The Hustle – A 500 Startups Story

Disclaimer: Your hustle may vary.

“One day…” is a very common phrase amongst entrepreneurs. Dreams, hopes and ambition are boiled into a weird mix of passion and action and funneled into a personal fuel tank. The dedicated few push beyond minimal cash flow, worried family members and strive for something more, something ‘better’. The few stress through relationships, take risks and dive head first into unclear opportunities. It’s a life that few choose, but for us, it doesn’t make sense any other way.

In my world, I work with two incredible entrepreneurs and am connected to many more through our networks. These two co-founders (Ed and Chris) hustle harder and work smarter than many people I know – and I am thankful to live in a world where that connection is possible.

Our story started in the early days of a Melbourne (Australia) based incubator called AngelCube. We had come together by Chris and Eds invitation into the incubator with their previous startup ideas while I was mentoring the different teams on UI & UX design. After working with them on their first design, I decided to join their team (more on how I joined them here) and shortly after we had iterated the product again and headed across to the US to partake in various Demo Days in SF and NY.

We had a very large vision for where we wanted Kickfolio (Now App.io) to be in the future. With that vision, we knew we had to secure serious US investment or get into one of the various incubators – our first pick being the powerful 500 Startups.

On September 5th, the day of the first US Demo Day for AngelCube, we were up in the 500 Startups building pitching to a mix of entrepreneurs, investors and mentors from the community and the previous 500 Startups batches respectively. While we had some great feedback, our pitch was met with the most dreaded question ever, “So, what do you actually do?”. We were able to answer the question in the end but knew we had a lot of work to do to succinctly explain what we do without physically getting people to use it first.

On that same night, Dave McClure had dropped in to see some of the pitches, missing the first few including ours. We knew we had to get Kickfolio in front of him, at the very least to get his feedback. A few of the other teams decided to stay behind to speak with Dave also. We waited for 3+ hours in the 500 Startups building and managed to secure 5 minutes with Dave – (When you travel halfway around the world, an extra 3 hours wait for Dave McClure is kind of worth it).

In our brief discussion with Dave, he suggested something that stuck with us throughout the remainder of the trip. He mentioned that he would put us in touch with someone in his network, and if Kickfolio found its way back to him through that network we would be talking further. In hindsight it sounds like a simple lesson, but the trust put into network recommendations and connections in the US goes further (and makes a bigger impact) than we thought it ever would. After that, we knew the best way for us to get into 500 Startups would be to hustle our way into that network and have recommendations flying in from every contact along that line. So that’s what we did.

We focused on soft intros (and some cold) to anyone who had a connection to 500 – past or present mentors, entrepreneurs and investors. We managed to connect to about 5 or so relevant people who also provided great advice on moving forward. It was clear to us at this point that the various network connections we were building for recommendations (and advice) were similar to the basis of advertising and the repetition of multiple placements, which in turn transforms into trust.

A few days later, applications for 500 Startups opened via Angellist. We knew that adding another point of contact would only benefit our position of being noticed. From what we understand, our Angellist application was the icing on the cake for Dave McClure, which clarified everything Kickfolio was about and the direction we were planning to take it.

Then, Chris and I flew back home to Melbourne, Australia while Ed continued on to New York for another week of demo days and networking. Chris and I continued to define and discuss our next steps over that week, while Ed connected with some amazing people and added a strong and supportive advisor to our team (James Haft).

When Ed arrived back in Melbourne we were all ready for one of the biggest team discussions ever. In that whirlwind trip for the last 2.5 weeks we had met so many people, had multiple opportunities present themselves and learned so much about Kickfolio. Yet, instead of a discussion, what happened next blew us away.

On Tuesday the 2nd of October (the first Melbourne working day for Kickfolio as a team), while sharing a Google Hangout with James Haft, we got the call. Ed confidently walked into the room, casually sorted out his laptop to join the Hangout and shared the news. Kickfolio was accepted into 500 Startups. Below is a shot at the moment Ed told us we were in.

From the left: Chris clapping, Diesel smiling, Ed explaining and James clapping.

Here’s the awesome short email that Dave McClure quickly sent through:

——————————————————————————————————

quick story…

good news: we’re going to make you guys an offer.

bad news: you guys need to get on a plane asap!

:)

——————————————————————————————————

We went through every emotion right in that moment. We couldn’t (and wouldn’t) pass up this incredible offer, but we had to get back over to the US asap – slight freak-out! We pulled together everything we could, sorted out flights straight away and said goodbye to loved ones for a short while (5 months in the US). A week later, Chris and I were on a plane heading back to the US to start this incredible journey (with Ed to arrive on the 15th).

So that brings us to now – a few days into this incredible opportunity and what we believe will be the start of an amazing journey for us and Kickfolio.

I look forward to keeping you updated as the months go by. Now it’s time for us to learn, network and push Kickfolio (Now App.io)¬†further than it’s ever been.

– Diesel Laws