Adam Draper and Brayton Williams launched Boost.vc in 2012 at a time when the accelerator market was beginning to burst at the seams with new entrants — some would say it was nearing saturation. In an effort to differentiate their approach and attract quality startups amidst the growing noise in Accelerator Land, the Boost founders decided to put a premium on experimentation.
For the Boost.vc founders, this means being willing to take risks in their approach to startup incubation and not shying away from diving into new verticals or diverting attention and resources when a market demands it. Case in point: After Draper took an early interest in Bitcoin, and the team saw that the digital currency market was quickly becoming a magnet for talented developers, Boost decided to dedicate half of its second batch to Bitcoin startups.
The expeditious move made Boost the first accelerator to devote resources to accelerating Bitcoin startups — one that is now starting to pay off. Today, competition is growing fast in the digital currency wold, and a new class of Bitcoin-focused accelerators have begun to enter the market. Boost, however, has a head start, having spent the last year building relationships and mining the ecosystem for great ideas, businesses, advisors and talent.
With the recent graduation of its third batch of startups, Boost has now incubated 10 Bitcoin startups, and with interest and activity in digital currency continuing to swell, the accelerator and seed fund is doubling down on its Bitcoin bets. Sounding not unlike Dave McClure in 2010 when he made the ambitious promise to incubate 500 companies, Draper tells us that Boost is now planning to launch 100 Bitcoin companies over the next three years, though the founders have opted against changing the accelerator’s name to “100 Bitcoin Startups.”
The justification for ramping up its pledge to support the growing number of fledgling businesses tinkering away in the Bitcoin World, Draper explains, is owed to his belief that the next generation of Bitcoin startups will likely be the ones to tackling the biggest problems — not only in the U.S., but all over the world. The digital currency market has grown by leaps and bounds over the last year, but the market is still young.
However, as it matures, and consumers, banks and governments become more comfortable with the notion that digital, cryptocurrencies are not just a passing fad, but here to stay — even if, in 10 years, Bitcoin itself has long since faded into the background. In 2014, how regulators and governing bodies will choose to deal with Bitcoin companies (and policy) will become more clear, and a handful of leaders will begin emerging from each segment within the market, and will be stronger for it.
Naturally, with the expectation that the next generation of Bitcoin startups will soon begin to take shape, and will be tackling problems whose solutions will likely have financial industry-wide implications, Draper says that Boost wants to be in the thick of it and help these companies grow.
For the Boost founders, the choice to ramp up its focus on (and support for) Bitcoin and digital currency startups is also partly a reaction to their take on the prevailing psychology among accelerators. “I don’t see many programs taking big risks these days,” Draper says, referring both to new entrants as well as incumbents. “We’ve only been around for one year and have incubated companies focusing on everything from rocket science to Bitcoin.”
If accelerators are truly entering the game (or looking to stay in the game) to help entrepreneurs turn their crazy ideas into real businesses, and truly support and encourage people to take chances and dream big, then shouldn’t accelerators be doing the same as well? Draper thinks so, and he and Boost are hoping that its plan to incubate 100 new Bitcoin startups communicates that message loud and clear.
As mentioned above, Boost recently graduate its third batch of companies, which, at 17 companies, represented its largest class to date. Having now accelerated 41 startups to date — ten of them Bitcoin-focused — and with its first two classes having raised $11 million in post-Boost funding, the accelerator is raising a new fund.
From what we’ve heard, the San Mateo-based seed fund and accelerator plans to raise $6 million in funding to help it meet its goal of incubating 200 companies over the next three years — 100 of them Bitcoin. While the round hasn’t closed yet, they’re apparently two-thirds of the way there.
In the meantime, Boost has begun to accept applications for its Summer 2014 program, which begins on July 21st (with applications due by the first of June), which the company hopes will get it started on its mission to hit 200 startups. It tends to help an accelerator’s case if it has actually produced a few winners, an acquisition or two or helped facilitate big follow-on funding rounds.
Boost is young, but it’s still got a long way to go if it ever hopes to reach TechStars and Y Combinator status. Even if that’s not a realistic goal in the short-term, there’s plenty of room for a new accelerator of record where Bitcoin and digital currency are concerned.
Below you’ll find a list of the startups that graduated out of Boost’s third and most recent batch of startup, as well as a short description of their mission statement. Take a look and let us know what you think. Can Boost survive and thrive on Bitcoin as the accelerator market as a whole begins to contract? You tell us.
AirEnvy is a service designed for anyone who has tried to rent out their apartment or property on platforms like AirBNB, VRBO or Flipkey hoping to make a little hassle-free, supplemental income. Of course, as anyone who’s been there knows, short-term rentals are far from easy. From the same team behind education startup Notehall, which sold to Chegg in 2011, AirEnvy was born out the founders’ frustrations over the myriad logistical and property management issues that come with short-term rental.
So they created a solution that makes it simple and easy, allowing property owners to ping them ahead of their next vacation or business trip, then they take care of the rest. They’ll bring in trustworthy renters, clean the property and change the sheets once they leave, and take care of key transfer, transactions and all the annoying minutiae. Initially focused on San Francisco and Napa with plans to expand into new markets soon, the service has earned its clients $200K in revenue during its first three months.
7Shifts has developed simple, web-based software to help employers more efficiently manage their workforce. Initially targeting chains and independents in the food and beverage industry, the startup’s core focus is on streamlining the scheduling process, enabling employers to significantly reduce the amount of time they spend scheduling shifts and hours for their employees. In addition, 7shifts allows managers to create schedules, communicate with their employees and control labor costs through one dashboard/app, enabling them to manage their staff from anywhere, computer, laptop, phone, and so on.
On the flip side, employees can use the platform to check schedules, request shift changes, submit time-off docs through its mobile app. After starting as a simple employee scheduling app, 7shift has begun to expand its support to offer more operations management features, like streamlined employee training and time clocking, for example. The company has doubled their run-rate in the last three months to $60k and are signing up new paying customers daily.
Alphalem wants to be Codecademy for robots — that’s all you need to know. While its final product is still in development, Alphalem was founded on the idea that, if you want people to get excited about learning to build robots, then the building process needs to become more approachable and accessible. Alphalem is currently building an iPad app and robot to make that possible.
Appspin is on a mission to be the Bit.ly for apps. The company knows that getting crazy, viral growth is incredibly difficult and draining for app developers. In fact, wild, hockey-stick-style growth curves are as elusive as unicorns. While achieving strong, organic growth is possible, understanding where it comes from and how to reproduce it is the hardest and least transparent part of building an app as a developer. Appspin has created a suite of products to assist in this tracking process in order to help app developers create and sustain growth.
Bagaveev is building, well, rockets. According to Boost founder Adam Draper, Bagaveev is the first accelerator-grown rocket company. Simply put, the startup is developing a service that aims to help private and government entities reduce the cost and time it takes to get their nano-satellites into orbit. On the technology side, Bagaveev is developing innovative, 3-D printing technology to help it produce its aerospike rocket engines.
Coincove is building the Coinbase for Latin America. The startup’s platform aims to simplify the process of buying and selling Bitcoins and make it easy for the average consumer to turn their cash into Bitcoin and vice versa. Initially targeting its home country of Mexico, the company plans to expand more broadly into Latin America in the near future.
CrowdCurity knows that bug bounty programs are time consuming and expensive. So the startup has created a marketplace that aims to connect companies looking to improve website security with experts that can help them figure out how best to do that. Big picture, CrowdCurity wants to make the Web as a whole more secure and has already paid out thousands of dollars in bug bounties.
ListenLoop knows software is being built at record speeds today. Unfortunately, many times, this means building the wrong thing. ListenLoop allows for agile customer conversations to determine what to build and when to build it.
Gigawatt believes that crowdfunding needs a sense of urgency to work well, so the startups is putting a unique spin on the crowdfunding model to help campaigns raise money faster. To do this, Gigawatt helps fundraisers tap into their network and make every crowdfunding campaign a “blitz” by limiting the duration of campaigns to 24-hour cycles.
Globevestor was founded on the belief that international investing is too difficult for most people to do well. With regulations and tax laws differing from market to market, there’s a lot of education and local knowledge required to invest intelligently. Globevestor has created a marketplace that makes it easy for Regular Joes to make micro-investments (as little as $1K) in high-impact startups in emerging markets, and connects local entrepreneurs in need of access to early-stage capital and gives them access to a global network of mentors, advisors and investors.
Limitless wants to help you measure your daily productivity levels. By way of a simple plugin, Limitless allows people to tracks how productive you are every day and, when your levels inevitably begin to fall, offers suggestions on ways to help boost productivity levels and get them back to where they should be. You can think of Limitless as the Mint.com for web browsing. Over 300,000 new tabs are opened every day using Limitless.
Mevu wants to help people learn new skills. Because YouTube wasn’t designed for skills-based learning, like figuring out the steps to that new dance move or how to fence without poking someone’s eye out, for example, Mevu wants to provide the kind of awesome how-to videos you can’t find on YouTube. Mevu breaks down video content into a step-by-step process in an effort to help people learn real-world skills.
Paytagz is the easiest way to sell anything online. There are 2.2 million for sale hashtags on Instagram, but no easy way to go about finding the right product. Paytagz provides the same ease of use to sell an item while managing the hassles of shipping and payment that goes with it. The company have sold over 1,000 items in the 10 weeks since launch.
Sift thinks today’s calendars suck, so the startup has created on that doesn’t, well, suck. While everyone uses gCal et al to manage their schedules, calendars have gone largely unchanged over the years. Sift wants to change that by streamlining the scheduling process, making it mobile and by allowing you to schedule events and meetings automatically, without the usual back-and forth emailing nightmare — and only with the people that you actually want to connect with.
SnapCard wants to solve one of the biggest problems facing Bitcoin adoption today. While the number of people using Bitcoin and digital currencies continues to grow, most still struggle to find places where they can actually spend their virtual currency. Snapcard allows makes it easy for your Average Joe to find and pay for anything with Bitcoin. At launch, SnapCard is focusing on U.S. and Canada, but has plans to expand down the road.
Strengthportal thinks that the pen isn’t always mightier. Oh, what’s that you say? Your personal trainer still uses a pen and paper to keep track of your workouts and fitness level? Strengthportal has developed its so-called “fitness management software” to make communication and tracking between personal trainers and clients a breeze. And also because StengthPortal believes that its personal trainers are just simply better than everyone else’s personal trainers.
TestLegends wants to make the mind-numbing, teeth-grinding process of studying for the SATs less of a pain in the butt, and, maybe even a little fun. By game-ifying the SAT study process and by helping students actually learn to master the frustrating but required standardized test, TestLegends want to help high school students score higher on the SATs and get addicted to the study process, without having to buy a case of Red Bull.
ListenLoop is on a mission to help companies simplify the customer feedback process and tighten the loop. Getting feedback from your customers at the right time, for the right feature — when you’re ready to hear it and handle requests and when customers are willing to offer it in a more constructive way than just yelling or cheering — is difficult in the early going. So, ListenLoop wants to help businesses solve their customer communication woes and save product managers and engineers from wasting time building the wrong feature, and more time targeting fixes or additions to where your customers actually need it.