Frequently Asked Questions

Who are your members?

Our member composition is about two thirds entrepreneurs who aspire to start something (e.g. found companies, small businesses, funds, etc) and one third domain experts who aspire to gain depth in new fields (e.g. learn about a new space, write books, conduct research, etc). While most are technical, we do make exceptions.

How many members does South Park Commons have?

We have roughly 150 active members at any one time and over 450 alumni. Our active members are primarily split between hubs in San Francisco and New York City.

Is there a membership fee?

No, we do not charge membership fees or dues.

What are the expectations of South Park Commons’ members?

We have only one expectation of our members: that they show up. By “showing up,” we mean being fully present as a member of the community. More concretely, “showing up” often means: attending events in our community spaces, being active on Slack, cultivating relationships with other members, contributing back in your areas of expertise, and taking on leadership roles within the community.

Do I need to be located in the San Francisco Bay Area to be a member?

No. While SPC started in the Bay Area, we have an active New York City hub and remote members. There are community event and co-working spaces in San Francisco (South Park) and New York City (NoHo) that all members have access to. Many remote members also organize meetups in their cities or engage with others actively on our remote tools. Most members form deep intra-hub and inter-hub connections.

How long does membership last?

Members typically spend 3-9 months in the community. We recommend 3 months minimum in order to give you time to ramp up and meet others. After 12 months we ask members to either become alumni or re-apply.

What differentiates South Park Commons from an accelerator or a co-working space?

We are first and foremost a community of technologists, builders, and domain experts who have come together to explore new ideas.

Entrepreneurs join SPC before they have fully validated their ideas. Unlike accelerators, there is no expectation they launch a company and raise financing within a fixed amount of time. We encourage our members to take time to truly find work that matters to them.

Many of our members are domain experts who want to further their expertise, learn about new opportunities or even new domains. Many contribute to open source projects or write books or papers. When they graduate from SPC, they join research institutions, philanthropies, academic institutions, or other companies. Some also end up starting their own companies.

How does the SPC community help domain experts or those who are looking to become domain experts?

We strive to maintain a critical mass of members in domains such as AI, biotech, and security. Using AI as an example, we ran a two-year technical AI speaker series drawing in not only expert speakers across a variety of topics, but also carefully curated attendees who themselves were domain experts for in-depth discussions. Domain experts regularly organize paper reading groups and participate in multi-week learning forums on topics both new and familiar, while also collaborating with entrepreneurs in the community to learn new skills and explore potential applications for their domain expertise. It’s common for members to teach each other or help each other with their projects.

Who should apply to SPC?

Anyone who is in the midst of a professional and/or personal life transition and looking for a community of like-minded intentional explorers is welcome to apply. We generally expect members to be full-time at SPC.

Can I be a member while I have a full-time job?

We would not recommend it. We look for members who are excited about participating in the community and have found that those who commit full-time get more out of their SPC experience. We recognize that there are many edge cases with employment (visas, vesting, etc) and occasionally make exceptions for applicants who may set out on their own endeavor soon.

Can I also be a member of other communities?

We would prefer not. The underlying spirit of joining SPC is a level of commitment in your time, presence, and energy. However, we do consider this on a case by case basis according to the spirit above.

Can I apply if I already have a company?

Yes, though we consider your company's progress in our evaluation. SPC is primarily a place for technologists in transition to figure out what’s next. That said, many people working on a company still fit that description. We also offer paths like our Founder Fellowship that serve technologists who want funding on their way into SPC.

Can I apply if I don’t want to start a company?

Yes! Typically one third of our members are domain experts or people who don’t plan on starting a company.

Can I apply if I’m in school?

Yes, we consider applicants who want to leave academia to become full-time SPC members. In the past we have had academics from PhDs to professors join the community.

What is the application process?

First, apply on our website. We go through every application and you’ll generally hear from us within 2-4 weeks. Our membership committee is mainly comprised of volunteers, so we appreciate your patience.

If we're moving forward, we'll invite you for a 30-45 minute video or in-person interview to learn more about you. This is casual and is designed for us to get to know one another. We may do up to 3 of these interviews.

Ahead of our next onboarding, we'll get back to you with our decision.

What is the membership agreement?

We ask everyone to sign a membership agreement that outlines our expectations and reflects the ability of the SPC Fund to invest if you do choose to start a company. More information is available in the Fund Investment Terms section below. If you have questions about the agreement or terms, we’re happy to discuss them during the application process.

Are there specific application deadlines?

Our new member orientations happen quarterly, with an application deadline roughly a month before orientation. However, we accept new members on a rolling basis and will start processing your application whenever you apply.

What makes a strong application?

We look for people that have previously contributed to the tech ecosystem in a unique way—whether that’s through a company, open source project, research, or something else—and are actively exploring what’s next. We want to hear about what makes you unique, what you are passionate about exploring next, why you think our community is the right fit, and how you can add to it. Moreover we look for people we can learn from and are willing to contribute back to the community. We pay particular attention to what we call the velocity and acceleration of potential members.

We also look for members who will spend at least 3 months at SPC and can commit in a full-time capacity.

What if I’m planning to fundraise soon?

You are still welcome to apply to SPC, but we will want to understand your fundraising plans during the interview process. Many applicants at this stage consider our Founder Fellowship program, which offers a $400k investment upon joining SPC, plus an additional $600k guaranteed in your next outside-led venture round. You are also welcome to pitch the Fund directly if you are raising a Seed round.

Should my cofounder also apply?

Yes. If you have a co-founder when you are applying to SPC, please ask them to apply as well. Please note in your respective applications that you are co-founders.

Do you sponsor visas?

Unfortunately, we cannot sponsor visas.

Why is there a fund?

After two years of private sponsorship, we looked for the best way to make SPC financially self-sustaining. We decided that raising a seed fund to invest in startups had the greatest chance of success while also leveraging our strengths as a community. We believe that the fund model, as opposed to a paid membership or consulting model, creates the strongest incentives for a transformative, non-transactional, and long-lasting community.

Our seed fund invests in companies started at SPC as well as companies referred to us from outside SPC. The management fees generated by the fund cover the operational expenses of the community. Ultimately, we want to build a sustainable community that can last a decade and beyond. As part of that, a portion of the fund’s eventual profits will exist in a permanent endowment for the community.

Do you only invest in SPC members’ companies?

We invest in pre-seed and seed stage companies across all sectors, including many companies from outside of the South Park Commons community, though the majority of our investments come either from the community or the SPC network.

What is the fund’s relationship with the community?

The fund exists to make the community financially self-sustaining, and our community supports the fund. Some examples of the way they interact are:

1/ Members support the fund by referring companies and offering the SPC fund the ability to invest in their first round of financing;
2/ The fund supports the community by providing an operating budget for the community using its management fees;
3/ A portion of the fund’s eventual profits will exist in a permanent endowment for the community;
4/ SPC members have the opportunity to be investors in the fund, with no minimum commitment size. Members benefit from fund economics by referring companies and supporting fellow SPC members.

Am I guaranteed funding as a member?

Joining the SPC community does not guarantee funding.

If I form a company, what investment rights does SPC have?

By becoming a member of SPC, you grant the SPC Fund the option to invest up to $1M in the next fundraise of your existing company or a company you start while you’re a member or for six months after graduating. Our $1M is invested at the terms set by the lead investor.

What’s in the small print?

The above terms apply while you are an active member of SPC and for the 6 months following graduation. They kick in when you raise $200K or more or sell at least 3% of your company. The membership agreement captures pro rata rights for the next two rounds of financing, along with information rights.

How did these terms come about?

Our members collaborated on creating these terms in 2018 and we regularly review them with feedback from the community. Our collective goal was to make the community financially stable while giving SPC members access to capital at the best possible terms.

What is the SPC Founder Fellowship?

SPC’s Founder Fellowship is a different way for entrepreneurs to start a high growth, venture-scale startup. We give founders their first outside investment, help them ideate and iterate to a viable product, and assist them in raising from the best VCs in the world.

We take a boutique and customized approach to helping founders, recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach to starting companies rarely works. Our cohort sizes are small, with one partner for every two companies. We do not have a demo day, and when the time is right for you to raise, we’ll make introductions to the best investors. We do not force strict timelines.

We offer $400,000 to founders to pursue an idea in exchange for 7% equity via a SAFE, plus $600,000 guaranteed in your next outside-led venture round. We can help identify the right market, support you as you build your first product, find first customers, help raise a seed round, and even help find co-founders.

We accept two cohorts per year. The best way to stay up-to-date on news about when the next application opens is to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.

What is the SPC-Agency Fund Social Impact Fellowship?

In partnership with the Agency Fund, SPC funds and hosts technologists, researchers, and academics seeking to leverage technology to help low-income people exert more agency in their lives.

Fellows receive a $70k stipend, membership in the SPC community, an 8-week intensive curriculum, and direct mentorship. We help social innovators in the early stages of their work, when they are still figuring out how to turn empirical research into action.

What is the SPC community grant?

The SPC community grant offers $25K in funding for members pursuing technical research, open source software, or other project types that don't have other funding programs at SPC. The grant is awarded via an uncapped MFN SAFE. There is no requirement that the grant project be for-profit or become for-profit, though grant recipients may turn the project into a for-profit endeavor if they wish.

How do fellows interact with the community?

Fellows in both the Founder Fellowship and Social Impact Fellowship are full members of the community. Many take on leadership roles within the community, most participate in the full range of programming available to members, and all benefit from collaborating with the other builders and technologists exploring at SPC.