From 0 to 1 – exclusive interview with 500 Startups on funding and success

Wednesday 6 February 2019 09:33 CET | Interview

Ana Paula González, Innovation and Partnerships Director at 500 Startups, discusses how the accelerator can propel startups to success

What is 500 Startups for our readers who have not been introduced to the organization yet? How exactly is 500 Startups helping startups to grow?

500 Startups is an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator founded in 2010 in Silicon Valley. Our mission is to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. We are one of the most active seed stage venture capital companies globally with a portfolio of 2,210 companies and over 5,000 founders across 74 countries as of 2018.

Besides investing in companies, 500 Startups helps founders create successful companies at scale through our accelerator programs, investor education series and events. It has been inspiring to see this mission in full force as we work with incredible founders from all over the world through our various programs. Our core San Francisco Seed Accelerator Program is an opportunity for early startups to receive USD 150,000 funding, mentorship, and growth. This program is like a Startup MBA on steroids, designed to provide the hands-on support necessary for startups to succeed.

Our accelerator companies also get access to 500’s vast global network of industry experts, founders, mentors, and entrepreneurs-in-residence that will provide the mentorship and guidance that they need.

What was your background before joining 500 Startups and what was the setup in the moment you entered the organization? Are you, at 500 Startups, looking at any particular industries?

My background is in management consulting with a focus on Private Equity and Impact Investing throughout Latin America. I joined 500 Startups in Miami as I fell in love with the vision to build out at a hub that has the potential to be truly global, and connect not only Latin America, but also Europe and beyond, with our network and resources in Silicon Valley. In Miami, we are focused on a comprehensive ecosystem development approach that seeks to build capacity from the ground up, training and connecting founders, investors and corporates. While we are a sector-agnostic fund, in Miami we are focused on the verticals that we think have greater potential to catalyze the regional ecosystem, including: fintech, transportation & logistics tech, travel & hospitality tech, real estate and construction tech, and healthcare.

What is 500 Startups’ portfolio? Can you mention any success stories?

As of 2018, 500 Startups has invested in 2,210 companies in 74 countries through our 4 global funds, and 15 thematic funds dedicated to either specific verticals or geographic markets. It’s no surprise that 500 Startups is considered among the most active venture capital firms globally since we’ve invested in 74 countries, which is almost 40% of the world. Inclusion is also among our core values, we’re a respectful and inclusive community. Our investments demonstrate our commitment to promote diversity & inclusion as 26% of our investments are led by at least one female founder, and 49% of our overall portfolio hails from outside the US.

We ended 2018 with USD 454 million in total committed capital across our funds. Our investment thesis uses massively diversified portfolio theory - building a big enough portfolio to reduce the risk inherent in VC, while increasing chances of finding unicorns. As a matter of fact, 10 of our portfolio companies are unicorns, with a valuation of over USD 1 billion. In addition to these 10 companies, 66 of our companies are valued at over USD 100 million.

Some of our most notable portfolio companies include Twilio, SendGrid, Credit Karma, Grab, Carousell, Udemy, Kudo (acquired by Grab), Talkdesk, Makerbot (acquired by SSYS), Wildfire (acquired by GOOG), and Viki (acquired by Rakuten).

What are some of your programs? What are the benefits and how can startups apply to these projects?

500 further supports startups via its Seed Programs in San Francisco and Mexico City and the Series A Program in multiple locations globally. The Seed Program emphasizes digital marketing, customer acquisition, lean startup practices, and fundraising for pre-Seed companies. The 500 Series A Program delivers growth marketing and investment for post-seed and pre-Series A companies. 500 Startups also contributes to the development of thriving innovation ecosystems around the world to better equip startups with tools to succeed by running educational programs, events and conferences, and partnerships with corporations and governments around the world.

Since our inaugural batch in 2011, the Seed Accelerator Program has evolved significantly, now specializing in vertical tracks like fintech, digital health, blockchain, and retail & commerce. In 2018, we launched Batch 23 and Batch 24 in our San Francisco. These cohorts exemplified our global outlook of investing in talented, diverse founders from around the world. 50% of the companies in Batch 23 were based outside of the US, including founders from Turkey, China, Canada, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and Lebanon. In Batch 24 (ongoing as we speak), 40% of the companies have a female founder and 50% have a minority founder.

Besides our core Seed Accelerator Program based in our San Francisco HQ, in 2018 we also launched international programs in Japan, Portugal, and Miami, mentoring and coaching close to 200 companies. We also run a series of investor education programs with Stanford Center for Professional Development and UC Berkeley School of Law. To date, these programs have educated 350 investors from 60 countries.

Startups and investors can learn and apply to our programs at and also by subscribing to our newsletter.

You attended Finnosummit in Miami. Can you share some key takeaways you had from these sessions and from discussions with peers of the industry from other companies and organizations?

I greatly enjoyed the panel in which I participated, where a group of VCs investing in Latin America shared how we collaborate with each other and other regional players, including corporate groups and governments, to foster the fintech ecosystem in the region. It confirmed my sense that we all recognize that collaboration is crucial to build a truly thriving fintech ecosystem, and that ongoing collaborations are already paying off. It was both inspiring and motivating.

About Ana Paula González

Ana Paula González is an Innovation & Partnerships Director at 500 Startups. At 500 Startups, Ana launched and runs 500 Startups Miami to support founders, investors and corporates from the South East US and Latam, with the goal of supporting Miami to become a global hub for tech and innovation. Previous to 500 Startups, Ana spent 4 years at New Ventures, developing the impact investing field in Latin America, by leading investment and acceleration programs for social and environmental companies throughout the region. Ana started her career at The Boston Consulting Group, where she worked with clients in Private Equity, financial services and non-profit sectors. Ana holds an MBA from Columbia Business School with honors and a Bachelor in International Business from Tec de Monterrey with honors.

About 500 Startups

500 Startups is an early-stage venture fund and seed accelerator founded in 2010. Our mission is to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems. We are one of the most active seed stage venture capital firms globally with a portfolio of 2,210 companies and over 5,000 founders across 74 countries.

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Keywords: 500 Startups, Ana Paula González, interview, fintech, innovation, startups, partnerships, seed accelerator
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