As a fourth generation venture investor, Adam Draper was pretty much predestined to work with startups. The son of Tim Draper, the founder of global VC firm Draper Fisher Jurveston, Adam has made it his mission to do everything in his power to help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life — without relying on his family name to do so. After taking the plunge as an entrepreneur himself, co-founding a capital raising and trading platform and an equity crowdfunding portal, the 26-year-old again finds himself back in the Draper wheelhouse: Early-stage finance.
In the summer of 2012, Draper launched his third venture, Boost.vc, a San Mateo-based accelerator that offers housing (in an on-site hotel), office space, mentorship and seed funding as part of its 12-week incubation program. But by today’s standards, considering the glut of startup accelerators that have emerged over the last two years, what was once an attractive model now almost sounds run-of-the-mill. I’d argue, and Draper would agree, that accelerators can provide more value for startups over the long-run by focusing on a particular vertical.
Today, Boost.vc is taking its first (experimental) step in that direction by focusing on one of the hottest verticals in the tech industry: Bitcoin. About three months ago, the decentralized, ungoverned currency became “an obsession,” Draper says, and since then, it’s been the focus of his blog, meetings and now, in part, his accelerator. Boost.vc will be dedicating half of its second batch (seven startups total) to companies building products and technologies around the Bitcoin ecosystem.
When it comes to Bitcoin, Draper unabashedly wears rose-colored glasses, calling Bitcoin “one of the most exciting innovations happening in the world today.” While the kind of endorsement might give some pause, Draper isn’t alone. Last month, Lightspeed Venture Partners’ Jeremy Liew penned a post for TechCrunch explaining why VCs “love the Bitcoin market.” Liew himself has been a champion of Bitcoin and its incarnations, having recently backed OpenCoin, the developer of open source payment protocol, Ripple, for example.
Now Liew and other VCs are ready to ante up and continue to put their money where their mouths are by helping to establish the “Boost Bitcoin Fund.” The Fund, Draper exaplins, is a follow-on or “start” fund for all Bitcoin companies that graduate from the accelerator program. Each of the fifteen companies in Boost’s cohorts receives $15K in seed capital (in exchange for a 5 percent equity stake), but with the new fund, Bitcoin startups will receive an additional $50K investment upon completing the program.
The fund is anchored by Lightspeed, Rothenberg Ventures, The Bitcoin Opportunity Fund and Beluga founder Ben Davenport, all of which have begun to invest more aggressively in Bitcoin startups. Draper says that the team began to toy with the idea of a follow-on fund when the founders decided to accept seven Bitcoin startups into its summer session.
In floating the idea for a Bitcoin Start Fund to the investment community, the team was surprised by the warm reception that followed. In fact, Draper says, the capital came together in a week. With the Bitcoin movement continuing to gain steam, both entrepreneurs and investors are eagerly jumping into the space and testing new ideas in hopes of finding business models that will stick.
True to form, Draper says that the Boost.vc team is fully “committed to pushing Bitcoin toward becoming the next digital frontier.” Even if, as part of that experiment, the eight startups not focused on Bitcoin have to look on with envy as the other half of their cohort pockets an additional $50K at the end of the program.
Not only that, but as part of moving to commit (half of) itself to the vertical, Boost.vc will be bringing in “a number of Bitcoin-focused mentors,” including Davenport, who has recently dedicated himself to the space, along with additional speakers, experts and investors.
As a testament to the growing interest in the Bitcoin market, the digital currency now has its own conference, Bitcoin 2013, which is scheduled to take place this weekend in San Jose. Naturally, the conference will also play host to a Bitcoin-focused hackathon, and Draper tells us that Boost.vc plans to pick one of the seven startups that will participate in its program from the field.
As to the program: Applications for Boost.vc’s second cohort are being accepted on a rolling basis, with a final deadline of June 1st. The program will kick off June 24th, concluding in a demo day in the middle of September (the date has yet to be set). Those interested in applying can do so here.