May 142012
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The Founder Institute (FI) 4-month accelerator program teaches you the basics of starting a technology business. I took part in the Singapore Founder Institute (SGFI) back in late 2010 and graduated with Learnemy incorporated. Since then, many people have approached me with questions so this post shares my experience and answers these questions. 

Learnemy is a Founder Institute StartupThe most distinct difference between FI and other good entrepreneurship programs in Singapore (Golden Gate Ventures, JFDI) is that FI focuses on idea-stage founders. It is interested in developing you as a founder, and it does that through weekly sessions on each of the different aspects of starting a business and having you practice what you’ve learned through assignments.


How helpful is Founder Institute?

Evaluating between applying for FI or not, it is definitely very helpful to attend FI. The sessions taught me things I wouldn’t have learned reading online. Doing the assignments taught me to think through how I want Learnemy to work and if I really want this. But the biggest takeaway from FI is its network of 700 mentors and a community of founders all over the world.

These mentors aren’t just anybody. They’re people like Dave Mcclure, Phil Libin, and Eric Ries; people with years of experience and have done some really impressive work in the startup field. Don’t expect them to spoon-feed you, though. You’ll have to reach out to them if you want their attention.


What happens after graduation?

After graduating from the SGFI, you will be included into a SGFI facebook group, FI group on micromobs and mailing list. These groups help you stay connected with your peers and are places where you can ask questions without worrying about sensitive information getting out to the public. Although we seldom have official SGFI meet ups, we do catch up with one another during tech events. I guess this is the same as all other communities – you can only make most out of a community if you put in effort to build it and stay in touch with others.


Will FI help me with fundraising?

FI does not give you money, neither does it promise to get you funding. It does, however, teach you how to approach investors and make introductions to them. For me, the most important thing about FI with regards to funding is that the mentors can help you look through your term sheet so you won’t end up with an undesirable deal. I know of cases where Adeo Ressi, the founder behind FI, personally looked into some term sheets given to a couple of my peers. Talk about dedication, that man sure has it.


Why are the assignments necessary?

It helps you formulate your business plan! Although making a business plan is not the purpose why there’re assignments, doing the assignments guided me to think about how I wanted Learnemy to work.

Here’s a sample of the assignment for the class on revenue:

“First, write one paragraph on how you make money from your primary revenue source, describing who your paying customer is and the step-by-step process that money flows from the customer to your company. Write a list of each assumption that must happen before revenue flows from the customer to you, and write one sentence on each assumption that describes what must happen for that assumption to be realized.

Second, convert this written logic into a 36-month revenue plan. In the plan, itemize each of your assumptions and scale them over time using a spreadsheet variable that you can change. Reduce your assumptions by 50%.”

I liked how the assignments are detailed steps on how to strategize my startup. Although there are startups coming up with plans on what you should do, the experience at FI is much better just because the volume of mentors you can approach for help in these assignments is mind-blowing.


Is it advisable for me to join now even though I do not have an idea?

Yes, it is! You don’t need an idea to join FI. Although I had an idea when I joined, the only thing that was similar between pre-FI and post-FI was my passion. My idea and strategies were vastly changed. That’s what FI do. It teaches you how to go about evaluating your ideas through classes on passion and market research.


What is the best way to make the most of my time in FI?

If you’re accepted into FI, congratulations! When I doing my assignments, I realized that there are still things I don’t know. I could understand the session’s materials, but there are still knowledge gaps between what was taught and what was required of me to do. So if I could do FI all over again, I would do the assignments before the classes. There are recordings of past semesters available in the archive to help you out.

After watching the videos and attempting the assignment, ask your questions during the class. These questions will be specific to your startup, which means there’re most useful to you. Plus they’re good icebreakers to approach the mentors (really great if you’re networking-shy like me) during breaks.


Good news

I hope I’ve given you enough information on FI and SGFI to make a decision whether this is a good program for you. If you’re still in the idea stage, I’ll strongly recommend you to join the upcoming SGFI semester! Applications are still open, but not for long. Do apply by clicking this link before 20th May (this Sunday). If you have any other questions or things you want to find out about that’s not here, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll reply as soon as I can.

Good luck!

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