An Interview with Tristan Pollock

Founder & Venture Partner at 500 Startups

tristan pollock

Tristan Pollock is an Entrepreneur in Residence and Venture Partner at 500 Startups, the world’s most active seed fund and startup accelerator. He appreciates jokes and short stories on Twitter.

In this Startup Savant interview he shares his motivation for becoming an entrepreneur, how he fights through hard times, and the must-have resource when starting a business. When you’re done absorbing Tristan’s insight, be sure to give him a shoutout on Twitter!


What motivated you to start Storefront? How did the idea come about?

I started Storefront to help the most creative people in a city have a voice in the urban dialogue. I worked at, previously looking at the intersection of online-offline and was doing art on the side.

I wanted to find a way to get artists and emerging brands into physical retail spaces on the best shopping streets. 1 in 10 were vacant, and that showed my co-founder Erik Eliason and I that there was a huge inefficiency we could solve.


What was your mission at the beginning of starting your business?

We wanted to fill every unused or underutilized space with creative experiences.


What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?

My life partner Danyelle Ludwig, my co-founder Erik Eliason, the creative community, hard work, and great timing.


When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.

Knowing that feelings and emotions are like cars passing on a highway while you are watching them, nothing lasts forever. Startup life is like a roller-coaster that defies gravity. There are so many intense ups and downs. In the end, you persevere because you deeply care about the problem you are solving and hopefully you surrounded yourself by incredible people that you love.

Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?

I look for someone that not only can get the job done and has proven it in the past, but also gets me excited when they are in the room. Positive energy combined with collaborative competition is my culture.


What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?

Marketplaces generally have limited limited competitive advantages over their competition. It’s about moving first, fast, and truly understanding your customer-product relationship.


Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?

Of course! If you haven’t had an unhappy customer you haven’t been through growing pains. I would always call the customer directly. Do whatever I could to change their mind, and remind them we are also a small business doing this because we really care about them.


Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Storefront? If so, how did you stumble upon it?

We found new ways to talk with our future customers directly via email, events, SMS, and other personal modes of communication. When you are working with businesses they are easy to find online.


Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?

Mentors. I HIGHLY recommend finding people that have done the things you are trying to do and getting their advice consistently. It’s important to have a tell-all outlet for your trials and tribulations.

What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business in California? What do they need to know from the very beginning?

Well, I started mine in Minnesota first. Then we moved to California once we were accepted into AngelPad. I’d say that the world is global. You can start a good business from anywhere. You just need to know where your communities are when you need specific things like customers, funding, etc.


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About Ryan James

Half hardworking hermit, half avid adventurer, Ryan founded Startup Savant to simplify entrepreneurship and pay it forward by donating a portion of all revenue to support children's education via