Matt Lerner, who has for the last few years effectively been 500 Startups’ main person in London, is reducing his role at the Silicon Valley-based VC fund and accelerator to pursue a new business of his own. He’s officially scaling back to a part-time position of Venture Partner to launch “growth coaching” company Heretix.
The idea, he tells me, is to build on his work running the 500 Startups London “Distro Dojo” growth marketing program, but in a way that opens it up to more startups in the U.K. and across Europe that are in need of building a self-sufficient growth strategy. That’s because any company is free to approach Heretix, which is initially acting as a simple gun for hire (although you still need to apply) and, unlike Distro Dojo, isn’t a program tied to an equity investment.
“We’re not an agency, and we’re not a bootcamp,” says Lerner, who will continue to head up 500 Startups’ London office and support its U.K. portfolio. “Heretix is focused on providing growth coaching for startup founders and teams. Our first goal is to help them double, triple or 10x their growth. Our second goal is to make them self-sufficient.”.
To provide further context, Lerner says to think back to 2015 when he left PayPal to join 500 Startups in London, a city that wasn’t short of accelerators but was facing a “Series A Crunch”. “The capital was there, and so were the seed-stage startups. So what was the problem?” he says. The answer: VCs could not find enough investable companies with Series A traction.
“Through my work at 500, I saw a ton of seed-stage companies who were able to hustle themselves to mid-five-figure MRR.. But they would flatten out, their hustle would not scale. They could not find the multiple repeatable channels they needed to break through the £100,000 monthly revenue barrier”.
In an attempt to solve this problem, 500 Startups decided to launch a growth marketing investment program, and based on his experience building B2B growth teams for PayPal, tapped up Lerner to run it. The resulting “Distro Dojo” was a program with a mandate to help post-seed companies scale growth on top of existing traction.
“I set up the Dojo and was lucky enough to get some very talented entrepreneurs and marketers to join me. And, it really made a difference,” says Lerner. “We worked with 35 companies, and earned a ‘Net Promoter’ score of 96 percent from our founders. And their companies saw an average growth of 250 percent year-on-year with many companies growing revenue 3x, 5x, even 20x. And many of them have raised at higher valuations, including AirSorted, ZenJob, Tamatem, Popsa, Settled and OurPath”.
To that end, in combination with other members of the original Dojo team, Heretix sees its official unveiling today, with a mission to help companies grow without being tied to outside agencies or consultants. That’s because Lerner believes that you can’t ultimately outsource growth, it has to be an “internal muscle” you develop as a founder and as a company.
“The 500 Distro Dojo helped us prove out the model, and now we want to offer that coaching to promising startups all over Europe, without taking equity” adds Lerner. “Our program has two formats: our half-day ‘Quick Wins’ workshop and a ‘Core Strengths’ program that runs part-time for two months.”