The Founder Institute is the world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator, with chapters across 185+ cities and Alumni that have built companies exceeding $20B in estimated value.
(Watch a full presentation on our methodology)
We help you get to traction and funding with a support network of startup experts that are invested in your success, and through a structured business-building process. Since 2009, we have helped over 4,000 startups raise over $900M funding, get into seed-accelerators, generate traction, recruit a team, build a product, transition from employee to entrepreneur, and more.
Apply to a Founder Institute Program
The Founder Institute can provide you the structure and feedback needed to build an enduring business.
Who We Help
We believe Great Companies Start with Great People, and the greatest variable in the success or failure of any company is its leadership.
As a result, we focus on Founders versus ideas in our admissions process, and identify founders of the highest potential through a collection of aptitude and personality tests that have been in development with leading social scientists since 2008. To date, over 35,000 people have applied to our program, and our entrepreneur research has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, and Forbes.
The Founder Institute appears to have developed an assessment that any population, any city, university, or country could use to determine who among them has the best shot at succeeding as an entrepreneur” – Aaron Patzer, Founder of Mint.com
Is the Founder Institute Right for my Business?
Our program is designed for founders and teams all throughout the pre-seed stage, including aspiring founders with a full-time job, solo founders, teams, and founders of established companies that are pre-funding.
The Founder Institute is far more advanced than many online, educational, “bootcamp”, or free programs run by governments and universities, but earlier-stage than seed-accelerators that provide funding and/or space for startup teams.
How We Help
Our proven methodology has helped thousands of entrepreneurs get to traction and funding since 2009.
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 for support and feedback while building their businesses.
How Does the Equity Collective Work?
Each Founder Institute Alum contributes 4% of their company equity in Warrants to a fifteen-year Bonus Pool, and when a liquidity event occurs the Pool’s financial returns are then distributed equally across the cohort:
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
Who are the Mentors?
The Founder Institute has over 14,000 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 attend the weekly sessions, share their experiences, 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 Graduates 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
We Provide a Proven, Structured Process
Time is an entrepreneur’s scarcest resource, and navigating uncertainty and deciding where to allocate time is one of a founder’s biggest challenges.
To help our founders build their businesses efficiently, we’ve developed a structured, 3.5 month Core Program that has been proven to help pre-seed entrepreneurs get to traction and funding. 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 attend an in-person 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 networking with at least 2-4 program mentors.
These weekly sessions ensure that our Founders receive constant evaluation 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
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.
“The Founder Institute is the most raw, 'street' program out there for startups.” - Jason Calacanis, Host of This Week in Startups, Author of Angel, FI Mentor
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
Entrepreneurship is a journey and startup success is measured in years, not months.
As a result, Founder Institute Alumni receive a lifetime of support that far exceeds any comparable program; including access to the #FIWorldwide Network of 4,000+ startups and 14,000+ CEO Mentors, investment support, invitations to exclusive FI events ike FounderX, over $2M in partner discounts, and more.
FI was a critical factor in Udemy's successful fundraising. I can't say how valuable the team was in providing advice and introductions throughout the process. Without their sage wisdom, Udemy may not have raised any money." - Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder of Udemy & Sprig, Silicon Valley Alum
What are the Costs?
The Founder Institute is designed to keep costs low for Founders.
First, there is a small Application Fee to cover the costs of administering the Predictive Admissions Assessment, but anyone who attends a Founder Institute event can apply for free.
Second, Founders accepted to the program are asked to pay a course fee to cover the costs of running the program. This Course Fee is fully refundable before the start of the third program session, so that founders can make an informed decision if the Founder Institute is right for them. In addition, if a Founder drops out from the program after the third session, they are invited to put their course fee towards the next semester in their city.
If you're lucky enough to get accepted and graduate from the program, these costs are negligible. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this is the best money you'll ever spend on your business" - Gary Herman, Founder of Story Home, Silicon Valley FI Alum
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 $900M, creating an estimated portfolio value of $20B. In addition, over 40 Founder Institute Graduates have been acquired.
Apply to a Founder Institute Program
The Founder Institute can provide you the structure, feedback, and network to get to traction and funding.