When Dave McClure and Christine Tsai announced they were launching a new accelerator program and VC firm back in 2011, the news was met with mixed reactions. They were shifting away from the classic VC model (investing in eight to 10 companies and hoping for at least one grand slam) and instead looking to invest in many startups, with the goal of scoring a lot of small and medium-sized exits. Some likened it to “spray and pray,” while others applauded the effort. Small to medium-sized companies need funding to start up too, after all.
Five years later, it seems clear that Dave, Christine and the 500 team are on to something. With over 1,500 investments made, people on the ground in 21 countries and new geographically focused funds announced what seems like every month, 500 Startups is showing no signs of slowing down.
In light of 500 Startups' Batch 16 demo day today, we took a look at some of the firm's most notable alumni, active investments and exits.
Talkdesk offers cloud-based call center software designed to help businesses improve customer interactions, while also reducing costs. The company was part of Batch 003 that went through the accelerator program in the summer of 2012 and has since gone on to raise $26 million in funding from firms such as Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Salesforce Ventures. Its most recent valuation—$146 million.
Mayvenn enables stylists and salons to retail products without having to purchase or manage inventory by creating online storefronts for salons to direct customers to. Part of 500 Startups' sixth accelerator batch, the company has gone on to raise roughly $13 million in total funding from VCs including Andreessen Horowitz and Trinity Ventures. A $10 million Series A financing last year generated a valuation of $39 million.
A graduate of the seventh 500 Startups accelerator class, RealtyShares offers a lending marketplace for real estate investing. Through the company’s website, individuals and institutional investors can purchase shares in vetted residential and commercial real estate properties. The company has raised about $32 million in funding, most recently securing a $20 million Series B round earlier this year at a valuation of $105 million.
Twilio offers an API for telecommunications, enabling developers to incorporate phone calls and SMS messages into their applications. The company has raised about $233 million in funding since its founding in 2008, most recently securing a $130 million round last july at a valuation of $1.03 billion. The 500 Startups-Twilio partnership doesn’t stop at investment though; the two launched a $250,000 fund together in 2010 that backed startups powered by Twilio’s API. Be on the lookout for Twilio to join the '500 Startups successful exits' club soon, as it is often brought up in talks about tech companies that may IPO soon.
Grab, fka GrabTaxi, is a ride-hailing platform that is currently available throughout Southeast Asia (Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam). Another member of the 500 Startups unicorn club, the company raised $350 million of funding at an estimated valuation of $1.8 billion last summer. China-based competitor Didi Kuaidi participated in the most recent round, which has brought some to wonder if perhaps Grab could be an acquisition target.
CreditKarma offers free credit scores, reports and monitoring in an effort to enable consumers to better understand their finances. Founded in 2007, the company has secured roughly $370 million in funding, which includes a $175 million round last June that valued it at $3.5 billion.
SendGrid’s cloud-based customer communication platform is designed to enable enterprises to deliver transactional and marketing emails reliably. Backed by top firms including Bessemer Venture Partners and Foundry Group, the company has raised about $48 million in funding, most recently securing a $20.7 million Series C financing in late 2014 at a valuation of $204 million.
500 Startups was an early backer of 3D printer company MakerBot, participating in its initial round in 2010. The company only raised about $11 million in funding before being acquired in 2013 by Stratasys in a deal worth up to $604 million. It's fair to say that early investors probably made out pretty well.
Social marketing startup Wildfire raised just three rounds of funding before being acquired by Google in 2012 for a reported $350 million. 500 Startups participated in the company’s initial funding round in 2009. Wildfire's private valuation grew from $21 million after a 2010 Series A to nearly $200 million after a 2011 Series B. Sadly the company was shut down by Google in 2014, something that often happens to startups acquired by the tech giant.
Viki offers an online platform for consumers to discover and watch TV shows and films. The company had raised $24.3 million in funding before being acquired by Rakuten in 2013 for a reported $200 million. 500 Startups participated in Viki’s $4.3 million Series A round in 2010.