This is an inside look at the memo we used to raise our $100 million accelerator fund – also known as ODX. We believe it captures the essence of our mission: expanding the global startup economy. *
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On Deck’s mission is to expand the global startup economy. We help people start and scale companies, get impactful jobs, and invest in their careers.
Since late 2019, On Deck fellows and alumni have founded 650+ companies—many after meeting co-founders, early customers and backers within our programs—and gone on to raise $800 million+ from the world's top investors.
We are now raising a $100M+ fund to put capital at the center of this thriving founder ecosystem, and kickstart ODX — a community backed accelerator that will help put thousands of new founders in business over coming years.
Three key ideas we hope you take away from this memo:
Technology is one of the most important drivers of global economic growth—helping drive job creation and quality of life, and creating meaningful progress towards solving some of society's biggest problems—climate change, human longevity, developing vaccines, education, and communication infrastructure during the pandemic, and so much more.
We like to say that:
- humanity primarily progresses through technology; and
- great technology companies all start out as startups...
But for everyone starting a company today, there are hundreds more sitting on the sidelines. What's more: for every company already scaling, there are hundreds of employees who could be investing in their careers, getting leverage, getting ahead.
This sums up what we describe as a phenomenal waste of human potential.
And that inefficiency— is On Deck's opportunity.
Post-COVID, something that has been fundamentally true throughout economic history—the idea that where you work is where you live—is no longer the norm. A recent Andreessen Horowitz survey showed that up to 90% of startups will continue to hire remote employees and maintain distributed teams. Frankly, if you’re scaling a breakout company, distributed is just a better way to build.
Silicon Valley is famous for its high concentration of top technical talent and venture capital firms, but there’s also something else: the mindset. It’s not just the radical thinking and risk-taking that makes SV special. It’s the support for that kind of philosophy and behavior, the relentless ambition and curiosity, and the positive-sum mentality — all creating a culture of empowerment. Silicon Valley is where weird ideas are encouraged, where people are celebrated for taking big swings even when they fail, and where people pay it forward and share learnings with the next generation.
That mindset has now gone global.
Today you can learn skills, showcase your expertise, build a reputation, and forge key relationships from anywhere in the world—and the tools accelerating these trends will only continue to improve.
But if it's so easy, why is a lot of great talent still sitting on the sidelines? Why aren't more people building online? In a world where capital is abundant, the scarcity has shifted to talent and attention. Community is the new scarcity.
In January 2021, the On Deck Series A Investor Memorandum laid out our vision for On Deck as a “modern education institution for the internet”— a digital "campus" where top technology talent and ambitious builders go to start or join a company, develop new skills, build relationships, and accelerate their careers among a cohort of their peers.
It made for a convenient metaphor — but we weren’t talking about just any old institution... we were building "Stanford for the internet."
In the history of Silicon Valley, Stanford University's most significant contribution was to make legible the ambition and talent of those who found their way to its campus. Competitive entry, proximity to inspiring role models, and a strong entrepreneurial cultural undercurrent reduced the cost of coordination such that talented people could find one another, ideas to work on, and capital to pursue their ambitions faster, and with more success than outside its walls.
With tens of thousands of applications per year across 20+ programs, On Deck has become a beacon for ambitious people on the internet, around the world... and we are just getting started.
We believe the following three statements are simultaneously true, but shouldn’t be:
One way to try to frame this contradiction is as a "market failure."
In this market, there are three players:
When this market clears—that is, when a Customer/Idea, a Builder, and some Capital get matched up—the output is a potential solution to a customer’s problem, in the form of a venture-scale company.
And therein-lies On Deck's highest level goal:
On Deck's goal is to accelerate the market for solutions — the rate at which customers, builders, and capital get matched up; increasing overall economic growth, and reducing wasted human potential.
Unlocking individual potential is the key to unlocking the world's potential.
There is no better time to put more people in business. Here's how ODX works.
Since 2016, On Deck has been building the best network for “on deck” talent to discover what, and with whom they want to build next.
In June 2019 we started inviting curated groups of high potential founders to join small, in-person "cohorts" in San Francisco and New York. Over the two years since, 2,300+ ODF fellows have started 650+ companies, and raised $800M+ from the world top investors including a16z (x6), Coatue (x3), First Round (x3), Founders Fund (x5), Kleiner Perkins (x3), General Catalyst (x5), and more.
On Deck helped us hire our first employee, raise $900k in pre-seed, and accelerate our GTM motion within the network. Our Series B wouldn’t have happened without On Deck.
On Deck helped me recruit our team, find our first beta customers, and build a community of support to get through the challenges of the founder to CEO transition.
ODX is delivered in partnership with
Now, ODX builds on this momentum, filling the critical gap between "conviction to build" and seed round, and aligns the entire community's interests behind On Deck's success and the companies we help get started.
The On Deck "startups" journey exists on three "layers" — each a separate program, with deeply interconnected teams and resources:
Thousands apply to join On Deck founder and sector-focused programs every month: Health Tech, Climate, Fintech, Education Tech, Longevity, and more — with another four new programs slated to launch before the end of 2021.
Each program is an independent, highly curated cohort-based community focused on bringing together 100-120 leading operators, founders and builders, leading industry experts, academics and scientists.
The goal of each cohort is to assemble a "brain-trust", ultimately capable of identifying problems and possible solutions in their respective industries and spaces, supplying the collective network, and supporting the founders.
Historically, participants have paid a small participation fee—up to $2.5k to join a cohort of the On Deck Founder Fellowship (ODF).
Going forward, qualifying participants will instead have the exclusive right to:
This "skin in the game" is a powerful alignment mechanism and engagement tool, and is one of the secrets of how we build thoughtful, respectful, engaged communities at On Deck. As a result, every community member puts capital at risk—and every community member shares in the success of the companies they help create.
"Show me the incentives and I will show you the outcome" - Charlie Munger
All participants planning to start a company as a result of their participation in the community will receive this right to invest and participate in the upside of the community—and be required to offer participation right for the ODX Fund as a result.
Participation in the ODX program will come with a standard offer of $125,000 for 7% ownership.
Behind the scenes, this capital actually comes from a variety of different vehicles, depending on company sector, geography, and more.
From the founder's point of view, all of these funds and investors roll up into one, easy $125k check — so they don't have to deal with any complexity while benefiting from the support of hundreds, soon to be thousands of backers from day one.
100% of fund economics — including carried interest and management fees across the family of On Deck funds is paid back to the On Deck "top-co" as revenue — helping drive growth and continued investment in our mission.
Invest with a yearly or quarterly commitment.
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* Memo has been lightly edited and redacted for public distribution.
Disclosures — please read before investing.
The performance of past deals is not a guarantee of future returns. Investing in venture capital funds is inherently risky and illiquid. It involves a high degree of risk and is suitable only for sophisticated and qualified investors.
On Deck and its affiliates does not provide investment advice to investors. The information on this page should not be relied upon as research, investment advice or a recommendation of any kind. Information on this page is qualified in its entirety by the fund’s Limited Partnership Agreement, Private Placement Memorandum and Subscription Agreement, which should be reviewed carefully prior to making an investment decision. Please see these documents for full details regarding risks, minimum investment, fees and expenses.
The fund lead and the fund’s investment advisor have the right to waive or charge additional carry to certain investors. The fund’s legal name may be different than the name used above.This fund may accept new investors after the fund undergoes a valuation update. Certain potential investors in the fund may then have access to materially different information concerning fund value at the time of their investment.
Current or future portfolio companies in this fund may use On Deck’s hiring platform or subscribe to its carers platform, and may pay for access to these tools and services. This may create a potential conflict of interest, which you will consent to by subscribing in the fund.
On Deck's community funds are managed on AngelList. Please read in full the AngelList disclosures listed here.