When our Co-founder and CEO, Tobi Oyetoke announced during a team meeting in 2022 that the company had been accepted into 500 Global Flagship Accelerator Program, you could detect the excitement and expectation in his voice. Going by our recent interview with our other Co-founder, Amarachi Amaechi, a few months after the journey with 500 Global kicked off, the accelerator program delivered on its promises and exceeded expectations.
500 Global is a reputable venture capital firm managing over $2.7 billion in assets. The firm invests in fast-growing technology companies and has so far backed 2700+ startups worldwide including big names such as Canva, Udemy, GitLab, Credit Karma, Grab, The RealReal, and others.
One of 500 Global’s pipelines for spotting which companies to invest in and set up for success is its Flagship Accelerator Program. The current accelerator evolved from a program that started in 2010 when the firm referred to as 500 Startups then, sought to create a four-month accelerator program focused on helping founders to scale and grow their early-stage startups. This was the opportunity we needed as we approached a year in business and it found us.
On how we got into the accelerator program, Amarachi said, “we didn’t really apply. We were just at the right place at the right time.” When pressed further, she narrated the intriguing story behind our acceptance into the program, “we were at an event and I introduced myself. Later, a partner at 500 Global reached out and was like “hey, we love what you’re building” and that was how we began the whole conversation. We had meetings with the 500 Global investment committee and in like 3 weeks, we got the news that we had been accepted into the program.”
According to Amarachi, we had our eyes peeled for mentorship opportunities and had earlier applied to Techstars but didn’t get in, so clinching a spot in 500 Global’s program in such a manner felt like the universe was looking out for us. “500 Global was like an answered prayer or a dream come true because as a first time founder, you need all the help you can get. You need guidance, mentorship and money too,” she said.
The perks of enrolling in 500 Global Flagship Accelerator Program are everything founders and their startups require to thrive in the short- and long-run. From access to a vibrant network of thousands of fellow founders and hundreds of accomplished mentors, to exposure to expert-led training and resources focused on marketing, sales, product development, and more, the accelerator program provides highly coveted growth-enabling support.
Our Co-founder, Amarachi, was quick to note how critical this kind of support is to founders. “As first time founders we need all the support we can get. Building is hard, being a founder is tasking, so if you don’t have the support you need to keep you going, it can be discouraging.” Amarachi noted.
“But if you have the support, it’s better. For instance, we have a Slack channel filled with founders 500 Global has backed, people who have overseen exits, etc. You have great people in your corner that you can always talk to. Having access to a community of founders is like a game-changer,” she added.
When asked to elaborate on how going through the program would help with building Bitpowr going forward, Amarachi said, “We’ve made good connections with several interesting founders and mentors. Some of the mentors are VCs from prominent venture funds. In terms of sales, 500 courses and mentorship sessions have given us better ideas on how to build and grow the business. In terms of product, we’ve seen how we can better structure our product. In terms of team building, we’ve also spoken to mentors in the managerial and people operations sphere and we’ve learnt better ways to lead and manage the team. I think all this will be very effective in running the company.”
Our co-founders found the four-month intensive program demanding as they had to combine going through the accelerator and maximizing the engagements with running the company. But Amarachi believes the format of the just concluded edition of the accelerator program made things easy.
“During our time, it was fully virtual so you get resources. You have a founders hub filled with resources on different sectors, like a self-paced course: fundraising, marketing, product development. Then we usually had weekly calls with the 500 Global team, some were to get hands-on training with experts. Then you have access to a pool of mentors in different sectors, so if you need legal advice, financial advice, fundraising advice, you have mentors for that. The good thing is, even after the program, we still have access to all those mentors, so we can always go back to them,” Amarachi said.
One of the highlights of the accelerator program was Demo Day, which was the concluding act for the participating founders. The 19 founders in this cohort pitched to investors in person in San Francisco on March 23, 2023. Speaking about the preparations for Demo Day, Amarachi said, “Those of us who were not in San Francisco were asked to move down, and we did. Preparations for Demo Day started around the 6th (February). Every day, we’d go to the office, pitch with our decks, get feedback, go back to the drawing board, rinse and repeat.”
To emphasize how committed 500 Global was to ensuring the founders delivered great pitches on Demo Day, Amarachi pointed out additional training structures they put in place. “ We even had a mentor who specifically helped us with presentation tips like how to own the stage, capture and sustain our audience’s attention, etc. Then there was the Demo Day Preview where we pitched to friends of 500 Global and alumni and also got feedback from them. From that point onwards, we mostly had light training and review sessions till Demo Day.”
Following weeks of intense preparations, Amarachi delivered a compelling pitch that highlighted the Bitpowr vision. In two minutes she gave a rundown of our resolve to provide blockchain infrastructure to financial institutions, why it matters and how far we’ve come since launching a year ago. Her delivery was punchy, clear and authoritative and made the team proud, particularly Bitpowr’s Nigeria-based employees who weren’t to be deterred by the time difference and were up at 1 AM (WAT) to watch their Co-founder pitch to global investors.
On what’s next for Bitpowr following Demo Day, Amarachi noted a few high-priority items: “Before the demo day, 500 held a preview session and we already started meeting investors and other interesting folks. People are still reaching out and we are still trying to take all the meetings with investors and see how we can complete our round. We are currently raising $2m to fund compliance, license insurance and hire engineers and customer acquisition and product development team members.”
“The next couple of weeks will be dedicated to meeting more interesting people, looking for potential partners, and networking with other founders,” Amarachi added.
We are excited for what the future holds and remain grateful for the opportunity to have enrolled in such a reputable accelerator program. Becoming a member of the 500 Global family means a lot to us and will no doubt play a pivotal role in our growth and success. For now, we’ll commit to using all the resources at our disposal to fulfill the potential that made the 500 Global team take a chance on us and also contribute to the growth of other members of the community.
The end of the accelerator program is the start of a new journey because in Amarachi’s words “once in 500, always in 500. We keep learning and building.”