When intellectual capacity is evenly spread throughout the world, but opportunity is not, it becomes apparent that there is a big gap that must be filled. Add in the minefield of challenges when launching a global company with little support, and it’s no wonder the failure rate of startups is a whopping 90 percent. This is a problem Derek Distenfield is intimately familiar with. The reasons that many startups fail, such as insufficient capital, lack of strategy, resources, and poor marketing, are precisely the gap that he and his company, GSD Venture Studios, seek to fill.
Derek is a veteran entrepreneur, co-founder, and operational mastermind at GSD Venture Studios based in Silicon Valley. For over fifteen years, he has blazed high-impact careers in startups, corporate, and nonprofit organizations. He recently launched and subsequently sold Cult Following, a successful growth marketing and brand-building agency. Before this, he served as the Chief Operating Officer for 360 Payments, driving the people, processes, technology, marketing, and finance for a $2 billion payments company.
Derek brings a variety of resources together to deliver explosive growth for GSD’s portfolio companies. Additionally, he lectures on startup growth at leading universities, is a college lecturer at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and is a contributor for Forbes.com. Analytics Insight Magazine honored Derek as a 40 under 40 Innovator, and Yahoo.com named Derek one of 2020’s most influential people. He is a mentor and startup business advisor for numerous accelerators and recently launched GSD’s newest project GSDLabs. Derek is based in San Jose, California, but travels the globe to countries such as Russia and Nigeria to work with GSD’s international client base.
Alongside co-founder Gary Fowler at GSD Venture Studios, they travel the world investing in resilient teams with the ambition to take them global. They partner with these young companies to provide them with the resources, mentorship, and support they would otherwise not have access. GSD also helps companies develop legally and operationally comfortable systems for VC investment, especially from Silicon Valley. Recently, CEO Gary Fowler was named AI and Quantum King, and with that, we can undoubtedly say that Derek holds the title of Prince.
Describing GSD further, Derek says, “Unlike traditional investors, we take senior operational (often co-founder) roles in these companies, capitalizing on our trusted reputation, experiences and network to drive explosive growth.”
At the end of 2020, GSDLabs launched as a ten-week cross-border accelerator putting international startups on the map in Silicon Valley. In these uncertain times, a world without borders along with cutting-edge innovation is imperative, now more than ever, to solve the world’s most pressing issues. Going off Derek’s philosophy, this project was launched to bridge the gap between intellectual capacity and access to opportunity, providing a launchpad for international companies to explode.
GSDLabs has quickly gained traction, propelling startups from countries worldwide, such as Buenos Aires, Uzbekistan, Australia, United Kingdom, Poland, Africa, Singapore, Nigeria, Austria, and more. The ten-week accelerator leads up to a demo day with invite-only investors, including advisor matching with pre-screened experts, accelerator application help, sales hacks for the US market, press coverage, digital marketing, strategic partnerships, and expert storytelling to help navigate cultural and political dynamics.
The spring 2021 cohort, which is currently underway, has attracted diverse founders from India, Nigeria, Israel, Eastern Europe, and the United States, all working on future unicorns in AI, cryptocurrency, fintech, and healthcare. Although this cohort launched this week, the virtual program is taking rolling admissions. Interested candidates can apply here.
Featuring eleven promising startups such as GFresh Agrotech, a tech-enabled disruptive B2B supply chain company revolutionizing the vegetable supply chain in India and creating a significant impact by empowering small farmers. Brik Exchange builds self-custody solutions for digital money with blockchain, Brik checking accounts, and real estate-backed stablecoin. And QuickRead is a content monetization engine that allows readers to subscribe to literary works and pay by percent of volume consumed, per page/chapter read, or time spent reading.
In the past few months, Derek has also visited the continent of Africa, more specifically Lagos, Nigeria, also known as the fintech hub of Africa, and coined the next frontier of the internet by Forbes. Nigeria alone has over 200 Fintech companies and is growing. GSD has committed to building bridges in Nigeria, starting with their two portfolio companies SpottR and Prim-U. SpottR is an eCommerce platform that uses artificial intelligence to help people find items they need in less than two minutes, and Prim-U is an app that connects customers and beauticians in the South Africa market. It takes a village to catalyze a city, and Derek strives to be one piece of the Nigerian tech revolution puzzle needed to build lasting companies from Africa. With entrepreneurship running through his veins and a long history of wins and failures, it is no wonder Derek has played a vital role in helping budding startups rise to success all over the globe.