Founder Institute: “It’s impossible to build a business only on Mondays”

March 25, 2013, 19:00 presentation

On March 25 at the Digital October center another talk was held regarding the Founder Institute. Participants of the second info-session, conducted by the Moscow branch of the world’s largest start-up accelerator, learned about the format of the founders’ first educational program to be held in Russia and who will run it, while also receiving a number of bonuses from FI Moscow directors Maria Adamian and Peter Tatischev.

All session attendees will be able to take the online entrepreneurial aptitude test for free, the first step in the course.

All program students who send in their application for the accelerator by the end of April 1st will receive, courtesy FI Moscow, a free ticket to DEMO Europe,

a key start-up conference to be hosted by Digital October on June 3-4.

Why is the deadline so important?

“Founder Institute in the US is already its own brand. On the other hand, the Russian branch is operating so far on a so-called exploratory mode, meaning that we need to prove to those who established FI themselves, but most importantly to you, that the program will be in demand among entrepreneurs here in Russia.”

“We have access to statistics from all of the founders’ branches and learned, for example, that the parallel program opening in Jakarta has already created quite a stir. The entire history of the program has seen only one unsuccessful attempt made at opening a local accelerator: unfortunately, it was made by our neighbors in Ukraine.”

In order for FI Moscow to open in May as planned, we need to collect a minimum pool of applicants by April 2nd,

meaning that the project’s fate quite literally rests in the hands of Russian entrepreneurs who are interested in globalizing their ideas.

“However, this does not mean that the Russian accelerator might die off, having never even taken its first breath; at the least we will extend the application period and release the program in Fall 2013.”

How can I start being proud of my company?

“The Founder Institute in Russia as well as throughout the world has only one goal: to help local entrepreneurs create thriving and lucrative tech companies. People are looking for projects that can solve their every-day problems, not just another clone of what we already have. You know, not the kind of company you’re embarrassed to talk about when people ask you what you do.”

In the three plus years of the program’s existence its graduates have founded and cofounded more than 700 start-ups, the most famous of which are Udemy, Zirtual and Getable.

Of these, statistics show that 90% are still in operation.

“Of course, the creator of the Founder Institute and Adeo Ressi exaggerates somewhat in saying that the mortality rate of companies in the venture market is 99%, while 90% of FI companies survive. The 99% of companies that don’t make it are those that don’t file for an IPO. As far as we know, no FI projects have tried to go public; however, and most importantly, 75% of them have succeeded in building profitable businesses and 42% have attracted investors shortly after opening, often with the help of FI.”

However, just like anything worthwhile, the program isn’t free: the cost of a four-month course is the same throughout the world, standing at $950. That amount covers operational expenditures, included testing, property overheads and the cost of bringing in foreign mentors to the lectures. The money is paid directly to the American FI; local organizers see only a small fraction that goes toward coffee breaks for participants.

“What do you get for that money? Participants can expect 15 weekly sessions with a mentor, held at the beginning of each program week. We also expect that you will spend 20 hours on independent work after the session, as it’s impossible to build a business only on Mondays! That amount of time will be enough to begin creating the company of your dreams, combining your personal work with your day job at first.”

“Most importantly, the course will be built around the project: we will teach you how to write a business plan,

but when you finish the program you will also have a market entry, growth and team plan, along with, possibly, the first version of your product.

“We will also talk about a touchy subject at start-up hangouts, though one your business can’t do without: the legal aspects of your business, bookkeeping… This is what differentiates FI: our structured program. The creators of the course spoke at length with entrepreneurs and experts from around the world in order to understand what needs to be said the most.”

“The course begins by looking for the idea that will allow your business to do more than simply survive. If you don’t have that idea, but still want to begin, that’s also great. You may think up something in the course of the lessons, join forces with somebody or simply steal an idea. Even if your first project doesn’t take off you will still have what will help you the most: your connection to FI’s global network of contacts.”

“Our contacts are your contacts”

“Founder Institute provides a wide network of contacts throughout the world, including not simply business trainers, but active entrepreneurs and experts. Digital October, for instance, uniquely attracts experts and entrepreneurs from across Russia.”

“You are welcome to exploit our contacts. For example, at TechCrunch Moscow there were 100 investors, each of whom we know personally. There is also DO’s Venture Club, a monthly informal gathering of investors. We can invite absolutely anyone, but throughout the program you will choose one to your liking.”

“We already know 16 out of the 25-30 mentors who will run the Moscow course. Representing the non-entrepreneurs will be representatives of the Moscow branches of PWC and Orrick, although even those companies work with start-ups. Interestingly, a few of them have written us on their own, including the entrepreneur nicknamed “The Pitch Doctor,” who runs a course in Germany. We are also willing to invite other international mentors once we see a need for their specialties among our group of participants. Let’s say that you are opening a flower delivery service – one of the creators of Dropbox won’t really be able to help you, although we could invite him.”

Investors will love it

“A necessary condition for graduates of the program is registering their company in the US, seeing as how FI is trying to create a global Silicon Valley,

and would like you to be officially registered and investor-ready as a result of the program.

You, as the founder, will have your head office in the US with a subsidiary in Russia. Not only will investors like the fact that you are registered in the US, you may not even need a Russian branch.”

“We are currently consulting with Russian and American specialists regarding registration details, and are also looking for a legal partner who could provide registration services cheaply or even for free.”

Everyone here is motivated, and that is why it’s called an accelerator

“Why is FI an accelerator? Every graduate puts 3.5% of his company’s shares into the main pot, meaning that our mentors have a financial interest in your success. Students themselves decide how many shares their teacher will receive.

Part of the pool is also shared by the students,

as they are encouraged not only to work on their own projects, but also to help their colleagues. Who knows, perhaps your benchmate will become a market leader!

“Incidentally, sharing some excess investment money with colleagues is also encouraged, though you don’t have to if you don’t think the course was helpful for you.”


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