TL;DR: We’re launching a new global incubator program for early-stage blockchain companies this spring to complement our more traditional startup accelerator offering. Selected companies will receive a small pre-seed investment accompanied by dlab team mentorship and lightweight virtual programming. It’s designed to help build and test innovative ideas quickly and efficiently. Read on to learn more!
While recruiting for our second accelerator cohort last fall, we looked at well over 200 companies working in the blockchain space. We interviewed over 100 founders. We laughed. We cried. We questioned. We learned a lot! Ultimately, we narrowed the list down to six blockchain startups that we really, really liked.
Throughout that process, we spoke to a lot of passionate entrepreneurs and super sharp developers. Some of the most memorable teams that didn’t make the final cut were just a bit too early for us to write a check. Being early is hard. When you’re early, the default answer from any investor (and accelerators are no exception) is “Oh that’s interesting. It’s too early for us right now. But come back later when you have [some traction/a more polished product/a crisper value proposition]”. And often, they do. They come back. They prove us wrong. We write a check. And that’s great. But at dlab, we’d like to be able to do more. We’d like to accelerate the speed at which good ideas can be tested and provide support for great teams who are at different stages. To address this, we’ve decided to try something new in 2020. We’ll be delaying the start of our third dlab ACCELERATE cohort until August in order to roll out something new: a wholly virtual bootcamp-like program that combines pre-seed funding with a lightweight version of our accelerator process, administered remotely.
Whereas dlab ACCELERATE will focus on accelerating product and business growth and fundraising readiness, this new virtual incubator (“dlab INCUBATE”) will focus on building and testing. Here’s how it’ll work:
- We’ll select up to 20 projects to work with us over a 12-week period from May through July. We’ll be accepting applications through the end of April, but will give priority consideration to those that apply by March 31st. Since we’ll do a rolling start, the first companies accepted will simply receive more time and attention.
- We’ll provide a bit of funding to each company in the form of a $25k uncapped SAFE ($16k in cash + $9k in program costs). If you’re not already incorporated, we can help with that too.
- Every week, companies will have a scheduled check-in with dlab program leadership to review mutually agreed upon OKRs; discuss progress; and get feedback and help where it’s most needed.
- In addition, a number of SOSV and EMURGO staff and mentors will offer up their time via our office hours system. Need help with your go to market strategy? Set up a meeting. Need some advice on your new dashboard UX? Or questions about devops best practices? We can help.
- Once a month, companies will present their product and a brief status update via video to the wider group of SOSV and EMURGO leadership and select mentors, along with their fellow startups. This will be followed by Q&A. It’s an opportunity to get extended feedback from market experts and investors, answer questions, and make new connections.
- Our staff will also provide a weekly curated reading list and suggested educational materials culled from our library and resource network.
- There’ll be some other fun stuff too 🙂and occasional opportunities to present at future showcases and events.
- And of course, yeah, companies who show great promise and that find the relationship to be mutually beneficial will be given priority consideration for our fall ACCELERATE program (our premier program; up to $200k in additional funding plus follow-on).
To be super clear: THIS IS AN EXPERIMENT! We haven’t done anything like it before and we don’t know exactly how it’s going to work. But we know we want to try it, because there are so many radical ideas in the world of blockchain and DLT that we’d like to see succeed. Since we’re focused on decentralization, and the talent we work with is itself so geographically distributed, we believe dlab is the perfect place to try something like this.
There’s no requirement to be in New York for dlab INCUBATE. There’s no intensive programming or classroom-like sessions you’re expected to attend (aside from the reading list). The focus is entirely on building and testing, and our hope is that by adding good process and a feedback loop into the iteration cycle (along with a bit of cash — it always helps!) that we can increase the number of these ideas that make it to market and help the entire ecosystem grow.
If you’re a startup working on these sorts of things, we hope you’ll consider applying this Spring.