Tristan Pollock is no shrinking violet. In the startup scene he’s revered.
The San Francisco-based entrepreneur is on his way to Australia looking for startups to invest in and will visit Brisbane as part of the Visiting Entrepreneur Program, delivered by Digital Brisbane and The Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation.
His gut instinct for success is great news for those with a brilliant business idea looking to break into the US market and join an exclusive Silicon Valley-based accelerator program.
That gut instinct is actually pretty legendary in the US. One of his early claims to fame was having produced the most-read email ever.
“My first job out of uni was at the biggest electronic retailer in the world, Best Buy,” Mr Pollock told Digital Brisbane.
“They did a lot of innovative things around service but not a lot around digital and started to be beaten really bad by Amazon, who literally did everything they possibly could to make their ecommerce experience better.”
Enter Mr Pollock, who led several Best Buy marketing campaigns, during which he crafted the most read email of all time, reaching a stunning 23 million customers.
Since then he’s co-founded Storefront, a trading platform for short-term retail space that The New York Times called the “Airbnb for Retail Spaces” and boasts Kanye West as its most high-profile customer. Mr Pollock and his partner raised an impressive US$7.3 million in venture capital funding for the concept.
He has also been named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list twice, in part due to the success of another startup, SocialEarth.
He describes it as the Huffington Post for social entrepreneurship and with over 200 contributors in 25 countries, and multiple awards for impact journalism, it was acquired by 3BL Media in 2012.
He’s the guy you want helping your startup succeed.
Now, the Entrepreneur in Residence and Venture Partner at 500 Startups, he’s coming to Brisbane looking for businesses to seed.
“My goal in this trip to Brisbane is to connect that line from Australia to Silicon Valley and Australasia,” he said.
“To make that connection and get 500 startups more involved down under.”
Speaking from New Zealand ahead of his Australian visit, he told Digital Brisbane he had been pleasantly surprised by the opportunities so far.
“500 has kind of a unique model that wasn’t really done as much until recently – so five years ago.
“500 is one of the most active, if not the most active VC investor in the world because we do these 50-100k cheques into accelerator or seed-round companies.
“Part of that is because there’s only so much information you can gather.”
So, what does he look for in a potential startup success story and how does he make that call?
“It is part gut check – do I think these founders have the right people on their team right now that can grow with the company and bring it to the right level?
“Do they have enough EQ, enough IQ, the right combination of those things, and how does that relate to the other people I’ve seen and where have those companies gone?
“Sometimes it could be a matter of wrong timing and everything else could be good.”
The Visiting Entrepreneur Program is brought to you by Digital Brisbane and The Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation.