Our proven methodology has helped thousands of entrepreneurs build businesses that matter.
We Establish a Critical Support Network
You don't have to do it alone.
To help our founders get the support and feedback they need, the Founder Institute creates an Equity Collective where all participants in a program cohort (including Alumni) receive financial upside in the companies formed. This Equity Collective aligns the incentives of all program participants and Mentors and establishes a critical support network for startups to leverage while building their businesses.
How Does the Equity Collective Work?
Each Founder Institute Alum contributes 2.5% of their company equity in Warrants to a fifteen-year Equity Collective, and when a liquidity event occurs the Pool’s financial returns are then distributed to your Local Leaders (1%), Mentors (.5%), and FI HQ (1%).
The Founder Institute’s unique Equity Collective creates a level of teamwork not seen in other startup programs, and helps entrepreneurs build a business alongside top startup mentors and a support network that is invested in their success.
"After graduation, I now have relationships with top entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angels, and bankers and lawyers from the top firms in Montreal, and further, even Silicon Valley." - Graham Mann, Co-Founder of Lean Systems, Montreal FI Alum
Learn more about the Equity Collective here.
Who are the Mentors?
The Founder Institute has over 20,000 mentors across six continents, including some of the world’s most renowned entrepreneurs and investors.
Participants in the Founder Institute build their business alongside 20-40 startup Mentors that have built, led, or invested in high-growth technology businesses, and the average Mentor: Founder ratio in each program is over 2:1. Our Mentors join the weekly sessions, share their experiences, host office hours, and provide critical feedback, evaluation, and guidance throughout the business-building process.
Unlike most programs, Founder Institute Mentors are compensated through the Equity Collective, so they are typically much more supportive than Mentors in other programs. In fact, our Mentors either become formal advisors or investors in Alumni in every cohort.
"The Mentors are aahhh-MAZ-ing. Seasoned CEOs and Investors that have been there, done that, and exited (in many cases, multiple times over). They’re available, helpful, generous, and willing to work with you." - Al Bsharah, Co-Founder of Email Copilot (acquired 2016), San Diego FI Alum
See a list of Mentors for the program here.
We Provide a Proven, Structured Process
When the market is in flux, established companies move slowly to regroup and plot out their future. This creates an incredible opportunity for entrepreneurs, but only if they are decisive and move quickly. Following a focused process to test, collect feedback, and iterate swiftly is critical.
The Founder Institute has developed a structured, 4 month Core Program that has been proven to help pre-seed entrepreneurs get to traction, funding, or whatever the next steps are for their business. It was created using Silicon Valley best practices and input from hundreds of successful technology entrepreneurs from across the globe and has been improved every year since 2009 based on the real-world performance of our Alumni worldwide.
Each week in the program, participating Founders join a 3+ hour "Feedback Session" to pitch the Mentors and receive training, evaluation, and feedback. After each session, our Founders then build their businesses for the rest of the week through a series of practical and challenging Business-Building Sprints, Office Hours, and group meetings.
What Happens During Each Feedback Session?
Founder Institute sessions take place once per week at night, and consist of progress reporting, training, feedback, evaluation, and discussion with at least 2-4 program mentors.
These weekly sessions ensure that our Founders receive constant evaluations of their pitch, progress, and strategy throughout the business-building process.
In addition, the FI program is geared towards providing honest feedback to our Founders, because this essential to building a business.
What are the Sprints Like?
We don’t provide theoretical “homework”, because entrepreneurship can only be learned by doing. Our Sprints include challenging, real-world tasks critical to building a business, like interviewing customers, filling a mailing list, generating revenue, and forming an advisory board. Each week's deliverables are based on the topic of that week’s session, and are designed to take approximately 20-30 hours.
To help Founders efficiently complete the deliverables throughout each week, we also provide many helpful guides, templates, and videos, in addition to Office Hours and Group Meetings. Founders in the program also get customized Sprints to push their particular business forward based on their recent progress, challenges, or feedback from Mentors.
It's like getting a industry-specific MBA custom tailored to your business. They don't bother with theory, only real substance, challenging assignments, and hard facts behind actual steps to success." - Branden Spikes, Former CIO of SpaceX, Founder of Spikes (acquired 2016), Silicon Valley FI Alum
See a sample Founder Institute Sprint here.
We Push You to Do the Impossible
The Founder Institute is hard, because building an enduring business is much, much harder.
In fact, less than 30% of accepted Founders generally make it through the Core Program, and this is by design. To complete the program, a Founder or Team must complete all the Sprints and meet a minimum rating threshold from their program Mentors, Local Leaders, and Peers. This ensures that all Founder Institute Alumni have made extraordinary progress in the program, and is building a business that has been validated by experienced entrepreneurs and investors.
What Happens if I Can’t Complete the Core Program?
Anyone who decides to leave the program before the third session is entitled to a full refund, and anyone who leaves the program thereafter is invited to join the next program for free, when they are ready and more prepared to build a business.
However, it should be noted that dropping out from the program is by no means a failure. If the Founder Institute can save someone years of time (and possibly their life savings) on pursuing a bad startup idea, then we consider this a successful outcome (and many of our dropouts do, too).
What Will I Accomplish?
Since Founders and Teams come into the Founder Institute at different points in the pre-seed stage, the bar for completing the program varies per individual. At the very least, each Alum completes the program with the following:
- Well-Formed Corporation
- Local Network of Experienced Entrepreneurs and Investors
- Formal Advisory Board of Top Mentors
- Significant Product Progress
- Significant Number of Leads and Customers
- Progress on Team Growth
- Investment-Worthy Pitch Deck
- Clear & Actionable Next Steps for Growth
Many founders are also able to secure funding and significant revenue by the end of the program.
I entered FI with a vague idea. After 3.5 months, I had a concise idea that was validated with potential investors, an incorporated company, a board of advisors, complete product roadmap, go-to-market plan, and a solid pitch deck." - Errette Dunn, Founder & CEO of Rever, Silicon Valley Alum
We Provide a Lifetime of Support
The Core 4-Month Program is just the beginning.
For the last several years we have developed new support programs to help our companies long after the core program ends. The result of this work spawned our Post-Program Support, which far exceeds any comparable program.
Access to a Global Network
If the virus has taught us anything, it is that we live in a global society. The masses are now starting to understand that our global health, finances, job market, and day to day life are collectively intertwined. Entrepreneurs that don’t view their business without borders are going to be left behind.
We are #FIworldwide, because great companies can be built anywhere.
The Founder Institute’s scale and number of successful Alumni is truly unprecedented.
Our companies include some of the world's fastest growing startups, having raised over $1.5 billion, creating an estimated portfolio value of $30B. In addition, over 60 Founder Institute Alumni have been acquired.