Pioneer 2.0

Pioneer will soon hit a big milestone: we’ll have funded 100 people from around the world. Despite it only being a year, about 30% of our Pioneers that started companies have gone on to raise follow-on funding from the likes of Y-Combinator, General Catalyst, Village Global, and others.

Some of our more interesting projects include:

  • LiveDocs: Tableau dashboards with the ease of composing a Google Doc.
  • Metacode: A search engine for software.
  • There: Presence software for remote teams.
  • Perceive: Google Analytics for retail.
  • Foundry: A new Firebase.
  • ToDesktop: Software that generates desktop apps.
  • Matrix23: A buyout fund for esports teams.
  • Karma: Performance management software over Slack.
  • Roboflow: Better ETL tools for image labeling.
  • Airsite: A mobile app for making websites.
  • Beanstalk: Anonymous Bitcoin.

It’s early, but it seems like we’re making people successful. Many of our players, even those that don’t win, find the game of Pioneer useful. A motivational treadmill for the otherwise lonely art of starting a company. Something that keeps you going.

Once a player becomes a winner, we try to give them the benefits of being in Silicon Valley, but through the Internet. Some of our Pioneers have met their co-founders through Pioneer, an ultimate act of startup generation. Many of them have raised money by virtue of being a Pioneer. Etc.

Just like other startups iterating on their product based on user feedback, we're iterating on ours. Here are some updates for our next release:

1. We’re verticalizing. We launched with the idea to fund anything. Music, art, non-profits, etc. We’re going to take a dose of our own startup advice and focus on funding small projects that might turn into businesses. A narrower scope lets us make something better for a smaller audience. (It'd be neat to re-expand one day, and launch a dedicated vertical for pure research or art. That's something we'll do later.)

Everything big starts small, so we're still delighted to fund hack projects. We just funded a company working on turning Notion pages into websites. Applying with a small project is fine, even recommended.

2. We're simplifying our offer process. Here’s how it works:

  • Go to our website, and play our tournament for at least 2 weeks.
  • If you chart in the top 50 of our leaderboard, you’ll be reviewed by one of our experts.
  • If you’re admitted, you become a Pioneer. You’ll get:
    • To join a network of other elite founders.
    • A one-month startup accelerator program. Our team, with help from our network of advisors, will mentor you on the basics of starting a business, fundraising, product-market fit, hiring and more.
    • Access to our exclusive online community of Pioneers.
    • Participation in our Livestream, which might help you fundraise.
    • A roundtrip ticket to Silicon Valley. (You might never use the return.)
    • $100,000 AWS and Google Cloud credits.
    • $1,000 in Stellar lumens, and $5,000 in locked lumens.
    • If you don’t have a company, we’ll incorporate it on the spot for free.
  • We’re removing our $1,000 cash grant. More on this below.
  • In exchange for this, Pioneer gets 1% of your company.


3. We're offering more funding.

  • After becoming a Pioneer, you can continue to advance. Just like a physical campus, we hang out with our Pioneers frequently online, keep in touch with them and see how we can help.
  • At our discretion, we’ll offer Pioneers the chance to advance to any of three other levels:
    • Pioneer Gold: Get $20,000 in exchange for 5% of the company.
    • Pioneer Platinum: $100,000 in exchange for 5% of the company.
    • Pioneer 1M: $1M in exchange for 10% of the company.
  • All of these deals are completely optional.
  • But they are also standard. We think the opaque, highly negotiative nature of fundraising is lame, annoying, and inefficient.
    • Right now, the experience of fundraising is akin to buying a used car.
    • That’s not what you want.
    • You want a specific, known price. Like buying something on Amazon.
    • These are our prices. They aren’t for everyone, and that’s fine.


That’s it!

You can get started in a few minutes. You can even use a fake username. Nobody needs to know who you are. And if your small project ends up winning the tournament, well, maybe -- just maybe -- you’ll change your life. We’d love to help you try.


FAQ:

Are you still giving away $1,000?
No. We’ve learned that the most useful thing we can give Pioneers isn’t money directly: it’s the community, mentorship, network, flight to California, and most importantly -- brand. Worth remembering that Stanford charges cash for these products. That brand alone helps them raise money and propels their success. We think the $1,000 investment was one of the least important components of the Pioneer package we were giving our winners, and it might be much better invested by us leveraging it to build a better product.


I’m not sure how my project will become a business. Should I apply?
Yes! When it doubt, apply. Self-editing is one of the main reasons we don’t see more startups in the world. People -- just like yourself right now -- reading about things like Pioneer and deciding that gosh, it just isn’t for them. If you have no interest in turning your project into a business, we might not be the right home for you. Else, apply.

Can I go right to Pioneer 1M?
No cheat codes here. Step by step. (Can you go right to Mario 1-2?)