What is Founder Institute Seattle program?
As we open the new semester at the Founder Institute Seattle I’m out meeting with different groups about the program and answering the questions for potential candidates about both the program and where we fit into the Seattle Entrepreneur Ecosystem…As we start our fourth semester in Seattle were very clear on our program goals and the niche we fill in the market (Part 2 to follow). Application Deadline for the Spring Semester is Feb 26, 2012.
The program is a 15-week pre-seed incubator program. Every week, three mentor/Founder/CEO’s come into the group to listen to Founders pitch their ideas, provide feedback and then teach on a topic from Ideation to Fundraising (curriculum here). I would make a distinction here that the Mentors start as speakers, provide feedback to the Founders and many become true Mentors later in the program. *Note to potential Founders – if you’re not full-time, incorporated with the things you need done to launch your business, why will the Mentors take your idea more seriously then you do?
What is a Pre-Seed Incubator?
- The program will push you in 15 weeks what most people won’t get through in a year or two, to graduate from the program you will have to show
- You have a Big Idea and you’re going after a big market – not a hobby
- Customer validation – actually talk to the people who would buy your product
- Financial model – your financial assumptions on a spreadsheet
- Pitch Deck – 10 slides to explain your idea
- Prototype or demo – if you’re a single non-technical founder it may only be “slideware”
- Incorporation – C Corp, not a LLC
- Pre-seed means before you have outside funding – why don’t we provide funding? Typically, our Founders enter into the program with one or many ideas that they are trying to sift through and prioritize.
- Just because you need money for your idea doesn’t mean it’s fundable (yet)
Who is this program right for?
- You’re working on your idea full-time, but not getting momentum
- Mostly Tech – if you’re doing a franchise or manufacturing, you’d benefit from the program, but it’s not the ideal fit.
- You have a day job, but you think you have a great idea. I compare us to TechStars for people with a Day Job – you may be a program or project manager, before you leave you day job make sure your idea doesn’t suck. We fit pre-TechStars in the Seattle market
- TechStars takes teams – you’re not an exception
- You need to have a solid idea (validated) and ready to build a product
- You need to find a co-founder
What else should I expect to get from the program?
- Peer Group/Working Group – you will be going through the program with a group of people working on the same projects at the same time. This will push you to make the deadline, you’ll have different perspectives in the group and different skills (tech, business, finance, design, etc.). Will you like everyone in the group? No, but we don’t have a Kumbayah circle. We have a goal to get your idea converted into a company.
- Office Hours – after the first cut you’ll have weekly office hours for feedback and goals for your company
- Access to Mentors – you’ll get to meet 30 mentors in your city. You still have to do the work of earning their respect, graduating from the program, etc. But you’ll start building your network more quickly.
- Deadlines – yes, you will have deadlines, and if you don’t do the work, you will get cut from the program.
- Post Graduation – introduction to the local Funding groups and VC, many of whom come to graduation, discounts on services, access to The Founder Showcase, an Alumni Group in Seattle and Internationally
What do you have to give to the program?
- The full details on the program costs are here–
- $995 for the Course fee – this includes the cost of your dinner on Monday nights
- 3.5% of your company stock into a pool
- 1% goes to your peers that graduate (and launch) from your group
- 1% goes to the mentors
- 1.5% to the Institute
- After you graduate and get funded, you’ll have a Tuition fee of $4,500
- Time. You can spend two years doing this slowly or 15 weeks doing it fast. It’s your choice
- Listen/Change – all of the mentors will share their mistakes with you in the hope you won’t make the same mistake – You will make your own mistakes. If you already know everything, don’t apply.
The program isn’t designed to be easy, it’s designed to compress your time between Ideation and Launching your Company. You will pivot your idea (most Founders more than once) between the start of the program and graduation. I know you just don’t believe that now, because your idea is so good.