Crypto Startup School (CSS) is our early-stage accelerator, designed to foster growth in crypto startups through a variety of resources — including funding, mentorship, guidance from domain experts, and a network of fellow founders. The CSS 2023 program recently ended, culminating in a Demo Day event where the founders presented their projects to an audience of prospective investors and partners.
We’re sharing a recap of the program and participants to provide a window into the past three months of in-person sessions in Santa Monica, CA. We’ve also begun publishing videos of each session so that any crypto founder can watch and benefit from the expert insights.
After announcing last fall that we were relaunching CSS, we were blown away by the level of interest we received from founders across the world: in just one month, we received more than 8,000 applications. After careful consideration and hundreds of interviews, we selected a small cohort of participants, so each project could build deep relationships with fellow founders and the a16z crypto team.
CSS 2023 participants
Here are the 25 companies that completed our CSS23 program:
- Bello turns complex blockchain data into no-code actionable insights for creators to drive growth, engage collectors, and succeed in the crypto economy.
- Blockus is a complete web 2.5 in-game economy platform for game studios, seamlessly integrated into games.
- Capsule is building developer infrastructure that makes it easier and safer to sign transactions on-chain.
- ChainPatrol is a real-time security platform, providing the fastest way to block phishing attacks in web3.
- Discove is a decentralized social client built on top of Farcaster, with an App Store of community-created feeds and plugins.
- Eth.id is Facebook for web3. With just an email, they provide a wallet, universal domain that works on web3 and web2, personal website, and the ability to mint NFTs.
- FINE is a web3 design platform that specializes in crafting unforgettable offline metaverse experiences.
- FORMLESS is a creative technology lab headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They have domain expertise in web3, AI, AR, embedded systems, and media production.
- Frens is web3 WeChat. Message and transact with friends, protocols, and smart contracts.
- Fuul is the affiliate marketing protocol that enables trustless partnerships between crypto projects and creators.
- Gandalf lets users create exclusive content for their web3 communities on web2 platforms like Typeform, Substack, and Notion.
- IYK empowers anyone to create verifiable, digi-physical consumer experiences.
- KIKI is a community-driven beauty platform for the co-creation and co-ownership of beauty products.
- Lockbox enables programmable workflows that transform on- and off-chain data into actionable insights.
- ‘Mbd is a better recommendation system for the world, built by ZKAI Labs.
- Mentaport is the geolocation platform for web3.
- Narval is the web3 wallet platform for organizations.
- Pimlico is building infrastructure to allow smart contract wallets to fully leverage the benefits of ERC-4337.
- Primev is a blockbuilder communication network for MEV actors to have better transaction execution.
- Shield helps web3 platforms adopt higher security standards to build trust and drive growth.
- Sky Lab builds primitives of autonomous worlds that encourage on-chain game developers to focus on building fun games and players to explore a world of games with a shared economic layer.
- Stackr provides micro-rollups to scale web3 applications, allowing developers to build app-specific rollups on Ethereum in web2 programming languages using Stackr SDK.
- Hourglass is a new web browser designed specifically for crypto experiences, built by Triangle Labs.
- Web3 Analytic is building user acquisition tools for DeFi.
- ZeroDev is an extensible and embeddable smart wallet.
It was a privilege to work closely with each of these stellar teams and witness their growth first-hand.
Over the course of the program, more than 40 speakers came to our office in Santa Monica dedicated to CSS office, sharing presentations, workshops, founder talks, office hours/ counsels, and more. Below is a list of the speakers and topics; we will continue updating this post with links to videos as they become available.
- Brian Armstrong, Founder & CEO, Coinbase (with Sriram Krishnan)
- Chris DeWolfe, CEO and Co-founder at PLAI Labs (with Carra Wu)
- Roham Gharegozlou, CEO, Dapper Labs (with Pyrs Carvolth)
- Mary-Catherine Lader, COO, Uniswap (with Sonal Chokshi)
- Dan Romero, Co-founder and CEO, Farcaster (with Eddy Lazzarin)
- Kevin Rose, Co-founder and CEO, PROOF (with Chris Dixon)
- Greg Solano, Co-founder, Yuga Labs (with Jason Rosenthal)
- Jing Wang, Co-founder and CEO, Optimism (with Eddy Lazzarin)
- Anatoly Yakovenko, Co-founder, Solana (with Guy Wuollet)
- David Marcus, Co-founder and CEO, Lightspark (with Sonal Chokshi)
The big picture
- Web3 and how we got here (Chris Dixon, a16z crypto)
- Cryptography for blockchains: Avoiding common mistakes (Dan Boneh, Stanford University and a16z crypto)
- ‘Computer in the Sky’ (Tim Roughgarden, a16z crypto)
Product & UX design
- Consumer products 101 (Sriram Krishnan, a16z crypto)
- Principles for web3 product design (Ben Scharfstein, Co-founder and CEO, Stelo)
- Finding product-market fit in web3 (Jason Rosenthal, a16z crypto)
Protocol & token design, zero-knowledge, more
- Protocol design: Why and how (Eddy Lazzarin, a16z crypto)
- Principles for growing a protocol (Dan Romero, Co-founder and CEO, Farcaster)
- Zero knowledge made simple (Justin Thaler, a16z crypto)
- Post-quantum blockchains (Valeria Nikolaenko, a16z crypto)
Business mechanics of web3
- Web3 pricing and business models (Maggie Hsu and Jason Rosenthal, a16z crypto)
- Web3 business strategy (Scott Kominers, Harvard Business School and a16z crypto)
- Auction mechanics (Scott Kominers, Harvard Business School and a16z crypto & Michael Zhu, a16z crypto)
- NFT royalties (Michael Blau, a16z crypto)
- Intro to intellectual property for web3 (Scott Kominers, Harvard Business School and a16z crypto)
Infrastructure & security
- 3 mental models for crypto infrastructure (Ali Yahya, a16z crypto)
- Security: Lessons learned, attack types, & how not to get hacked (Nass Eddequiouaq & Riyaz Faizullabhoy)
- Smart contract design patterns (Noah Citron, a16z crypto)
- Evaluating cross-chain messaging protocols (Bryan Pellegrino, Co-founder and CEO, LayerZero Labs)
Decentralization, legal, & governance
- Decentralization (Miles Jennings, a16z crypto)
- Launching compliant tokens (Miles Jennings, a16z crypto)
- Best practices for corporate structures (Miles Jennings, a16z crypto)
- Designing effective governance (Porter Smith, a16z crypto)
Operations & company building
- How to set up people operations for web3 founders (Jeanne Tsan, a16z crypto)
- Building culture (Daisy Linden, Coinbase and Kristen Kee, Uniswap)
- How to hire and scale in web3 (Craig Naylor & Mehdi Hasan, a16z crypto)
Regulatory & government affairs
- A conversation with U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (Moderated by Collin McCune, a16z crypto)
- Regulation 101 (Michele Korver, a16z crypto)
- How to engage with U.S. policymakers (Collin McCune, a16z crypto)
Marketing & community building
- Launching and marketing your project (Amanda Cassatt, Founder and CEO, Serotonin)
- How to build a social presence in web3 and beyond (Ish Verduzco, a16z crypto)
- Editorial content: Strategies & tactics (Sonal Chokshi, a16z crypto)
- How to build an engaged web3 community (Shannon Snow, COO, World of Women)
Go-to market (GTM) & fundraising
We would like to thank the mentors who made themselves available to provide guidance and encouragement to the CSS founders, including:
- Alex Pruden, CEO, Aleo
- Mo Shaikh, Co-founder and CEO, Aptos
- Avery Ching, Co-founder and CTO, Aptos
- Sam Williams, CEO, Arweave
- Dillon Rosenblatt, Co-founder and CEO, Autograph
- Brian Weinstein, President and COO, Bad Robot
- Deana Burke, Founder, Boys Club
- Natasha Hoskins, Founder, Boys Club
- Phil Quist, Music & Web3 Agent, CAA
- Dexter Tortoriello, Co-founder and CTO, FWB
- Eleni Steinman, Co-founder and CEO, Loop Crypto
- Anthony Borquez, CEO, Grab Games
- David Greenstein, Co-founder and CEO, Sound.xyz
- Julia Yan, Head of Growth, TikTok
- Matt Galligan, Co-founder and CEO, XMTP
We are also grateful to the a16z crypto portfolio companies that provided material support to the CSS23 cohort.
- Alchemy offered credits, VIP technical support, mentorship, co-marketing, and a variety of educational resources.
- The zkSync community earmarked $1 million to invest in CSS founders and teams committed to Ethereum and zkSync Era.
- Protocol Labs provided privileged engineering support, decentralized Filecoin storage credits, talent support, and access to their invite-only FOUNDERS community.
- Solana Foundation set up a fund for CSS projects (up to $1M) building on their platform, and is offering additional support in areas such as design, technical guidance, and office space.
What’s next for CSS? We’ll be sharing some details of our plans for the next program soon, so stay tuned 👀.
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