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The Sith Lord of startups

Silicon Valley angel investor Dave McClure wants Indian investors to take more risks

Amit Haralkar

California-based 500 Startups isn’t your regular accelerator and its founder and ‘Sith Lord’, Dave McClure, isn’t your regular VC. You either love him or hate him but you can’t ignore him. A veteran of PayPal, Founders Fund, Facebook and LinkedIn, among others, he has invested in over 250 companies, including Mint.com, Twilio, Wildfire, SendGrid, SlideShare and MakerBot  in the 20 years he has spent in Silicon Valley. In 2010, he started 500 Startups, a seedfund and accelerator, right under the shadow of the most successful accelerator to come out of the Valley, the Y Combinator. “A lot of people thought we were f*****g crazy to compete with [Y Combinator] in their own backyard. But we knew we were going to be different,” says McClure, on a recent visit to India as keynote speaker at the Asian Business Angel Forum 2013 organised by the Mumbai Angels.

The difference? 500 Startups would find not just the black swans but also groom the ugly ducklings. With $80 million under management, the fund has a team of 30 of which 10 members make the investments. Over the past four years, it has invested in more than 600 businesses across 45 countries, of which 400 are still up and running. McClure believes around 100-200 of those investments will be of some consequence some day. 

The fund runs its accelerator programme out of Mountain View, California, with two batches of 30-odd companies graduating every year. A second accelerator programme will be launched in a couple of weeks from a new office in San Francisco. So, on average, 500 Startups will have 120 companies coming out of its accelerator programmes every year. 

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