After over a decade working with founders in programmes such as Cyber London and The Accelerator Network, Katie Mills and Tazz Gault were looking for a new way to help early-stage companies. As longtime veterans of London's startup scene, the two women noticed a clear gap in the market around blockchain technology. In late 2018, the two came together to build StateZero Labs, the "world's first solution-led" Blockchain Lab for startups. The programme aims to arm entrepreneurs with the resources they need to build companies capable of making a global impact, supporting all aspects of the founder journey. Based in London, the three-month programme offers founders up to £50,000 in funding, workshops, office space and mentorship. Importantly, founder wellness is a key cornerstone of StateZero's offering, and the accelerator provides a full programme of meditation, yoga and nutrition advice for founders taking part.
StateZero's First Batch
Last week, the accelerator programme held their first demo day. The programme's first round attracted over 100 applications, and just seven companies were accepted into their inaugural cohort. After thirteen weeks of programming, thirty-two workshops and advising from 90 mentors, the seven startups that pitched are as follows:
- Super Global: enables impact organisations to develop, fund and build breakthrough technology solutions to the world’s most pressing social and environmental challenges.
- Deputi: simplifies business operations through increased efficiency and reduced cost.
- Ehab: a data and process management tool for the construction sector that enables efficient project operation, from inception to completion.
- MyResonance: uses game design and behavioural science to identify positive actions within organizations to build company culture with purpose.
- TokenBlocks: revolutionizes fund management with a bespoke transfer agency network, reducing costs and managing data on a single enterprise-friendly distributed ledger.
- Remixology: develops the world's first parity marketplace for creators, artists and stakeholders in the remixed music industry
- eTEU: solution offering optimized documentation processing for the container shipping industry.
To learn a bit more about StateZero Labs, I asked the program's co-founders Katie Mills and Tazz Gault a few questions.
How did the StateZero Labs story get started? How did you meet, and decide to put this programme together?
Katie: Having worked with hundreds of startups over the years, it’s actually true when they say it becomes obvious who you should go into business with. Our backgrounds are very different, but we felt complimentary, with mine focused primarily on running accelerators, government innovation programmes and cyber security, and Tazz’s experience on founding businesses, growth, accelerators and scale.
Tazz: Both Katie and I have spent close to ten years each working with early stage businesses. We met whilst running another accelerator, and quickly realised we shared a vision in wanting to put humanity back at the centre of technology. Much of what we’d seen didn’t allow that to be the case, which meant a potential gap in the market for us to fill. The story and vision quickly evolved from there.
Why blockchain, and what makes StateZero's programme unique?
Katie: To truly highlight the potential of blockchain for business, we spotted a gap in the market to help establish the difference between the underlying technology, and the most famous use case – cryptocurrency. This was needed to help establish blockchain’s true capabilities. As with many other buzzword technologies, widespread adoption comes from accelerating the growth of startups, and so StateZero Labs has been designed to scale startups utilising the technology for all the right reasons. They’re problem-focused, solution-led – because technology should be an enabler, not a driver.
Tazz: We’ve built a Founder First model – that means not taking equity up front, and supporting exceptional founders, from both a business and personal perspective, to reach their full potential. We want to put humans at the centre of blockchain’s mission to change the world, and fundamentally believe that no matter how deep, complicated, or difficult tech gets to understand, people will always matter – even when you’re looking to get rid of the ‘middleman’. Business is a series of relationships at the end of the day, and for tech to be successful, we need to remember this.
What are some of the different challenges founders of blockchain companies face at the early stage, as compared to companies utilising alternative technologies?
Katie: The main challenge is often the lack of understanding around the capabilities of the technology, and where it might fit into a business. That means startups have to show potential clients exactly why they need their product, but also what on earth the technology is.
Tazz: We’ve often found many believe for a business using blockchain within its solution, it’ll require a totally different business model. But actually, looking at our first cohort of seven incredible companies, and even further afield at the near-100 applications, the majority are using a simple SaaS model. That’s because they’re leading with the problem they’re trying to solve, as opposed to the technology itself.
StateZero's offer is up to £50k equity free. How is the programme supported?
Tazz: We have partnered with businesses which view blockchain technology in the same way as us – that’s solution-led ideas building products for business. As a Founder First model, and an accelerator looking to level the playing field for startups, we choose to give some of that sponsorship money to each startup equity free. That enables us to develop a very different relationship with them, and for them to really accelerate their growth to reach product market fit, without having to give a chunk of the business away. We then look to invest in them later down the line in a traditional sense.