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[Escape Velocity] – Episode #43 – Marvin Liao at 500 Startups

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“Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not”.

This is a quote from my latest Escape Velocity Podcast guest, Marvin Liao, formerly a partner at 500 Startups.

500 Startups is a venture capital fund that runs an accelerator in San Francisco and invests in seed rounds for tech startups.

At the time of recording this interview, they backed a lot more than 500 tech companies as their name suggests…

How many? 2300+ and counting.

Investing in seed-stage startups is risky, too. 

When many startups first ask for funding, they’ve often only just assembled their MVP. 

They may have a handful of customers, but they’re still testing their product-market fit and hoping to grow.

This is where investors like Marvin have to evaluate the SaaS and decide: “Is the risk of investing worth it?”

Securing a great round of seed financing can help turn your rough idea into a polished, growth-ready business.

I sat down with Marvin to ask how he picks which startups are worth that risk – and which aren’t.

Check it out.

Although Marvin has moved on from 500 Startups, the company still flourishes with an ever-expanding portfolio.

They are proudly considered the most active early-stage investment fund in the world, with over 5000+ entrepreneurs from 75+ countries on their portfolio.

In our interview, Marvin reveals:

  • The structure of their accelerator program
  • Which investment risks paid off the fastest (and which didn’t)
  • The 500 Startups investment thesis
  • Why they are seed only… and won’t invest in your series A
  • How to let your SaaS “die honourably”
  • How the HBO show Silicon Valley is surprisingly accurate
  • The necessity for executive coaching
  • The entrepreneurial business of investing

This is an eye-opening interview.

I’ve met many SaaS founders that hold investors on a pedestal, treating them like the gods of success.

It helps to realize that investment funds are run by living, breathing humans with interests, questions and faults just like everyone else.

If you’re interested in accelerator programs and seed financing, make sure you tune in to this episode here.


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