500 Startups: Everything You Need To Know To Get Started

Elena Hudgens
By Elena Hudgens 19 Min Read

The Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm 500 Startups has revolutionized how startups are funded and have significantly shaped the global startup ecosystem. From its humble beginnings in a garage to becoming a powerhouse in the industry, 500 Startups has paved the way for countless entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality. 

This article will delve into the remarkable journey of 500 Startups, its impact on the startup world, and how 500 Startups helps entrepreneurs to grow. 

Brief History Of 500 Startups

500 Startups, also known as 500 Global, was founded in 2010 by Dave McClure, a seasoned entrepreneur and angel investor. The name “500 Startups” was derived from McClure’s initial goal of investing in 500 companies over five years. 

McClure believed that making many small investments could increase his chances of finding the next big success. With this vision in mind, McClure started 500 Startups with a small team and a modest budget, operating out of a garage in the heart of Silicon Valley.

500 Startups

Despite the limited resources, 500 Startups quickly gained recognition for its unique approach to investing. Unlike traditional venture capital firms focused on established startups with proven track records, 500 Startups was willing to take risks on early-stage companies with disruptive ideas. 

This willingness to embrace uncertainty and invest in the potential of ambitious entrepreneurs set 500 Startups apart from its competitors. It allowed it to attract a diverse portfolio of startups from various industries.

500 Startups also distinguished itself through its global outlook. While many venture capital firms were primarily focused on startups in the United States, 500 Startups recognized the untapped potential of startups in emerging markets worldwide. 

Through its extensive network of mentors and partners, 500 Startups established a presence in countries such as India, Brazil, and Japan, providing support and funding to promising startups in these regions. This global perspective not only broadened the reach of 500 Startups but also contributed to the diversity and innovation within its portfolio.

Methodology Of 500 Startups

The core of 500 Startups’ methodology is the belief that entrepreneurship can be taught and learned. Unlike the traditional notion that successful entrepreneurs are born with innate skills, 500 Startups emphasizes the importance of education, mentorship, and practical experience in shaping the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Through its accelerator program, 500 Startups provides startups a structured curriculum, access to a vast network of mentors, and hands-on support to help them navigate the challenges of building a startup.

The accelerator program typically lasts four months, during which startups receive funding, office space, and intensive mentoring. The program covers various topics, including product development, growth hacking, marketing, and fundraising. Through workshops, one-on-one mentoring sessions, and networking events, startups have the knowledge and skills to scale their businesses.

One of the unique aspects of 500 Startups’ methodology is its emphasis on data-driven decision-making. The firm leverages its extensive network and resources to analyze and collect data on market trends, consumer behavior, and startup performance. 

This data-driven approach enables 500 Startups to identify promising investment opportunities, mitigate risks, and provide startups with valuable insights for business growth. By combining the power of data with the expertise of its mentors, 500 Startups empowers startups to make the right decisions and maximize their chances of success.

Success Stories Of Startups From 500 Startups

Over the years, 500 Startups has nurtured and supported numerous startups that have achieved remarkable success. These success stories testify to the effectiveness of 500 Startups’ approach and highlight the firm’s impact on the startup ecosystem.

500 Startups

One notable success story is that of Udemy, an online learning platform that connects instructors with learners worldwide. Udemy was part of the 500 Startups accelerator program in its early stages and received guidance and funding from the firm. Today, Udemy is valued at over $2 billion and has transformed how people access education globally.

Another standout success is Canva, a graphic design platform that simplifies the process of creating professional-quality designs. Canva, backed by 500 Startups, has become a household name valued at $6 billion. The platform has empowered millions of individuals and businesses to create visually stunning content without requiring extensive design skills.

These success stories are just a glimpse of the impact 500 Startups has had on the startup world. The firm has helped numerous startups grow, scale, and significantly impact their respective industries through its investments and support.

How Can I Apply To 500 Startups?

To apply to 500 Startups, you can follow these steps:

500 Startups

Step 1: Go to the official website of 500 Startups.

Step 2: Look at the different programs offered by 500 Startups and determine which is the best fit for your startup. They have various programs tailored to different stages of startup growth.

Step 3: Once you have chosen the program you want to apply for, gather all the information and materials required for the application. This may include details about your team, product, market, traction, and financials.

Step 4: Fill out the application form provided on the 500 Startups website. Provide accurate and detailed information about your startup. Make sure to highlight your team’s experience and the unique value proposition of your product or service.

Step 5: After submitting your application, stay engaged and responsive to any communication from 500 Startups. They may request additional information or schedule interviews during the selection process.

Step 6: If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited for an interview. Prepare for the interview by researching 500 Startups, understanding their investment criteria, and being ready to answer questions about your startup.

Step 7: Await the Decision: After the interview process, the 500 Startups team will evaluate your application and make a decision. If selected, you will receive an offer to join their program.

Remember, it’s essential to thoroughly research and understand the accelerator’s requirements and expectations before applying. Good luck with your application to 500 Startups!

What Not To Submit In The Application To 500 Startups?

When applying to 500 Startups, it’s essential to avoid certain mistakes that could hinder your chances of being accepted. Here are some tips on what not to do when applying to 500 Startups:

  • Lack of Traction: One common mistake is not clearly demonstrating the traction your company has achieved. It’s important to highlight any significant milestones, user growth, revenue, or partnerships that showcase the progress of your startup.
  • Vague Value Proposition: Avoid having a weak or unclear value proposition. Your application should clearly communicate the problem your product solves, how it is unique, and the benefits it offers to customers.
  • Incomplete or Inaccurate Information: Ensure all the required fields in the application are filled wholly and accurately. Double-check your application for any errors or missing information before submitting.
  • Lack of Preparation: Take your time with the application process. Take the time to thoroughly research and understand 500 Startups’ investment focus and criteria. Tailor your application to align with their preferences and showcase how your startup fits their investment thesis.
  • Poor Presentation: Pay attention to the quality of your application materials. Use clear and concise language, provide relevant supporting documents, and ensure your pitch deck is well-designed and effectively communicates your message.
  • Ignoring the Mentor Network: 500 Startups has an extensive network of mentors who can provide valuable guidance and support. Don’t overlook the opportunity to mention how you plan to leverage this network and benefit from their expertise.
  • Lack of Passion and Commitment: Show your enthusiasm and dedication to your startup. Demonstrate that you are willing to put in the hard work and are committed to the success of your venture.

Remember, the goal is to showcase your startup’s strengths, unique value proposition, and growth potential. Focus on providing relevant and compelling information while avoiding the pitfalls mentioned above. 

What Types Of Startups Is The 500 Looking For?

500 Startups focus primarily on B2B (business-to-business) and SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies. 

They believe that B2B SaaS companies have attractive economic characteristics, such as high gross margins and predictable revenue, making them appealing investment opportunities.

500 Startups

500 Global has a global perspective and invests in startups from different regions worldwide. They are particularly interested in emerging markets where there may be creative talent but need more access to capital and venture capital.

Although 500 Global focuses on B2B and SaaS, it’s crucial to remember that they also invest in other industries and stages, and their investment strategy is subject to modification.

The Impact Of 500 Startups On The Startup Ecosystem

The impact of 500 Startups on the startup ecosystem cannot overstate. Through its investments and support, the firm has not only helped individual startups succeed but has also contributed to the overall growth and vibrancy of the startup ecosystem.

One of the key ways 500 Startups has made an impact is by democratizing access to capital. By taking a more inclusive approach to investing, 500 Startups has provided opportunities for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds and underrepresented communities to access funding and support. 

This has empowered a new generation of entrepreneurs who may have yet to access traditional sources of capital, leveling the playing field and driving innovation.

500 Startups has fostered innovation and entrepreneurship in emerging markets. By expanding its presence globally, the firm has been able to identify and support startups in regions where entrepreneurship was previously underserved. This has led to successful startup growth and created a ripple effect, inspiring and encouraging more entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.

500 Startups has also contributed to developing a solid mentorship culture within the startup community. The firm has provided startups with valuable guidance and support through its extensive network of mentors, helping them navigate challenges, make strategic decisions, and avoid common pitfalls. 

This mentorship culture has benefited startups in the 500 Startups program and spread throughout the broader startup ecosystem, creating a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

Challenges And Criticism The 500 Startups Face

500 Startups is a well-known global venture capital firm and startup accelerator program. While it has achieved significant success and has a positive reputation in the startup ecosystem, it has faced challenges and criticism. Here are a few common challenges and criticisms associated with 500 Startups:

1. High Failure Rate

Like any venture capital firm or accelerator program, 500 Startups invests in many startups, and not all succeed. Some critics argue that the failure rate of companies associated with 500 Startups is relatively high, a common challenge in the startup industry.

2. Lack Of Personalized Attention

With an extensive portfolio of companies, it can be challenging for 500 Startups to provide personalized attention and support to each startup. Some founders have expressed concerns about the limited one-on-one time and mentorship they receive.

3. Cultural Issues

500 Startups has faced criticism related to its internal culture. In 2017, the firm’s co-founder, Dave McClure, resigned following allegations of inappropriate behavior towards women. This incident raised concerns about the firm’s culture and commitment to diversity and inclusion.

4. Limited Geographic Focus

While 500 Startups has a global presence, some critics argue that it focuses primarily on the United States and Silicon Valley. This limited geographic focus may result in missed opportunities in other emerging startup ecosystems worldwide.

5. Investor Skepticism

Some investors have expressed skepticism about the overall value and returns generated by 500 Startups. They question the effectiveness of the accelerator program and the long-term success of the companies it invests in.

It’s important to note that despite these challenges and criticisms, 500 Startups has also had numerous success stories and has played a significant role in supporting and funding startups globally.

Future Of 500 Startups And Their Role In The Startup Community

As 500 Startups continues to evolve, its focus on empowering entrepreneurs and fostering innovation remains unchanged. The firm constantly adapts to the changing needs of startups and the startup ecosystem, exploring new ways to support and invest in promising ventures.

One area of expansion for 500 Startups is its investment in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, and virtual reality. By staying at the forefront of technological advancements, 500 Startups aims to identify startups with disruptive potential and help them succeed in these rapidly evolving industries.

500 Startups is committed to further diversifying its portfolio and supporting startups from underrepresented communities. The firm recognizes the importance of inclusivity and aims to create opportunities for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds to thrive. This commitment to diversity and inclusion aligns with ethical values and contributes to the startup ecosystem’s growth and success.

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500 Startups plays a crucial role in helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses. By leveraging its expertise and global reach, 500 Startups helps entrepreneurs navigate the challenges of early-stage startups and provides them with the support they need to thrive. 

With its focus on innovation, collaboration, and a global entrepreneurial community, 500 Startups continues to significantly impact the startup ecosystem, empowering entrepreneurs to achieve their goals and drive economic growth.


1. What are 500 Startups? 

500 Startups is a hybrid accelerator and seed fund that supports early-stage startups. They provide funding, mentorship, office space, and various resources to help startups grow and succeed.

2. How can I get funded by 500 Startups?

You may employ AngelList to submit an application or get referred by someone in their network to finance through their accelerator program. The network’s recommendations are also valued for seed investments exclusively.

3. What is the difference between the 500 accelerator program and 500’s seed investments? 

The 500 Accelerator Program is a structured program where startups work from the 500 Startups office for four months, receive funding, and have access to mentors and resources. Seed investments, on the other hand, are made outside the program and provide funding to startups without office space.

4. What type of companies do 500 Startups look for? 

500 Startups looks for companies with a strong team, a product that has demonstrated usage validation, traction, and a simple revenue model. They prefer companies that have an internet-based form of distribution.

5. What value will I get out of being in the 500 Accelerator Program? 

As part of the 500 Accelerator Program, founders can access 500 Partners, experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and domain experts who provide feedback and guidance. Startups also benefit from the 500 Startups network, brand and PR exposure, funding, office space, and a collaborative and fun environment.

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Elena Hudgens is an entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience. She started her journey by building her own e-commerce website on Shopify and turned her $1000 savings to millions in just 2 years. Soon she started different ventures in which she failed and succeeded. And now, she's on a mission to help other entrepreneurs with her life and business lessons.
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