I was part of the Founder Institute Silicon Valley Winter semester. The Founder Institute is an incubator program that helps an entrepreneur create a company. The institute is run by Adeo Ressi. I applied to the program to help me bring my company Contineo further along, to learn more about entrepreneurship and to grow my network. The program helped me in all three fronts.
We met every Wednesday at 6:00 PM for class. Each class covered a different subject like financing. The classes were taught by mentors like Aaron Patzed (mint.com), Phil Libin (evernote.con) and Peter Phan (billshrink.com). After class, mentors would usually stay and answer questions and help entrepreneurs. Many mentors helped me outside of the classroom with introductions to investors, feedback on my pitch or feedback on strategy. This was a common occurrence with many entrepreneurs. One mentor was even leading an angel round for one of the Institute companies.
At the beginning of the program all entrepreneurs are organized in small work groups. We changed work groups 3 times during the program. In the work groups our fellow founders (that is what we called ourselves) would give us feedback on our idea, business plan, deck, financial plan, company road map, etc. Before changing work groups we would have an investor session. The work group usually voted to see which company from the work group should present to investors.
The investor sessions were great. Adeo will usually invite about 20 investors. The attending investors were the top of the top of the VC and Angel world. In our second investor session the investors were so impressive that after they left, we actually had a "had I know these investors were coming I would have worn a better shirt" moment. I got to present at two sessions and besides getting great feedback on Contineo, I got at least one follow up meeting with one investor after each session.
The Institute also helps you incorporate your business using founder friendly documents. The Institute introduces you to Wilson Sonsini to act as your lawyers. Wilson Sonsini offers all founders a great deal with fees deferral, yet they don't ask for any piece of your company.
I could talk about hours about all the great advantages the Institute gave the founders. If you are interested I recommend that you go the Founder Institute website and read all the benefits and what will be expected of you. At the Institute I learned how to do good 1 minute pitches of my company, how to deliver an effective investor presentation, how to evaluate an idea, how to use marketing and social media to create buzz, how an investment deal should be structured, why a company road map is important, how to approach investors and partners, when to approach investors and partners, how to hire and fire people, how to protect my intellectual property and this is not an all inclusive list.
In my opinion the most important part of the Institute is the people that you meet. Once you join the Institute you become part of a network of fellow founders that can help you with your business. You also make connections with mentors that have build a company and can give you valuable advice. And last, but not least you get Adeo on your side. Adeo Ressi the founder of the Founder Institute is an experienced entrepreneur who knows everyone. The feedback that Adeo gives has no equal (in form as well as content) and for me Adeo has been an inspiration on how to run a business. I even use the phrase "Adeo feedback" when I am about to say what I think about something to people I am working with.
I will miss going to our Wednesday classes. Working with similar minded entrepreneurs in the program is such an energy rush and simply, so much fun. Don't get me wrong, the program is hard. Many founders don't start a company and don't graduate. The program requires a commitment of many hours a week. You hear in the program about the problems many founders are facing and you see first hand many companies fail (mine for example).
If you are an entrepreneur and are ready for an amazing ride that starts your dream company, join the Founder Institute.