholm (initially in Malmo, Sweden), but it was a bit too early. In 2015, through our accelerator in Seoul (SparkLabs Korea), we were introduced to an enterprise blockchain play, Blocko, and bitcoin remittance company, Sentbe. Both of these companies became their respective industry leaders in South Korea. Since then, we have done other investments within this space:
Our first investment in cybersecurity was in Castle, which focuses on account takeover prevention. Through Frank Meehan’s network in Sweden, we invested in Castle’s first seed round and then over a year later they were accepted into Y Combinator (W16). So not only was the SparkLabs Group’s first security AND blockchain related investments in Swedish startups, but both were based in Malmo, Sweden! Go MALMO!
At SparkLabs Group, whether we invest $25,000 or $1,000,000 into a startup, we do not discriminate and tier our efforts within our portfolio. We are committed to the cause of each startup, so some people might question our wisdom in resource allocation but this our operating ethos. Also whether fundraising, product guidance, marketing, recruiting, PR, or a general sounding board, we seek to support our portfolio companies in big and small ways. No task or work is beneath any partner or person at SparkLabs.
Our numbers support this with over 95 startups that have gone through SparkLabs Seoul, our first accelerator, the average raise before entering the program is over $450,000 and after graduation is over $3.5 million (and our first fund is up over 1,300%). SparkLabs Cultiv8’s first batch had 8 companies with an average raise of $1.1 million prior to joining (just graduated 1st batch on Sept. 18th in Sydney!), and Ping An Cloud Accelerator, Powered by SparkLabs (our first corporate accelerator) had 10 companies that raised $3.2 million beforehand (1st DemoDay is Oct. 17th in Shenzhen!). These programs invest approximately $50,000 in each startup, so I can confidently state that we have built a strong reputation for helping founders. All of our partners have gone through startup life and most have been founders, so we know how hard it is to start, launch and build companies.
If you are a founder of cybersecurity or blockchain startup and looking for a great accelerator or early-stage investors, feel free to contact Brian Park (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are a company or organization interested in partnering with SparkLabs Cyber + Blockchain, contact Brian. Of course you can contact me too, but better them :)