Hazzah! I am happy to announce I am an official graduate of the Fall 2012 Silicon Valley class at the Founder Institute. The FI program is a 4 month long startup accelerator with classes all over the world. The program is designed to put your idea through the grinder and refine it to a viable business model.
It has been a long road but I’m here, and still only at the starting line. Now I need to really put my idea into action. The company I created is called FlockSpring. It’s a site that helps connect people to find the best local spiritual or religious community for them by profiling group culture and demographics, not just a location and name. I’m very proud of my company and you will be hearing more about it posts to come as I share my journey in giving it flight.
Thinking of Joining? Let me pass along some valuable learnings
Having now gone through the program twice (because the first idea wasn’t right for the program) and working full-time while doing it, I highly recommend the following for those interested in joining who have full-time jobs. (Especially tip #3)
1. Clear your schedule: It will take more of your time than the program suggests. Prepare to put all hobbies on hold and clear your schedule before you start.
2. Organize yourself: Do yourself a favor and plan everything out on Google calendar. Add all the class dates and when assignments are due.
3*. Preparing for the big pitch: Mid way through the program there is a Mentor Review where you pitch your business to CEO’s and investors. The mentors will judge your idea based on your presentation skills, research, and market viability. Your pitch rating will be critical to your continuation in the course. If you score low, you will be asked to leave and apply for the following semester. It’s the make it or break it moment of the program. Plan in advance with your employer to take off the day of the class and the day before to prepare. Trust me, it will be difficult to work and prepare for your pitch. Should you score low you will receive a “special assignment”, aka – near damn impossible task given the time frame. If you can afford it, take that whole week off because if you get a special assignment you’re going to need all the time you can get.
4. Start the homework early: Start a Google Doc for each of the homework assignments as soon as you get access to all the weeks curriculum. Keep all your submitted docs online. Get a heads start at least a week in advance on each assignment, and keep a copy of your submitted work. If you do drop out or are asked to leave the program you will no longer have access to anything you’ve completed. Plus saving it all upfront at gives you the tools to continue the work should you leave mid way and try again next semester.
5. Go to the bar after class: After each class the students and mentors go to a bar to socialize and network. I know it’s already late after a hard days work plus class on top of lost sleep during the week, believe me I am there with you but it will be worth it to force yourself to go. My first time through the program I opted out of the bar and went home early to catch up on sleep, except for one of the nights. And I can’t tell you how much value I got out of that one night of networking and talking one on one with awesome mentors. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake the second time through the program and I pushed myself to go to the bar after every class. You will be so thankful you did.
If you do the things I suggest you have a high likelihood of finishing and getting the most out of the program. Overall it was a great experience and I am grateful for the opportunity to have met my very talented cohorts and amazing mentors. There are many accelerator and incubators out there, I encourage anyone interested in doing a startup to join one. It will help you suck less much faster.
If interested in joining the Founder Institute, apply at fi.co