I managed a fund that gave no money, took no equity and had an exit

It was 2013 and I was in San Francisco reading the news about a European program that was going to "fund" new VCs. This would have been the beginning of the Startup community in Greece.

The issue is that most of these "VCs", were cookie-cutters: no Entrepreneurial background, no investing background. To kickstart a revolution, a radical change, you need people that take insane risks and act before anyone else does.

You need leaders, not followers.

So, I decided to start my own "fund", with zero money. I called it "The ZeroFund" and I was giving zero money for zero equity. Yes, zero for zero.

But I was giving something more important than anyone else. Network.

The process to be part of ZeroFund was the following: 1. You had to register your company (for free) on the website 2. You were sent a website template (one-pager) and you had to fill it up with images/videos/photos 3. You had to "rally" to bring visitors to your website and they could pledge "virtual money". If you managed to raise more than the threshold, you were going to the Stage. 4. The Stage was a live event, were you had to present your company live to all your supporters. Then you had to raise $700 from them, something that would give you access to a co-working space.

This super fast process forced you to launch, look for users and get your first "paying" customers all while supporting co-working spaces and making your product known. What else you want?

ZeroFund went viral. Google and Microsoft donated servers. Hundreds of people started following the companies. A-List mentors joined to help the Startups (CTO of AOL, right-hand man of Bill Gates, Google, Amazon, Microsoft etc). An accelerator in Silicon Valley, flew the companies to a pitch-deck retreat in Italy. And one Startup got funding - and they made it to Series B.

ZeroFund was all about zero sum: We all win when we all win.

We never gave money but we gave access to a huge network.

We never took a percentage but we got to meet some epic people.

Why I remembered about this after 9 years? One of these companies got acquired for $75M yesterday. Insane.

ZeroFund during the years took different forms and occasionally I get an email about restarting it. Maybe now with crypto it could be even easier. Or maybe there is no need because there are so many VCs out there.

Or maybe now it is a bigger need than ever.

PS: This is a video (in Greek) that covers ZeroFund on the Stage day.

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- Wed 02 February 2022

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