Early-stage investor 500 Startups has kicked off its 2016 Distro Dojo season with the first session taking place in London, England. Today the accelerator and venture capital firm announced the six startups it’ll be working with to scale their business. The companies are Fy, Bidvine, Click Mechanic, Bizimply, Rock Pamper Scissors, and StoreMaven.
In December, 500 Startups announced it would begin accepting applications for the three-month post-seed startup program called Distro Dojo. The firm has scheduled 10 sessions this year, with each one held in a different location and the first being in London. While up to 10 companies could have been selected, it appears that the first time around, the incubator opted to go with six.
The selection is “geographically agnostic,” said Matt Lerner, 500 Startups program head in the United Kingdom. But the chosen ones have to answer certain questions: Are they businesses that the firm will want to invest in? Are they “growth hackable”? Can 500 Startups help them scale their growth and win?
If you’re looking for a common theme among the six companies, it’ll be difficult to find. Lerner said that there wasn’t one theme chosen for this batch, but remarked that three of them — Bidvine, Click Mechanic, and Rock Pamper Scissors — operate in the business-to-consumer (B2C) service-economy space. Additionally, with the exception of StoreMaven, all of the selected startups are headquartered in London.
Lerner shared his team’s thinking on why each company was chosen:
- Fy: The app offers a curated set of fashion-forward accessories for the modern female consumer. Fy’s founder Thomas Beverly was once a mentor at 500 Startups teaching about customer acquisition. The firm became interested in his latest startup and wanted to learn more. “He’s a very strong marketer in areas, but the business needed help selling business-to-business (B2B) and other parts,” said Lerner.
- Bidvine: Promoted as “Thumbtack for the U.K.,” Bidvine is a way for you to hire local professionals. Lerner felt that the company had a strong founder, and since the Thumbtack model works in the United States, 500 Startups felt it could do the same in the U.K.
- Click Mechanic: Offering a way for you to get your car fixed at your home or office, Click Mechanic’s team had a background in the automotive industry, which was appealing to 500 Startups. Lerner said the company had “exactly the right person, team, and business model.” It’s a popular business, he explained.
- Bizimply: An online workforce management tool for businesses with hourly employees, its success at last year’s Dublin Web Summit caught the attention of 500 Startups. Lerner’s background is in software as a service (SaaS), and so he has an understanding of what you can and can’t sell to small to medium-sized businesses. The company is looking for ways to further scale their business.
- Rock Pamper Scissors: An instant booking app for haircuts, waxing, beauty, and spa treatments, Rock Pamper Scissors helps you find local hairdressers and salons in the U.K. Lerner believes that this company has something that lets them take something that wasn’t working and made it better.
- StoreMaven: An Israel-based company, StoreMaven is focused on helping businesses optimize their app store conversion rates, A/B testing, analytics, and design. Lerner said that 500 Startups had been talking to StoreMaven for some time and was impressed by the traction it had with early customers. Lerner admitted that while the business was perfect for the Distro Dojo, he also wants to learn from StoreMaven.
These startups are spending the next month working alongside Lerner and mentors like Transferwise’s Nilan Peiris, Velocity Partners’ Doug Kessler, public relations firm Albion Drive’s Bryce Keane, and marketing firm Closed Loop’s Lance Loveday. Time won’t be spent on lectures — in fact, there will only be six throughout the entire course, according to Lerner — but rather on on doing: “There’s so many ideas that you don’t know which ones will work until you try them. There will be a lot of experimentation.”
As Lerner put it, “We don’t give them a fish, we teach them how to fish.”
After three months, each startup will pitch itself in front of investors who can fund their series A round. The objective is to show that there is traction, a potential for that company to be a big business, the growth machine to get them there, and more.
Each company receives up to $250,000 in funding from 500 Startups for participating in the Distro Dojo.
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