Ex-YC partner Daniel Gross is rethinking the accelerator pedal

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In the middle of a fast-paced business Cost, distance work has become an obsession for the founders of the Bay Area, who want to use both ways to access Silicon Valley's capital and opportunity networks without paying high premiums for talent.

Daniel Gross has a deeper understanding than most of the Silicon Valley options. Born in Jerusalem, was one of Y Combinator's first successes and joined an AI startup he sold to Apple when he was 23 (we reported the deal was between $ 40 and $ 60 million). Gross was Director of Machine Learning at Apple before returning to YC – this time as a partner.

At the age of 28, his role at YC behind him, Gross is now working with his startup Pioneer to revise the startup accelerator model for a distant future. He was supported by Marc Andreessen and Stripe to build a program that he hopes will give founders access to funding flows and talent networks that are hard to find outside of Silicon Valley.

"In the way software eats the world, Remote almost eats the earth in the sense that it may be the way large companies are started, but maybe also the way risk finance takes place." Gross TechCrunch said in an interview. "With Pioneer, the product experiment we're doing is an attempt to build a San Francisco or Mountain View – to build a city on the Internet."

Marc Andreessen, one of Pioneer's first investors.

This high goal has required a lot of handicrafts from Gross in the 18 months since the start-up. During this time, he is The structure of the program has been shifted from a Reddit-like online grant competition to a so-called "fully remote startup generator" that can help remote founders start up businesses that will later apply to Y Combinator or raise money collect from Pioneer.

"People really used Pioneer as an online accelerator, almost organic," says Gross. "We decided to operationalize this internally and focus more on funding people who work on things that are transforming into companies and may offer them more finance."

Pioneer has already supported more than 100 founders who have developed solutions such as the remote team product There, the desktop app generator ToDesktop and the software search engine Metacode.

Pioneer hopes that its efforts can offer opportunities to founders in underserved regions and regions, but like other Silicon Valley investors, the startup has not nearly supported as many women founders as its male counterparts. Of the funded entrepreneurs publicly announced on Pioneer's blog, less than 15 percent are women.

"Pioneer is a motor for finding, financing and looking after underrated people who I suspect are many female. Our thoughts are constantly on ways to raise awareness among women founders, and we work with our community to improve the representation of women, ā€¯Gross wrote in an email response. "The world could have many more founders like Mathilde Collin (from Front) and Laura Behrens Wu (from Shippo), and we're excited to find them."

One of Pioneer's live stream discussions during its remote program.

Pioneer's existence is partly a result of the advent of teleworking and communication tools. However, another important factor is the competitive market for early stage investments. Mega VC funds compete for pre-seed deals on the liveliest startups, and Y Combinator batch sizes skyrocket, leaving little space for accelerators with similar pitches. As the world of start-up investments becomes dense at an early stage, investors need to get creative. Pioneer also offers Gross and its investors the opportunity to explore the deal flow earlier in the pipeline.

Gross has a substantial portfolio of its own angel investments, including GitHub, Figma, Uber, Gusto, Notion, Opendoor, Cruise Automation and Coinbase.

An earlier structure gave Pioneer the right to invest up to $ 100,000 in startups that grew out of the program if they made an increase, but only 30% of the fellows started businesses, Gross says. In its 2.0 form, Pioneer wants participants to give up 1% of their company to participate in the one-month remote program. The Accelerator doesn't give them any money, but it does help founders get their startups involved, gives them guidance through a network of experts, and knocks over some other important benefits like $ 100,000 cloud credits and a round-trip ticket to San Francisco injecting a bit of it face to face time in the process.

The biggest development is the formalized investment structure for founders leaving the program. If Pioneer is excited about the progress of a particular startup, it can give them the opportunity to raise directly at Pioneer after graduation, put it in one of three investment areas, and invest between $ 20,000 and $ 1 million.

Gross admits that Pioneer will largely place bets closer to the $ 20,000 mark as the accelerator scales its portfolio. Pioneer relies on an undisclosed amount of early funding from Gross, Andreessen and Stripe for both its investments and operating costs. Gross says the company has additional sources of funding to make some of these larger investments possible, but it is reluctant to spend too early. "Since this is my second rodeo, I am aware of the disadvantages of overcapitalization and think we will remain nimble and economical," says Gross.

Gross does not want to replace Y Combinator and notes that Pioneer's investment may not be the most tempting for founders with numerous options. Y Combinator invests $ 150,000 in startups for a 7 percent stake. In comparison, a $ 20,000 investment from Pioneer cost founders 5% of their business plus the 1% they gave up to join the accelerator. Still, Gross hopes that many founders with great ideas will want to take advantage of this deal.

"I think there are a lot of great companies that aren't listed in the S&P 500, but get stuck in the phase where they're just a Python script."