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500 Startups UK

Founded in Silicon Valley in 2010 by Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, we have backed 1,800 companies in 60 countries. But we’re extremely selective, investing in fewer than 4% of the deals we see. 


In Europe, we’ve made over 150 investments, including more than 50 in the U.K. We’re always looking for promising pre-Series-A startups across the continent.


"500 Startups is the best decision AirSorted has made." 

James Jenkins-Yates, Founder, AirSorted

European Portfolio

We’ve made over 100 investments across Europe, here are just a few who are still speaking to us, mostly.

How We Invest

With over 150 investments in Europe, we’re always searching for promising pre-Series-A startups. Depending on your stage, we have two programs:


UK Series A Growth Program: Get a taste of Silicon Valley in the UK with our hands-on, growth-focused "Series A Program" for seed and post-seed companies. (FKA “Distro Dojo”)


Seed Program: Pre-seed and seed companies, get introduced to our early-stage accelerator based in California.


How do we decide? Our thesis is simple, we look for:

  • Big markets that are growing quickly or ripe for disruption
  • Business models that can scale quickly and generate high margins
  • Traction = lots of happy paying customers
  • Strong, diverse teams with vision, ambition, experience & solid execution


How to apply? The best way to apply is not to apply at all. Instead, get a referral from someone in our network (e.g. a 500 founder, mentor or staff member). We trust our network to help us filter and evaluate companies and teams. 

Failing that, however, you can submit an application here on this embarrassingly low-tech webform (we didn’t even use Typeform, lazy gits).

UK Series A Growth Program

Intensive growth program for seed & post-seed companies, includes:

  • Three months of hands-on growth work 
  • With a hand-picked team of experts: 5 full-time staff
  • Plus 10 mentors across 8 companies
  • Investment from 500 Startups
  • Ongoing mentorship & access to the worldwide 500 network.


This is NOT an Accelerator

Nothing against accelerators. We’ve backed companies from Seedcamp, Entrepreneurs First, TechStars, Wayra, Project -A. We run our own accelerator back in the valley. Nothing personal, it's just not our thing here in the U.K.


Accelerators do lots of things well. We don't.

We only do one thing; growth: The process, metrics, mindset and people you need to achieve predictable reliable measurable growth. Specifically that means driving things like user acquisition, qualified leads, new orders, activations, engagement, retention, revenue. Not likes, followers, uniques, or any of that fuzzy shit. Just concrete things that take you closer to making your vision a reality.


What is it not? What is it?

1. Forget PowerPoint. We believe people learn by doing. Only six hours of mandatory lectures in the entire three-month program. Instead, an intensive hands-on experience. You won’t leave with a notebook full of theories and ideas. You’ll leave with: 

  •  KPI dashboard that covers key growth metrics
  • A solid analytics stack
  • A documented understanding of your customers and their needs and emotional triggers
  • A prioritised backlog of growth experiments
  • A process to execute them well in weekly sprints ("Build the growth muscle")
  • Expert help with execution
  • Probably some big early results

You will know, each day, which work is most important for you and your team, and why, and whether it’s having an impact. You will try bold crazy stuff, and some of it will work. Lots of it won’t, but every experiment will bring valuable learning.


2. You won’t like us (at-first.) Think of us as “Barry’s Bootcamp” for growth. We have five full-time staff for eight companies. You will get sick of seeing our faces, and you will be tired of answering the same questions over and over again. You will have a single consistent point-of-contact throughout the program, who will work side-by-side with focus and intensity. (You will be pushed and challenged to your limits.) You may not appreciate it at the time, but you will thank us for it.


3. Our mentors aren’t famous. But they are amazing at what they do. We have very few mentors. Nobody is in this program by accident. (Many call, but few are chosen). When we do bring in mentors, they will be specifically selected for you and your team based on their hands-on experience with the goals you’re trying to achieve. They will be world-class experts. They will not just rattle off advice, they will literally go into your Mixpanel, your Adwords account, your wireframes. They will join you on sales calls. These people are (mostly) not famous big names. They are experts who do this stuff every day, and operate at the highest levels.


"Dojo helped kick us up the arse and get out selling... It's a program based around action and not just theory. 

That's a seismic difference from most programs.”

Martin Adams (Co-founder & CEO) , Codec.ai


Overall the UK growth program has a "Net Promoter Score" of 96%. Here are a small selection of the companies we've worked with and the results* they have achieved after being part of our program.

Results

“Learnt a huge amount about growth and a lot more about how to improve overall business thinking.”

Oli Ashness, Founder, SimplyCook


*Results: Company metrics listed are based on reports provided to 500 Startups in Q4 2017 and have not been independently verified.

500 UK Team

Worldwide, 500 Startups’ team members have started 130 companies in 60 industries in 27 countries, resulting in 55 exits worth more than a combined $2 billion. And we share that experience with the companies in our portfolio.


Here's our UK team, and yes, these are our Tinder pic's:

Mo Syed 500 Startups

“The most valuable thing about the Program was the team behind it.”

Founder, Batch 2, UK Series A Program

Saalim Chowdhury 500 Startups

Zahra Hassan, Advisor

12 years M&A/Capital raising, growth/late-stage advisory . UBS, Code Advisors, Raine. Econ @ UChicago, MBA LBS.


Nopadon Wongpakdee, Growth Hacker In Residence

16 years a “growth marketer,” a master of all things inbound, including SEO, SEM, content & conversion.


Diego de Jodar, Entrepreneur in Residence

Serial (5X) entrepreneur, 15 years as a whole-funnel digital marketer & product manager, analytics guru.

Matt Lerner, Partner, 500 Startups UK

Saalim Chowdhury, Entrepreneur in Residence

The brains of the operation… Technical co-founder, former head of sales, digital strategy consultant, CS @ Oxford, Psychology @ Cambridge, stats @ LSE

Matt Lerner, Venture Partner

Fifteen years as a “growth marketer” and GM in the Valley & UK. Led over 30 investments.

Mo Syed, Growth Hacker In Residence

8 yrs UX, information architecture, conversion optimisation, mobile UX, digital strategy. CS undergrad @ Kings, Masters in Psych from Cambridge.

Diego de Jodar 500 Startups
Saalim Chowdhury 500 Startups

“500’s mentors actually know their shit and roll-up-the-sleeves, unlike the thousands of fake advisors out there.”   


- Jack Huang, Founder Truly Experiences

Our Mentors

... have forgotten more about growth than most of us will ever learn. Nobody is on this list by accident.

Bryce Keane

Public Relations, Atomico , ex. Albion Drive


Nilan Peiris

Head of Growth, Transferwise

Simon Schneiders

Founder & CEO, BlueArray (SEO)

Tom Beverley

Founder, FY, ex Fab, OneFineStay


Mat Braddy

Ex-CMO, JustEat

Brand building, messaging, "guerilla"

Susan Su

Content & email @ Reforge, ex AppSumo

Daniel Riaz

Mobile app marketing, Ex. Zynga & Lyft

Marta Datkiewicz

Product & Conversion, so-sure, ex. Secret Sales, WAYN.

Lance Loveday

Founder & CEO, Closed Loop (UX & SEM)


Johannes Radig

Head of Growth, Truly Experiences


Program Feedback

The 500 dojo was transformative for us. If you don't have a growth experiment process in place, go get one. 'Spaghetti marketing' doesn't work and 'hope is not a strategy'. – Jack Huang, Truly, Batch 1



“Great program, that not only provides highly relevant tactics but also a how-to guide for institutionalising growth, making it part of your DNA.” Sohrab Jahanbani, Bidvine, Batch 2



"It's a program based around action and not just theory. That's a seismic difference from most programs.” Martin Adams, Codec, Batch 3



“Transformational for the business. Unique chance to have the best and brightest take a serious look at your business and work with you over time.” – Daniel van Binsbergen, Lexoo, Batch 4



The team and I have developed skills and learned techniques that will serve us well for the rest of our careers and we have received far more value than we expected to. – Tom Cohen, Popsa, Batch 4

How do we apply to 500 Startups UK?

  • The best way to apply is not to apply at all. Instead, try to get a referral from someone in our network, either a 500 founder, mentor or staff member. We trust people in our network to help us filter, evaluate, and find the type of companies that we want to join our family. Failing that, however, you can submit an application here on this embarrassingly low-tech Google Form.


At what stage do you invest?

  • In the UK, we invest pre-Series-A, that can be pre-seed, seed or post-seed. But it’s important that you have a functioning product and active, happy paying customers before we will invest. (The exceptions to that rule are founders we know and love, founders with previous successful startups, and pre-revenue B2C businesses with really strong traction (e.g. a million monthly actives).


Average check size?

  • In the UK, we invest between $25,000 and $250,000, often via a convertible note. We don’t lead rounds, we don’t take board seats. We’re happy to invest alongside other VCs, and will try to add value specifically in terms of our expertise with growth and our worldwide network of founders and employees in 60 countries.


Do you invest in companies outside the UK?

  • Brexit be dammed, we’re happy to talk to companies and founders from anywhere and everywhere. (We have backed companies in 60 countries!) Diversity is at the heart of our investment philosophy!


What is your investment philosophy

  • In a nutshell: First checks pre-A, follow on selectively after that. Looking for strong teams with working products, paying customers, big market opportunities & business models that lend themselves to fast, profitable growth.


Are you an accelerator?

  • We have an accelerator option (our “Seed Program” in the Bay Area), as well as our post-seed “Series A Program” in London if it’s appropriate for your business. But program participation is not required as a condition for our investment. We do invest directly outside of these programs as well.


Do you do EIS/SEIS investments?

  • Our investments are not EIS/SEIS eligible, though we can invest alongside EIS & SEIS investors.


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