Two Things You Should Know About The Founder Institute
In February of 2014, classes for future tech company founders will begin once more at the Digital October Center. These classes represent the second generation of students at the Moscow branch of Founder Institute, the Silicon Valley-based training program.
These are people who understand that a high school student who sells his project to a corporation and young CEO who makes a successful exit after a couple of years are exceptions to the rule, albeit successful ones, and that ‘life in the Valley’ doesn’t have to end at 30.
The first FI project opened its doors three years ago in California, and today, analogous accelerators have been founded in 55 cities all around the world, designed to help people who are ready to start their own businesses and hope to find or develop their own idea with the help of experienced mentors. Of the thousand companies that have been launched over the course of the training process (including, for example, Uderny), almost 90% are still in business.
“Here, we help people to build productive businesses, which is to say, businesses that will transfer easily onto a large scale. And, more importantly, stable businesses that are capable of sustaining themselves,” says FI Moscow’s co-director, Peter Tatischev. “What sets Founder Institute apart is its enormous network of mentors (with a ratio of 2:1; we have 2,500 experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and industry consultants for our 1,000 graduates) and strong partnerships. There are already talks underway that would allow our American graduates to get onto TechStars with special conditions.
Founder Institute ensures the high success rate of its graduates’ companies
through the content of its 4-month-long course. When we kicked off our first semester in Moscow, we ourselves didn’t think that it would be possible to do so much in so little time. But upon graduation, our students had:
- an idea that had already been tested by a large group of people with a history of success in the industry (the 40 mentors of the Russian FI filial),
- a business model and an understanding of where to go next,
- a basic version of their product and the preliminary numbers to go along with it (The students were constantly working with the market. For example, as one of their assignments, they created a landing page and learned how to attract traffic and keep tabs on conversion),
- a team (some of our students simply hopped on board their classmates’ projects),
- and a company that was ready for its first investments and already registered in the United States.”
This last point prompted some audience questions at a meeting with the directors and mentors of Founder Institute Moscow on December 13th, though official registration in the States is crucial for various reasons, including the fact that it confirms our students’ dedication.
Bayram Annakov, CEO of Empatika, recent winner of the PayPal BattleHack global hackathon, and FI Moscow mentor with two international mobile businesses to his name, explains the situation:
“Your business wasn’t established in Delaware? Funds won’t give you the time of day.
And if your project has even the slightest intentions of going global, you have to understand: it’s difficult to take over the international market when your only investors are Russian. That’s one thing.
Secondly, it’s a universal rule that you have to be in with the crowd. You get to the Valley, and the first problem you run into is the fact that you’re from Russia, your project is in Russia; no one’s really going to want to do business with you, believe me. It’s hard to get in with a good fund, for example – only a few of them openly advertise the fact that they only associate with entrepreneurs from their own ‘network’, but the fact is that many of them do.
I didn’t study at the Founder Institute; I was a mentor from the get-go, but I see things clearly: it gives you connections at tech hubs all over the world. These contacts, and experience in a jurisdiction that’s familiar to your investors –
That’s two reasons why it’s definitely worth your while to play on the same team as FI.”
“Having a company in the US is a positive thing because it allows you to attract private money without any problems,” Peter continues. “And as for connections: say you want to break into the New York startup game. If you write to an FI graduate in the city, you can be sure he’ll try to help you out. And now, onto:
The Results of the First Round of FI Moscow
“We announced the launch of a Founder Institute branch in Moscow at the end of February 2013, and classes began in May. Over the two-month long admissions process, we received about 150 applications, out of which 38 candidates were recommended for the program. The final decisions are made at FI headquarters. To be precise, the results of the entrance exam are personally reviewed by Adeo Ressi, the accelerator’s CEO and founder of TheFunded, along with other projects collectively valued at $2 billion.
We knew that there were likely to be dropouts; we figured that around 8-10 people would leave, not more. At the end of the day, things turned out like this:
13 founders and the 11 companies they founded: as it turns out, we had some of the best results
in the entire FI network. The program requires a great deal of effort. By the way, all of these companies are still in operation: in other words, if the Founder Institute has, on average, a success rate of 90%, our rate is 100%. We stay in contact with our graduates and see that some of them are already in a good position to attract investors.”
Here, you can find out more about the first Russian FI graduates training experiences.
How to Get In
“At Founder Institute, we don’t evaluate the idea that you come to us with; we evaluate you yourself. To enroll, you must register on the FI.co site (choose Moscow from the list of cities) and take a test that will be sent to you to determine your potential as an entrepreneur. Though the program itself requires that you know English, it’s best to answer these questions in your native language.
As Adeo Ressi said at TechCrunch Moscow, this survey has an 86% success rate for predicting whether or not you will grow into a successful ‘founder’. To calibrate the test, a number of established entrepreneurs were offered the chance to take it just for fun:
Elon Musk scored a 4.1 out of 5, and the best result
anyone has ever gotten is a 4.2.
If you’ve ever taken an IQ test, you’ll find that this process is somewhat similar: you won’t be asked to calculate market formulas, but rather, you will be given an hour and a half to complete a series of tasks to measure your inherent business potential using a number of different parameters.
You will receive a single score based on your answers. We know that the minimum score necessary for enrollment is a two. But we won’t know your exact score. And you, either fortunately or unfortunately, won’t either.”
How to Study
When you arrive at FI, we assume that you’re here because you’ve decided to found a business that will turn a profit, not to give away your last dime, to try your luck. Also, you have to know English from the get-go.
This training program includes 14 information sessions/mentor meetings, which take place on a weekly basis. They are divided into three stages. During the first stage, you will work on searching out your idea.
Afterwards, you will concentrate on the key practical aspects of building a business:
positioning your product, as well as legal and HR issues…To complete the second step and move on to the next one, you will need to register your company. We will pitch in and help you to find lawyers.
At the same time, you will spend time with your classmates, discuss your ideas with one another, and will also have the opportunity to receive individual consultations during ‘office hours’. First and foremost, the program demands 20+ hours per week of independent work on the part of our students.
Students who complete their training will give, in addition to a previously agreed upon amount, a 3.5% share of their companies to the FI ‘pot’: this pot is to be shared amongst organizers, mentors, and the classmates of your choice.”
How to Leave
If, at a later date, you realize that you aren’t ready to see the course through to the end (if, for example, you aren’t ready to leave your current job, or if you don’t have the time to finish developing your project), you can return to the training program for free in the next semester.
Remember: weeding out is an ongoing process.”
Three More Advantages Offered by FI
1. “You don’t have to quit your current job in order to find out whether or not you’re ready to lead the entrepreneurial lifestyle. Work for a couple of months with an increased workload in order to determine what you’re capable of. We’ve had examples of the opposite phenomenon, as well: people have realized that they were right not to leave their corporations as they’re not ready to put all of their time and energy into developing their own idea right now.”
2. “Even if the idea that you came in with doesn’t end up working out, you will still leave here with a good foundation: a base of knowledge and contacts that you will be able to draw on forever.
We don’t accelerate projects, we accelerate entrepreneurs.
A few of our students who have decided to leave after the second stage (when most of the primary groundwork has already been laid) were motivated by just this reasoning: ‘The most important thing is that I now understand where I have to start from.’”
3. “If you see a promising market, the training that you get at FI will help you to put together your own personal check-list on the road towards building a business. By working in close contact with mentors both during and after the program, you are less likely to make decisions you’ll later come to regret.”
The Next Meeting with the ‘Founders’
All you need to do is complete this free registration.