Boost VC, the first incubator to focus on accelerating bitcoin companies in Silicon Valley, has announced an ambitious plan to help grow the bitcoin industry.
“We are actually, over the next three years, going to be accelerating 200 companies. And 100 of those are going to be bitcoin companies. That’s our big stake in the ground.”
“We’re just excited about the space,” said Draper. “We’re going to launch 10 to 15 bitcoin companies per session.”
Boost VC didn’t start accepting bitcoin companies at its inception – rather, it’s something that evolved over time, according to Draper.
“I started Boost in October of 2012. We accepted seven companies. We were providing housing, office space, bringing in speakers every week. It went really well,” he said.
The accelerator then started looking at some up-and-coming technologies for its next class.
Drones and 3D printing were ideas tossed around before bitcoin came up. At this point, Draper had a realization:
“When I was looking at bitcoin, I was thinking, ‘Well, there are really only like five companies in the bitcoin space. It’s not really an industry, but there’s a lot of opportunity in this’.”
After meeting a number of people working with the digital currency, Draper made a decision to start incubating bitcoin companies.
Encouragingly, there was investment interest from the start. One investor reached out to Draper and told him:
“If you’re going to be launching these bitcoin companies, I’d be interested in backing all of those that come out of Boost in this session.”
“So, that gave me the idea that there were enough bitcoin investors,” said Draper.
Boost VC was the first bitcoin incubator, now it plans to be the largest.
Payment processors, exchanges and mining companies all made an appearance in bitcoin’s initial phase. As Boost sees it, the industry is now maturing.
“The exchanges are still a bit volatile – everything is a bit volatile – but we’re moving into a [new] phase,” said Draper.
The aforementioned types of companies are not completely out of the running in terms of investment opportunities, but Boost is looking closely at the next generation of bitcoin innovation. Said Draper:
“What we were thinking about is: What’s next? What does bitcoin do better than USD or pesos?”
Bitcoin can do some things better than cash. So, finding great companies that can make this easy for the consumer is what Draper wants to focus on.
“[Bitcoin] is better at remittance. It’s better at microtransactions. It’s better than using your Visa card online. It’s just a better cash system than most inflationary currencies,” he said.
A startup idea that gets incubated at Boost VC needs to think about being an easy onramp to bitcoin, Draper explained:
“Anything that makes bitcoin easier to access. Coinbase made it super easy to buy bitcoin. They solved one of the main issues with bitcoin – that it was hard to approach.”
He also pointed out some of the past Boost VC companies that help reduce the complexities of bitcoin.
Increasing VC interest
A healthy does of venture-backed money flowed to bitcoin companies last year. Draper believes that venture capital growth will influence other entrepreneurs into thinking about businesses based around the digital currency:
“I feel that entrepreneurs are still starting to work on bitcoin projects. They aren’t necessarily taking a full leap. But with more money in the ecosystem, they are starting to take the leap.”
Now that investors are becoming more familiar with bitcoin, there is a pickup in interest. The US dollar is still a part of the equation, however, as that is the tool for truly valuing deals that get done in bitcoin.
“I see deals happen where they actually invest with bitcoin. USD needs to be a touchstone for what the worth is,” explained Draper.
In fact, the Boost Bitcoin Fund kept a quarter of its holdings in bitcoin. When investing in startups involved in that fund, those companies received BTC as a part of their funding.
“When we created the Boost Bitcoin Fund,” Draper said, “one-fourth of that fund was held in bitcoin. It was a holding and we held bitcoin and cash for that fund – and we ended up invested in those companies.”
It’s possible that the Boost Bitcoin Fund might be on to something with using bitcoin as an instrument for venture capital. Draper sees it as an effective tool for providing capital to startups:
“It’s actually easier to invest with bitcoin. It’s so easy to send bitcoin to people, and large amounts of it too.”
Boost has conducted three sessions over the past year. Draper says that the accelerator, which is based in San Mateo, California, is only going to have summer and winter sessions going forward. The next session will start in July. He added:
“We want to produce the best quality of companies, that’s always been our goal. That’s why we’re going to do about two [sessions] a year. There will eventually be roughly 30 companies per session.”
Applications for the Boost VC summer session, to be held in July, will open in two weeks. Interested entrepreneurs can sign up for Boost’s mailing list to be notified when the process opens up for entrants.
Draper is excited to see the bitcoin innovation that will happen as a result of Boost VC’s efforts:
“The fact that they solved this problem of being able to make a trusted transaction between two untrusted parties, I think, is a very valuable thing. If it works on that scale, it replaces huge institutions in the middle of transactions.”
“There’s so many things that you can hook into bitcoin,” he added.
Startup image via Shutterstock