Mobile. Mobile, mobile, mobile. If one buzzword could summarize the state of technology in 2012, it would be “mobile.” Hamish covered the shift from Web 2.0 to the “age of mobile” in April, and things haven’t changed much in the interim. All eyes have been on Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, and countless startups are trying to become the next smartphone sensation. As CrunchFund partner (and PandoDaily investor) MG Siegler puts it, “Don’t build an app based on your website. Build the app that acts as if websites never existed in the first place. Build the app for the person who has never used a desktop computer. Because they’re coming. Soon.”
Tandem, an accelerator catered specifically towards these mobile-first startups, is happy to ride the wave of mobile dominance to success. The accelerator closed its second fund at $32 million in April, and is announcing that another batch of startups (there are typically three startups per batch) will enter its program this quarter. Applications are open until October 1, and the company is encouraging startups based outside of the US to apply.
For those unfamiliar with the accelerator, Tandem is based in Silicon Valley and invests $200,000 in the 12 startups that pass through its program each year. The accelerator accepts three startups each quarter and invites them to its base in the Valley for six months of mentorship and product development. Tandem cofounder Doug Renert refers to this combination of mentorship and financial investment as “muscle capital,” and says that the majority of companies that pass through the accelerator have resulted in favorable returns.
Tandem is now looking to spread the love outside of the Silicon Valley echo chamber and has started accepting an increasing number of applicants from outside the US. Startups have joined Tandem from India, Canada, Finland, and Norway, and Renert says that the only requirements are that these companies come to Silicon Valley for their six months and that everyone on the team is able to speak English. Renert expects that as Tandem moves forward roughly 50 percent of its participating companies will have been born outside of the US.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this increasing international interest in Tandem is the lack of Chinese startups making their way to the accelerator. I had expected that an investment from The9, a Chinese gaming company, would have led to new interest from and more access to Chinese startups. Given China’s status as the fastest-growing mobile market and Tandem’s focus on mobile-specific startups, bringing the two together seemed like the perfect match. [
We have reached out to Tandem for response, and will update the post if or when we receive one. Renert's response: "The Chinese startups have to compete with those from the rest of the world, and we haven't seen one that rose to the top 3 in a class - yet. I'm sure this will change...]
Renert says that Tandem helps participating startups get the proper paperwork to stay in the US for the six-month class, and that it helps startups that wish to then stay in the US do so as well, but importing a bunch of companies isn’t a main priority. The Valley is a good place to meet investors and build startups, he says, but Tandem doesn’t “worry about or prescribe” where a startup calls home.
“This mobile landscape has no borders. If you build a stellar service or app or game, the world truly can be your oyster,” Renert says.