Greengar: Week One at 500 Startups
I’m proud to announce that Greengar has joined 500 Startups! Last week was the kickoff of the 500 Startups accelerator program’s sixth batch, including about 25 startups that are ready to take over the world.
Those who know me might ask: “Elliot, your startup began years ago, you have over 14 million downloads, and you have revenue! Why are you joining 500 Startups?”
Great question. We are different from other early stage startups that begin with nothing but a couple founders and an idea. We have that. But we have a little more, too. With years of experience and over 20 apps on the App Store, some would say that we’re past the stage where an accelerator would be useful.
Not so. And last week really drove that point home for me. To understand why, I have to explain a bit about the origins of Greengar.
When I started building apps, I wasn’t trying to start a company. I just wanted to make cool apps. I didn’t have strong connections to Silicon Valley. I didn’t have any funding. I didn’t have any mentors. I was just a kid in a living room, hacking away on his first Mac.
In a lot of ways, things haven’t changed much since then. Several of my apps were huge successes– Brain Tuner, Whiteboard, Flashlight– but I still wasn’t trying to build a company. I was hiring people because there was a ton more work/features that I wanted done/built than I had time to do myself. So I hired, but deep down, I was reluctant. At the beginning, I worked closely with my hires. Eventually, they pushed me away, not wanting the pressure of the “boss” looking over their shoulders. So I moved away instead of leaning in.
When we were accepted to 500 Startups, everything changed. I realized that I had to know my team and know my product. I realized that we had stagnated because the people I had hired (or allowed to be hired) did not care about the company the way I did, and did not have the product sense and user experience expertise that our industry demands.
Furthermore I found that it was time to build a real company. It was time to deprecate the LLC we’d been operating under, connect with a startup lawyer, and set up a proper Delaware C-Corp.
So in many ways, this is a new beginning for me and my team.
One of my greatest fears is that I’ll get locked into a “zombie” startup that pays the bills but doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a trap that’s easy to fall into, so I’m determined not to let it happen. One of the attractions of 500 is the fixed term leading up to Demo Day. We aren’t going to be working here at the beautiful 500 office forever. We’re pretty much only here until Demo Day.
Greengar was actually accepted to two different accelerator programs, and we decided to go with 500. There are a lot of reasons, including the $50k, the 500 brand, and the recommendations of others.
The first talk of the batch was by Paul Singh on Fundraising for Startups. His solid talk reinforced the reasons I decided to join 500 in the first place: mentors, connections, focus, and guidance. These resources build companies.
At 500, folks frequently use “forcing functions”, the events and deadlines we employ to make things happen fast. That’s a critical distinction between doing a startup alone and joining an accelerator. I’ve met people whose non-accelerated startups have been stagnant for 9 months or longer. An accelerator is a forcing function that encourages startups to either grow like gangbusters or fail fast. That’s what I want.
By the way, the attitude toward failure here is deeply inspiring, reassuring, and motivating. Paul Singh reminded us that sophisticated angel investors know that 80% of startups will fail. “We know we’re going to lose our money.”
Yet failures are not only accepted, but encouraged. “If you’re good enough, you’ll fail at something once a week.”
And people whose startups fail are not kicked out. They’re in the 500 family for life, no matter what happens. When you can fail, then you can take bigger risks. When you take bigger risks, you can have a shot at doing something truly great.
I’ve told a few people that we’re joining 500, and more than one has wanted to hear more about Dave. We had a solid meeting with Dave on Wednesday and the care and attention he gave us was incredible. He pointed us to relevant people and startups that will really help us to move forward. Niren, co-founder of Searchman, happened to be walking by, and Dave introduced us on the spot!
I’m incredibly excited to join the 500 program and look forward to building relationships with the entrepreneurs here.