for more than a yearAndreessen Horowitz has quietly tested its own version of an accelerator for early-stage entrepreneurs, and today, the firm announced the official debut of the program.
In exchange for an unannounced percentage of ownership, “a16z START” will offer early-stage founders up to $1 million in venture capital. The checks are backed by a $400 million seed fund, which closed in August 2021.
The remote first program will accept founders on an ongoing basis and wants to connect people with partners for advice, leads or investors, and of course other entrepreneurs.
On the relatively short application form for START, a16z names six categories: American pizzazz, consumer, business, fintech, gaming, or other. Investment terms will be discussed with the final candidates, the form says.
This program extends Andreessen Horowitz’s seal of approval to the first step of an entrepreneur’s journey: the idea stage, or the pre-quitting your day job part of startup life. The company has invested in independent founders before their companies existed, but this program appears to be a more formal effort to get people into entrepreneurship. In particular, there is no mention of a diversity mandate or approach.
The list of early entrants to this program shows that a16z is certainly interested in international entrepreneurs, similar to how Y Combinator has grown its global presence in recent years. Some of the early START entrepreneurs include executives from Rappi, a Colombian unicorn.
TechCrunch has reached out to Bryan Kim and Anne Lee Skates, the two partners running the show, for comment but has yet to hear back. Until then, let’s go over my biggest question for the duo: Why does a16z need its own Y Combinator?
I know it’s not entirely fair to compare the two institutions beyond their focus on empowering early-stage founders with capital, networking, and advice in exchange for capital. In fact, over the years, a16z has often led some of the liveliest rounds to come out of Y Combinator, including Tandem, Queenly, and Contra, essentially getting the flow of business from the accelerator.