In an area of New York City famous for Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, and The Container Store lies the entrepreneur’s paradise: Friends of eBay.
Friends of eBay is a startup accelerator like no other. Twice a year they accept a limited number of startups that they feel can benefit from and add to the community that has been created and fostered. Unlike most startup accelerators, Friends of eBay takes 0 equity. All they ask is that the startup founders add to the community of giving and receiving that Friends of eBay has created.
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Julia Neznanova is the director of Friends of eBay, and has some fantastic advice for entrepreneurs, whether they are looking to apply to Friends of eBay or not.
New York City is where you want to be:
Neznanova believes that New York City is the perfect place for entrepreneurs because it provides the ecosystem that startups require in order to survive and thrive.
This is because New York City has a variety of professionals, unlike San Francisco which, according to eBay’s Paul Burt, is less diverse and it feels like it contains a disproportionate number of tech companies and startups.
Additionally, because New York City contains some of the largest companies in the country, the end goal of getting acquired is more achievable in the 5 boroughs than in other cities.
Make sure your startup is something you believe in:
Neznanova also believes that wanting to start a successful startup isn’t enough; your business needs to solve a pain point that there is a demand for. Not only should your startup provide a product or service that people want, but Neznanova believes strongly that it should also be something that you are passionate about, because if your startup does not get acquired as soon as you want it to, you don’t want to feel stuck with a business you don’t enjoy running.
The future of Friends of eBay:
The future is truly bright for Friends of eBay. All parts of Friends of eBay, even the ones that have made the accelerator successful in the past, are subject to change. Neznanova and the rest of Friends of eBay consider this to be “sharpening the saw”, and that constant improvement is necessary to make Friends of eBay the best it can be. Some of the improvements that they want to make in the future are as follows:
- Make mentorship a more important and more integral part of Friends of eBay. As the program expands and startups become graduates, more mentors will become available to new startups that are accepted to Friends of eBay, both within the eBay organization and out.
- There has also been consideration for another location for Friends of eBay because the New York City one has been so successful. Some potential locations for this second location are Seattle or San Francisco.
- Friends of eBay is also looking to integrate a Developer and Entrepreneur-in-Residence to the program, which they believe will add to the overall web of community cooperation that Friends of eBay already fosters. They describe it as “optimizing for serendipity,” because when a lot of people work together towards one goal, great things can be achieved.
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The future of startups:
Both Neznanova and Burt believe that we are currently living in the startup gold rush, where startups are the key to success in the business world for many. Neither see this trend continuing.
Eventually, the bubble will burst and only the startups that are truly unique and well-run will survive.
Similarly, they both believe that some trends we see today will come to an end. For example, Neznanova and Burt see community workplaces as unhealthy environments that actually breed competitiveness and counter-productivity, rather than the community cooperation that they strive to achieve. They believe that a community-focused space like the one found at Friends of eBay is the solution to this problem that will arise for many small businesses and startups.
Advice for Friends of eBay hopefuls:
Applying for Friends of eBay is an interesting process. Not only do Neznanova and the rest of the folks over at Friends of eBay have to like your startup and what it aims to do, they also have to feel that you will add to the community by helping other entrepreneurs, and not just taking all of the advantages that Friends of eBay provides and making a run for it. Here are some points of advice that Neznanova has for anyone who hopes to apply their company to Friends of eBay:
- Friends of eBay is meant to be an accelerator that will help your business scale, so having more than just an idea is crucial. Make sure your company is ready to scale when you apply to Friends of eBay.
- Your business should also be malleable to the extent that other people in the office can help you grow your business. The more minds on a project, the better, so be flexible with your business and let it find its niche.
- Make sure that you can add to the overall Friends of eBay community. This one is perhaps the most important. Fostering the optimal environment for your business and the businesses around you is critical. Friends of eBay sees many startup applicants that all have fantastic potential, but only some have the team that they feel will make the other businesses and Friends of eBay itself stronger and more united.
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Friends of eBay is an accelerator like no other, and it can help your startup reach it’s full potential. Check out their website here.