Entrepreneur

Popcorn, forest fairies, and ugly ducklings: Live from 500 Startups Demo Day

From an understated conference room in Mountain View, Calif., I am preparing to watch an event that promises to be anything but.

Today is 500 Startups Demo Day. This well-known early-stage seed fund and incubator program has become a brand name over the last few years thanks largely to its colorful leader, Dave McClure. The 30-plus startups from the incubator’s fifth batch are about to pitch their companies to a room full of investors, journalists, and each other in the hopes of receiving feedback, publicity, and, foremost, funding.

This batch of companies is the first that’s run under 500 Startups’ new application process through AngelList. It is also a notably diverse group. Twenty-one percent of the 33 companies have at least one female founder, and 57 percent are based outside of the U.S., a fact made abundantly clear by the polyglot buzz in the room. McClure’s loudly touted investment strategy is to make a large number of small bets in “ugly duckling” startups rather than searching for the next big thing.

McClure showered pearls of wisdom and profanity down upon the audience at Startup Grind yesterday during his “Why Incubators Hate Your Startup” talk. In between f-bombs, he also beat home the importance of customer acquisition, a well-rounded team, entrepreneurial networks, and, finally (and most loudly), that most startups will fail.

Most (if not all) of the founders in the room today are actively trying not to fail. They are proudly wearing their company swag (in one case, a fairy outfit) and handing out business cards (and popcorn) before the presentations begin in the hopes of securing enough financial runway to get their startup to the next milestone.

Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, and AngelList founder and CEO Naval Ravikant will open the event with keynote speeches.

Watch a live stream of the event below:

Watch live streaming video from 500startups at livestream.com

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