500 Startups brings growth hacking program to Berlin

500 Startups has quietly brought its growth marketing program to Berlin in Germany. Dubbed “Distro Dojo,” the three-month program targets post-seed startups in need of marketing expertise as they gear up for a Series A.

It sees the Silicon Valley-based investor work with the companies accepted into the program to build and test appropriate growth “hacks,” put better metrics and analytics in place and design a long-term user acquisition strategy.

500 Startups also makes a $200,000 investment in each startup (minus a $50,000 program fee) in return for a negotiated amount of equity. It’s being hosted at hub:raum with sponsorship from Deutsche Telekom.

Noteworthy: This isn’t the first time “Distro Dojo” has set up shop in Europe. The program debuted in London last year, and builds on 500 Startups’ growing presence in the continent, which has seen it make around 140 investments in Europe to date. So, why bring “Distro Dojo” to Berlin, in particular?

“I spent nearly four years working in Berlin’s tech sector and quickly realized there were many opportunities and strengths to its ecosystem,” explains Jess Erickson, program director at 500 Startups.

Specifically, she cites the high-caliber of the local business and technical universities, Germany’s more favorable immigration policies compared to the U.K. and what she says is the city’s ability to attract talented people from all over the world.

“I’ve seen an influx of companies founded in Berlin (as well as exits) and am thrilled that 500 Startups is starting to launch programs into Germany to help accelerate the process,” adds Erickson.

Meanwhile, I asked Matt Lerner, partner at 500 Startups and the person who heads up its London office and leads the European Distro Dojo program, to share any learnings so far.

He tells me that 20 companies have come through the London program and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the hypothesis that there was a need for an accelerator of sorts dedicated to growth marketing has been validated.

“There’s a huge need for someone in the pre-Series A space to help companies learn how to scale. Demand for the program has been really high as word starts to spread about what we do,” he says.

However, one thing that has surprised Learner is that a number of the U.K.’s already established and up-and-coming digital marketers have chosen to join the program.

They include Mat Braddy (former CMO of JustEat) with his startup Rock Pamper Scissors, and Tom Beverley (former head of digital marketing for Fab, OneFineStay, and Confused.com) with his new venture Fy.

This has seen 500 Startups beginning to recruit more companies that already have strong marketing teams that, says Lerner, tend to reap the largest benefit. “We’ve shifted the focus more towards things [like] analytics, usability testing,” he says.

I also asked Lerner if setting up shop in Berlin, rather than London alone, had anything to do with Brexit? “Alas, it was in the books before the fateful vote,” he tells me. “We’ve long been bent on world domination, and Distro Dojos are a good strategy to really get into a market and see the deal flow and the quality of founders and other investors first-hand.”

As for Brexit itself, “we’re watching and hoping,” he says, and notes that 500 Startups is keeping a keen on eye on important startup issues like immigration policy, harmonized fintech regulations across the continent and the free flow of capital and trade.

Aren’t we all.

In their own words… meet the first batch in 500 Startups’ Berlin Distro Dojo program

Voya.ai simplifies business travel by combining the expertise of travel agents with the efficiency of a chatbot. Offering a concierge-like service on a familiar chat interface, Voya built the simplest way to book and manage business trips. They created the first business travel service that both companies and their users love, which may be why their business is doubling each month.

Junomedical is a digital health platform where patients worldwide are matched with high-quality medical care abroad at an affordable price. Junomedical’s passionate team of digital experts and geeks is led by Dr. Sophie Chung — tackling a $50 billion medical travel industry.

Heycater! lets busy office managers quickly order catering online. Founders Sophie Radtke and Therese Köhler don’t simply plan to unite clients and caterers on a curated platform; their mission is to shape the way people eat at work and create a movement of happier, healthier and more productive companies.

Zenjob is a mobile tech company that solves short-term staffing emergencies by providing hourly workers on-demand. Zenjob actually hires the workers and lends them out to companies. People working with Zenjob earn more than minimum wage and companies have less admin hassle and more flexibility than with traditional temp agencies.

Movivo is a platform that allows users to cover the cost of their mobile minutes by completing surveys, crowdsourced tasks and by downloading new mobile apps. Movivo works with many of the world’s largest telecoms operators and the service is growing quickly in a number of emerging market countries.

Job Pal builds chatbots that automate candidate engagement and pre-screening. Companies want to engage much more with prospective employees, but cannot due to a lack of resources. Meanwhile, recruiters mostly sift through irrelevant applications while they need to spend more time with relevant candidates. Job Pal solves both problems through machine intelligence.