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February 5, 2019

Starting an accelerator from scratch & the next chapter


The backstory

This piece is a guest post that was originally featured on Jiwon Moon’s blog. 

My official title is Community Designer at 

Interviewing clog maker Isobel at Bryr Studdio in the Dogpatch.

I joined Wefunder almost 4 years ago because I loved telling stories of underrepresented founders. Before I joined, I had a side project Then one day, I read an article that slapped me in the face. It said that only Since I’d always cared about having diverse founders, especially female founders, on Wefunder, this was a blow. I was upset for a whole week. But I rea lized all of this anger was either going to fuel me to becoming an angry person or a person who does something about it. I chose the latter.

Not another batch but a family

what are you going to do about it?

First, I talked to our CEO, Nick. As always, he patiently listened to me rant and asked me one question:

What are you going to do about it?

At this time, Nick was brainstorming a project around If I was going to change the 2% and support more female founders to succeed, I knew I had to build a female founder fund. I didn’t know what that exactly meant but I was going to find money and invest in female founders.

talk to people, a lot of people

To be honest, I didn’t really know much about funds. I knew there were big VC funds out there that had billions of dollars to deploy into startups. Then I learned there were smaller funds too. And to my surprise, many of them were starting to care about investing in diverse founders.

I set up as many phone calls and coffee meetings as I could. I talked to anyone who would talk to me. I wanted to learn what founders were going through. I wanted to know why investors weren’t investing in female founders.

After talking to a couple dozen founders and investors, I learned three things:

  1. An investment isn’t just money. All founders need some capital to start. But an investment isn’t just money. It’s the first check from someone who believes in you and takes a chance on you. It means utter conviction that you can take on the world.
  2. Founders need good advice from more experienced founders. One founder told us that the best advice she gets is from a founder friend who’s just a few years ahead of her. She even texts her founder friend to ask how she should respond to an investor’s email.
  3. Founders get stuck fundraising and can’t actually focus on building their product. Then they end up giving up.

make it better

After talking to about a hundred founders and investors, I still felt just a fund wasn’t good enough. We needed to provide more than just capital to founders we were going to invest in.

Founders don’t just want money. They want advice from founders who’ve lived the struggle for many many years. They want friends who are also crazy and believe they can build the next billion dollar company. They want a community, a really strong one.

And thinking back to my school days when I had the strongest network of friends, I realized that the most successful communities came in batches. Look at freshmen dorm floor friends, sororities, triathlon clubs, 6th-grade orchestra, your study abroad friends from fall semester.

People bond when they belong in one group together for the same purpose and fight for it.

I figured out what it will be. I was going to build a cohort of formidable founders and they were going to hustle side by side and live the struggle together. And like students in college dorms, they’d live together in a house in SF and eat home-cooked dinner with experienced founders every week.

So off we went to build an accelerator in 2 months

Biggest learning of all: Everything starts off small.

getting awesome people onboard and making the website

One of our early days building XX. We started with nothing.

First person I had to convince was Jacqueline. Jacqueline became a close friend about a year ago when she was interviewing at Wefunder. She ended up choosing a legal career at the time because she wanted to become an immigration lawyer. We kept in touch and when it was time to build my team, I reached out to her immediately because we spent long nights doing menial work (sending out 100’s of emails after work to investors) and it was somehow always fun. I knew that however grueling the work, Jacq a nd I would get shit done.

I remember I pitched her for 2 hours one evening. We’ll help more female founders and immigrant founders get funding. We’ll change how things are done. Together.

Later that week, she quit her lawyering job to work with me. We couldn’t have built the XX if we didn’t work as a duo.


First, we started out by first making a website. I designed Jacqueline got our first yes from After the first yes from Tracy, it was easier to get other speakers lined up. We had 16 amazing founders and investors coming to dinner every week.

telling the world about it & recruiting:

We gave ourselves a tight deadline. Build and launch the accelerator in two months. We had no time to waste.

Now it was time to get people excited about the XX. We used five ways to get awesome female founders to read about us and apply:

  1. Facebook groups that host female founders and makers, like Direct emails to female-founder organizations all around the country. This didn’t work so well.
  2. Publications like Tech Crunch. No one wanted to write about us, unfortunately. Next time!
  3. Visiting Atlanta and meeting founders in person. In-person meetings are always the most effective. We met one of the XX founders, Bryanda, from our 3 day visit in Atlanta.
This is how I looked after reviewing 197 applications.

reviewing applications:

We promoted the XX for less than two weeks and got 197 applications. It was clear that founders wanted us to exist. Jacqueline, Nick and I reviewed all 197 applications during nights and weekends.

Out of 197 applicants, we asked 50 of them to send a one-minute pitch video. From the pitch videos, we chose 21 to the final round.

interviewing founders:

In 3 days, we scheduled 21 founders for 30-minute interviews with me, Nick and a founder friend who volunteered his/her time. Jacqueline coordinated interviews for 21 people (in different time zones) in a few days. (Imagine that!)

We grilled the applicants. We asked tough questions back to back to back. No pauses in between. I’d never interviewed founders like this before so it was a learning experience for me. I mostly asked why they wanted to join and tried to get a sense of who they were. If we had more money, we would’ve flown them out to meet in person. Hopefully, we can do this for our future cohorts.

selecting founders:

This was probably the most emotionally difficult part. There were 21 incredible founders and we only had six open spots. Many of them were too early or in fields we didn’t understand well enough. But ultimately, we bet on the people and the formidability of their team.

After many hours of thinking long and hard, we chose six teams:

  • Dipa, Justin and Max’s Atlas Mental HealthImproving mental health for students
  • Courtney, Jack and Zach’s Pad PiperPlatform to allow people to find short-term housing in different cities
  • Erad, Ena and AJ’s Pyggy BankMobile app for kids to save money and learn financial literacy
  • Bryanda’s QuirktasticTinder for weird, nerdy minorities
  • Lucy and Shirley’s Cactus: Slack for friends
  • Kate’s EnsemblK itchenware for small living spaces

We sent personalized feedback to 15 teams we said no to. This was hard but we hoped we could partner with them in the future. And we are.

Jacqueline invited ten of them to SF to be part of mini-XX, where ten founders will live in SF for one week and build companies next to each other. Each day will have a theme and every founder will have a mentor to keep in touch with at the end of the program. They’ll have a fireside chat dinner every night with an eminent founder and we’ll introduce them to all our founder friends.

finding someone to run this thing:

I hadn’t run a startup before (XX is my first) so I had to find someone who could run this much better than I could.

First person I thought of was Cindy.

Cindy is one of Nick’s best friends from But sadly, she declined my offer to live in the Wefunder house and help the XX founders.

I was sad but I persisted and said I’ll check back in with her. We got lucky because Cindy wrote back a month later that she was interested. This made our day and the rest is history.

This is the yes email!

Cindy is the best person to help the XX founders because she understands founders’ struggles and she cares. She cares deeply about the wellbeing and success of founders. And every day I’m grateful to be around her energy and wisdom.

Cindy and her co-founder Denny packed their bags, drove their Camry down south from Seattle and moved in at the Wefunder house.

Cindy and Denny cook for us every weekend.

Side note: Last night, Cindy told me that she only came down to help me with the XX because she dreamt that we ate cherry tomatoes at McDonald’s together.

prepping the XX house:

It was uncertain where we were going to house them. We had less than a week to find a “swanky house in the middle of SF” that we’d promised. So we got to work and scraped all Airbnb, Pad Piper and Craigslist listings.

We locked down the XX house 3 days before the program started.

Luckily, we found a gorgeous 2 bedroom house 8 blocks away from our house. It was gonna be tight but the owner Jonathan loved what we were doing and he was happy to host our founders.

The XX gang after we chose 6 companies

Then the XX started

Four of the six teams moved into the cozy house (two teams were already living in SF). 3 teams flew in from Canada, one flew in from Atlanta and two others drove in from Berkeley and Stanford.

First day, we made breakfast and awkwardly got to know one another. They had to get chummy chummy real quick and figure out how to share one bathroom together.

For our first fireside chat, we invited Siri from Draper Associates. XX founders cooked our first dinner together and fed us bibimbap, bulgogi, amazing desserts and wine. We stayed up talking till midnight about fundraising, history and policy.

Our first XX dinner where we ate and talked till midnight.

And somehow, 9 weeks have already gone by. Here are some of our favorite moments from those nine weeks:

Getting a tour of Tesla and meeting their cool engineers and execs.
Lolita (Backstage Capital) flew up from San Diego to talk to us at the XX house.
Video AMAs with Shawn and Kevin, founders of Caviar.
Eating breakfast with Nate, cofounder of Airbnb.
Sitting around the fire before rainy season started in SF.
Danielle (1517 fund), Laks (Zenefits) and Chris (Seneca Systems, YC)

We were lucky and got some incredible guests to come share breakfast and dinner with us. Founders candidly shared their biggest oh shit moments, fondest memories, things they struggle(d) with, why they do what they do day in and out and advice.

Here’s a list of our generous fireside chat speakers that made the XX possible:


My thank you’s

Thank you to Jacqueline, my XX soulmate and partner. Jacqueline is usually in the sidelines cooking food (for 30+ people on average), arranging the dinners, writing to hundreds of reporters and taking meetings in faraway places so we could help more diverse founders. She quit her job for our mission and made the XX possible. We worked long nights and weekends, sick and healthy, to make it a reality for six female founded teams to live in SF and thrive. I couldn’t have done this without you, Jacq. Through our ups and down, I still believe we’re a dream team.

Thank you to Nick for always believing in us and pushing us to think bigger.

Thank you to Cindy for driving down from Seattle and mentoring XX founders and being their favorite person. They love you. So do I.

Thank you to Greg for mentoring founders even when you had a million things to do.

Thank you to Jenna for starting a podcast for the XX. I’m dying to listen to the episodes when they’re out.

Thank you to Ena, Jack, Erad, Courtney, Dipa, Justin, Max, Bryanda, Kate, Lucy, Shirley, Zach and AJ for being in our first cohort. We learned from your hard work and hustle.

Thank you to Wefunder team for hosting founders, cleaning up before/after dinners, cooking and inviting your friends.

Thank you Ana KilaniNicholas TommarelloCindy WuRee Ree Li and Omar Shammas for reading my drafts.


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About: Jiwon moon moon

A community designer at Wefunder and also founding partner of XX, focused on helping the next great generation of female founders to get funded.

View Jiwon moon moon's articles

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