GA + 500 Startups Accelerator Program: The Winners Talk About Their Startups

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Founders from 11 startups that participated in the GA/500 Startups accelerator program in June in San Francisco.

Founders from 11 startups that participated in the GA/500 Startups accelerator program in June in San Francisco.

Back in January, we announced our landmark partnership with 500 Startups to develop an accelerator prep program designed exclusively for GA alumni. The month-long training program accepted 11 startups, which each received $8,000 in seed money as well as a $2,000 tuition credit from 500 startups to get them on the fast track to triumph.

The partnership is a natural extension of our entrepreneurial roots and aligns with our mission to empower individuals to pursue work they love.

Since the program ended in June, we caught up with the founders, who represent a range of GA courses and campuses around the world. Read on to see what they learned from the experience, and what comes next. 

Wamova

Wamova matches shippers with transporters. It was co-founded by Taha El Hajji, BEWD, D.C. Wamova has gained 135 paying customers since applying for the accelerator.

How did you meet your co-founders?

Taha: I met one of my co-founders, Yassine Laassel, on a soccer field in high school. We both went on to the same college where we met Wael. And then my brother, Yassine El Hajji, became part of the group. We all worked on various projects together, including a university club for design, an online publication (descaped.com), and a volunteering program that helped families in the Moroccan desert develop a sustainable income.

What did you get out of the GA/500 Startups accelerator program?

The GA/500 Startups accelerator was very helpful in understanding how VCs in the Bay Area function. Given that our daily focus is on the development of the business, we are very concentrated on explaining how the business works, whereas for the VCs that is only part of the whole picture.

What is Wamova’s greatest strength?

The bond that unites our team. Not only does the friendship extend beyond the business, it is also that each one of us plays a critical role in the puzzle that no other can replace. We aim to create a company culture where human relationship transcends the business relationship along with strong integrity and honesty.

What areas can you work on most?

We want to accelerate the speed of implementation of everything we do without compromising the quality of what we do.

Bookmarq

Bookmarq offers book suggestions from your friends and influencers. It was founded in part by Mike Eidlin, aWDI graduate from L.A. Mike was not originally accepted into the program, but in true entrepreneur fashion, he hustled his way in on Twitter.

Mike Eidlin, WDI graduate of GA Los Angeles, together with fellow co-founders of Bookmarq, at the 500 Startups/GA month-long accelerator program.

Mike Eidlin, WDI graduate of GA Los Angeles, together with fellow co-founders of Bookmarq, at the 500 Startups/GA month-long accelerator program.

What excites you most about this accelerator?

This pre-accelerator program is very interesting because it allows early stage companies still in search of “product market fit” to gain the massive advantages of a top tier accelerator. Companies that are accepted into 500 Startups typically require significant traction, and so we feel very fortunate to be part of the 500 family this early in our company’s life.

What is your startup’s greatest strength?

Our team and our mission. Startups live and die by the quality of the team when they’re this young, and we’re gaining sustainable momentum even though we’ve made a few pivots in the past. Our mission is also what makes us unique. We’re entering the publishing industry as consumers, solving a problem we encountered as readers. Instead of maximizing money for publishers, we focus on our readers, by optimizing features so that our community will have the same “Aha!” moment when they realize that books can really change their lives.

What area needs the most work?

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of creating “sexy” features just because they’re awesome. This is dangerous because we’re then not solving actual problems for our community, and we’re wasting time. We may or may not be guilty of doing this, but the 500 Startups + GA program really allowed us to take a few steps back. We re-validated hypotheses we’ve been working on, and are starting to mold a culture which emphasizes more rapid-fire testing and iteration.

StockIQ

StockIQ is a social app for making stock predictions co-founded by Dana Wright who graduated from WDI in San Francisco. While Dana is the only founder on the team who is a GA alum, all three founders are frequent attendees of classes, workshops, and events at the GA SF campus.

How did you meet your co-founders?

Dylan is my little brother, so we met that way. Sean is a friend and roommate from college. We started building this app on the weekends about nine months ago and since then we quit our (reasonably well-paying) jobs to live the startup dream.

What did you learn from the GA/500 Startups accelerator?

Everything from how to organize our corporation, position for investment, pitch to investors, and a lot of the nuances of raising capital in Silicon Valley. And that was only week one!

After that, we learned about marketing and lean development. We had the opportunity to put the theories into practice with our own app, which was a lot more challenging than reading about it in a book. But a lot more interesting as well. We teamed up with GA’s Product Management students and received a ton of feedback on our product from both marketing and UX perspectives. Testing our assumptions with real users and getting instant feedback was a huge benefit.

ManageBGL

ManageBGL provides predictive analytics for diabetes management. The alumni founder is Roslyn Lau, who took UXDI in Melbourne. Roslyn has attended over 26 classes, workshops, and events at the Melbourne campus!

Founders ManageBGL, DigiSticky and Pique at the GA/500 startup accelerator program.

Founders ManageBGL, DigiSticky and Pique at the GA/500 startup accelerator program.

How did you meet your co-founder?

I met Simon at a local medtech pitching event in April 2015. He was looking for a team member for the competition. I was looking to work with a startup.  The stars aligned and the rest is history.

What excites you most about this accelerator?

500 Startups is an active and savvy investor in early stage startups. It embraces diversity and truly has an international in scope. In addition, the #500Strong network is a wonder to behold. Other than being generous and awesome people, the depth of talent and experience is profound—and arguably the finest renewable energy source yet to be tapped!

Driven Labs

Founders of Driven Labs, Xavier Stewart, left, and Brad Wertman, right, at the GA/500 Startups accelerator program in June.

Founders of Driven Labs, Xavier Stewart, left, and Brad Wertman, right, at the GA/500 Startups accelerator program in June.

Driven labs is an automotive repair shop management software founded by  Xavier Stewart and Brad Wertman, both WDI graduates from NYC. The startup has become a family affair, as Xavier’s dad is product manager. 

How did you meet each other?

Xavier: We met in the common room at GA in New York. I came into the Web Development Immersive program looking to build an MVP. I was looking for a partner to get my idea off the ground, and I overheard Brad discussing his extensive experience in the automotive industry while he was on a technical phone interview for a development job. After an impromptu lunch and an afternoon of idea sharing, Driven Labs was born.

What have you learned from the GA + 500 Startups accelerator program?

Xavier: We learned real-world strategies to grow our business while also building a strong network and community, something we were actively seeking in an accelerator. We can now say that we’ve learned from the best startup, sales, marketing, product development, strategy and leadership minds in Silicon Valley. Every startup is looking for an unfair advantage, and this program helped us hone ours.

What is your startup’s greatest strength?

Xavier: Our intimate knowledge and relationship with the auto repair industry. The industry has played a pivotal role in both of our lives. I grew up in repair shops, as my father has been a mechanic/manager for 30 years. Brad studied Automotive Engineering Technology in college and, for the last 10 years, he has worked as a Project Manager at Saturn, General Motors, and Toyota – doing everything from reverse engineering to test creation for hardware failures. The industry is on the cusp of a great technology-led change, and we have the experience and vision to lead that change.

What area needs the most work?

With any new startup or venture, distribution and sales strategies are some of the most crucial and difficult elements to get off the ground. Driven is no different. Marketing to repair shops is a daunting task, but thanks to our time in the GA + 500 Startups program, and the advice we’ve received from our experienced mentors, we know we have an effective, scalable and sound strategy to get our products in the hands of our customers.

Check the rest of the talented startups from the program: Lifey, Hellotracks, Curplated, PiqueGofindfriends, and Digisticky.

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