The Founder Institute

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Founder Institute
IndustryBusiness Incubator
HeadquartersPalo Alto, California
Key people
Adeo Ressi (Co-Founder & CEO)
Jonathan Greechan (Co-Founder)

The Founder Institute is an American business incubator, entrepreneur training and startup launch program that was founded in Palo Alto, California in 2009. Although based in Silicon Valley, The Founder Institute maintains chapters in over 180 cities[1][2] and more than 65 nations.[3][4][5] It offers a four-month part-time program for new and early-stage entrepreneurs that helps them develop their business ideas and form a company. Among the key requirements for graduation is the creation of a fully operational company by the end of the four-month program.[6] As of 2018, over 3,500 companies had been created from the program, which raised over $800M funding in total.[5]


The Founder Institute was founded in 2009 by Adeo Ressi in his garage in Palo Alto, California. It was created with his friend and business partner Jonathan Greechan as a response to the 2008 market crash and the attendant failures of numerous startups. From the outset, its primary goal was to provide a safe place for companies to materialize and entrepreneurs to hone their skills.[7] Ressi also wanted to "globalize Silicon Valley" and make entrepreneurial training available to people around the world.[8] One of the earliest visions of The Founder Institute was to launch 1,000 companies per year.[9] Graduates were given access to a "shared liquidity pool," where all participants in the program share equity in the companies formed.[8] The first class graduated in October 2009 in Silicon Valley and was composed of 66 entrepreneurs and 54 companies.[9]

By the middle of 2010, The Founder Institute had chapters in ten cities throughout the world, including New York City, San Diego, Berlin, and Singapore.[10] In May 2010, the chapters in New York and D.C. graduated a total of 25 new startups.[11] By the end of 2011, it had more than 20 locations worldwide and had graduated 483 entrepreneurs with 415 total companies. It also maintained around 700 mentors. In addition, The Founder Institute announced that it had become the "largest incubator in the world."[12] Adeo Ressi started the Female Founder Fellowship program to help address the dearth of women in the tech industry.[13] Women founders accounted for roughly 20% of all startups and graduates at The Founder Institute in 2011.[14] By 2012, that percentage had increased to 36%.[13]

In September 2012, The Founder Institute achieved a milestone of 650 startups graduating. It had also expanded its operations to 32 cities in 19 countries (including Vietnam, Mexico, and Israel).[15][16] In 2013, it achieved another milestone with 1,000 startups created in roughly four years. Around 89% of those companies were still operational, and 74% of those were at or ahead of their prescribed growth plans.[17]

In 2014, The Founder Institute moved to a new headquarters in downtown Palo Alto. It commemorated the move with a unicorn-themed party.[18] At the end of 2014, The Founder Institute was located in over 80 cities[1] in 40 countries worldwide[3] and had been responsible for the creation of over 1,300 companies.[19]


The program offered by The Founder Institute has been considered unique by comparison to other incubator programs. It is a four-month program that recruits and accepts new and early-stage entrepreneurs who may still be full-time employed, and who don't necessarily yet have a fully formed idea or company.[20] One of the key requirements for graduation is the incorporation of a company.[6] Only around 40% of enrolled students end up graduating the program.[8]

Another main feature of The Founder Institute's program is its global reach. Because of the large number of chapters throughout the world, more entrepreneurs can gain access to the training and networking.[6] Each chapter has its own mentors, but the curriculum is similar amongst all locales.[21] It only chooses mentors who are successful founders or CEOs in and of themselves.[7] As of 2014, there were 3,100 CEO mentors in The Founder Institute network.[22] Networking is another major component of the program, allowing entrepreneurs to communicate (often for the first time) with like-minded individuals in their region.[23] The Founder has a "shared liquidity pool" that rewards graduates, mentors, and local directors for the successes of their peers.[7]

Predictive admissions test[edit]

The Founder Institute has an application process that requires a proprietary aptitude and personality test designed to identify "entrepreneurial personality traits."[24] In 2010 it was reported that of those accepted after testing, 57% performed as predicted with 27% performing worse and 16% performing better than predicted.[24] By 2013, more than 15,000 applicants had taken the test which resulted in accepted applicants who created 650 companies in 39 cities throughout five continents.[25]

The test is reported to take approximately 1 hour, and measures aptitude, intelligence, and five psychological personality traits.[10] All of this information is then reportedly cross-referenced with data from Institute graduates, and is used to compile a database that seeks to pinpoint the ideal score for a successful entrepreneur. The data continues being collected even after the students have graduated the program. For example, if a student's company earns a liquidity event (IPO, sale, etc.), their scores will be increased. Applicants are given a score of 0 to 5, 5 being the highest, that helps predict how well the applicant will do as an entrepreneur. The test has been the feature of discussion in publications such as CNN Money, Tech Crunch, and Forbes.[10][24][25]


The curriculum of The Founder Institute is often taught sequentially. Throughout the four-month program, students are asked to work on their ideas, research their ideas, name their company and product, seek out co-founders, and work out a business model.[7] The curriculum is guided by The Founder Institute, but taught by mentors with experience as startup founders and/or CEOs. The curriculum also uses a hands-on approach, often exposing students to situations that an entrepreneur would find themselves in. It creates working groups that combine 4 or 5 students together. These groups meet several times each week to discuss the formation of their business plan. The curriculum is similar throughout all of the chapters, but sessions aren't universally conducted in English.[26]

Mentors guide entrepreneurs through the program with training and feedback, and participate in the “shared equity pool”. Mentors in The Founder Institute have include Aaron Patzer and Phil Libin, both of whom have mentored at the Silicon Valley chapter.[21] Additional mentors have included Robin Chase, Peter Vesterbacka, and Jeffrey Paine.[27][28]


As of 2018, The Founder Institute has chapters in over 180 cities[1][2] and more than 65 nations[3] on 6 continents.[4] The founding chapter is located in Silicon Valley.[29] Each chapter has its own local directors and mentors.[4]

The Silicon Valley chapter is the oldest chapter in The Founder Institute system. Eren Bali, who graduated from the initial class, is one of the co-founders of the online educational marketplace, Udemy.[6] The Berlin chapter was one of the first chapters to come to Europe (behind the Paris and Brussels chapters). The current director is Didier Vermeiren, who is an alumnus of the Brussels chapter. The Berlin chapter has produced startups like Itembase, Kiddify, and Letsmake.[4] The Singapore chapter was launched in 2010 and is one of the most successful chapters of The Founder Institute in Asia. Mikhail Choo graduated from the Singapore chapter in 2011 and sold his company, Gridblaze,[30] for a 7 figure price in 2013.[31] iCarsClub, which secured $60 million in funding in 2014,[32] is also a product of the Singapore chapter.[33]

Notable companies[edit]

As of 2014, The Founder Institute has produced around 1,300 companies and graduates throughout its existence,[19] including Udemy, Kindara, and Zirtual.


  1. ^ a b c Exter, Leo (7 September 2014). "Founder Institute is back in Brussels this autumn: join to learn the ropes of running a startup". WeStartup. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Learn More About Our Global Startup Accelerator Locations". The Founder Institute. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  3. ^ a b c Cosseboom, Leighton (16 September 2014). "Taking stock of Jakarta Founder Institute grads: Who's still standing?". Tech in Asia. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d Abrosimova, Kate (18 June 2014). "The Founder Institute Issues First Class Entrepreneurs. Interview with a Director of the Berlin Chapter". Yalantis. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  5. ^ a b "Tremendous Growth from Founder Institute Alumni, and More Highlights from an Epic 2018". The Founder Institute. Retrieved 2018-12-16.
  6. ^ a b c d Seligson, Hannah (28 July 2012). "Want to Graduate? First, Create a Company". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d Cohan, Peter (5 November 2012). "Adeo Ressi's Founder Institute Sprouts Start-ups Around The Globe". Forbes. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Greathouse, John (16 September 2013). "This Entrepreneur Publicly Spanked America's Most Arrogant VCs... And Lived To Tell The Tale". Forbes. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  9. ^ a b Ha, Anthony (12 October 2009). "The Founder Institute's Adeo Ressi on his plans to leave no entrepreneur behind". VentureBeat. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  10. ^ a b c Patzer, Aaron (28 July 2010). "Predicting entrepreneurial success: Got what it takes?". CNNMoney. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  11. ^ Rao, Leena (3 May 2010). "The Founder Institute's East Coast Outposts Graduate 25 Startups". TechCrunch. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  12. ^ Empson, Rip (5 December 2011). "With 415 Graduates, Founder Institute Claims To Be Largest Startup Incubator". TechCrunch. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b Dickey, Megan Rose (25 October 2012). "A Silicon Valley Insider Actually Has A Plan To Get More Women In Tech". Business Insider. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  14. ^ Picq, Joana (16 February 2011). "The Founder Institute Aims to Graduate 175 Female Tech Founders in 2011". The Next Women. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  15. ^ Farr, Christina (28 September 2012). "Founder Institute graduates 650th startup — wants to 'globalize Silicon Valley' (exclusive)". VentureBeat. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  16. ^ Empson, Rip (8 November 2012). "Founder Institute Quietly Expands Into The Middle East, With Focus On Supporting Female Entrepreneurs". TechCrunch. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  17. ^ Ha, Anthony (5 October 2013). "Founder Institute Says It Has Graduated More Than 1,000 Companies". TechCrunch. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  18. ^ Bowles, Nellie (19 September 2014). "Founder Institute Opens Palo Alto HQ, Hosts Unicorn Theme Party". Re/code. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  19. ^ a b Serebrin, Jacob (28 July 2014). "The Founder Institute's First Canadian Cohort Graduates in Montreal". TechVibes. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  20. ^ Magin, Janis L. (2 October 2014). "Chamber of Commerce Hawaii teams with Honolulu Founder Institute". Pacific Business News. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  21. ^ a b Gannes, Liz (30 September 2012). "Adeo Ressi's Theory of Quantified Entrepreneurship". All Things Digital. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  22. ^ Tweney, Dylan (15 May 2014). "One of venture capital's harshest critics — Adeo Ressi — is launching a VC firm". VentureBeat. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  23. ^ Vance, Ashlee (9 August 2012). "Adeo Ressi on Entrepreneurs and Startup Culture". Bloomberg Businessweek. Archived from the original on August 12, 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  24. ^ a b c Arrington, Michael (21 July 2010). "Want To Know How You Rank As An Entrepreneur? Take The Founder Institute Test". Tech Crunch. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  25. ^ a b Williams, David K. (1 March 2013). "Do You Have Entrepreneurial DNA? A Test To Help You Decide". Forbes. Retrieved 9 December 2014.
  26. ^ Mount, Ian (13 November 2013). "An Entrepreneur Who Manufactures Entrepreneurs". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  27. ^ "TWIA #30: Jeffrey Paine from Founder Institute". Tech In Asia. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  28. ^ Cline, Keith (24 May 2010). "VentureFizz - Boston's Weekly Tech Buzz". VentureFizz. Retrieved 27 January 2015.
  29. ^ Ha, Anthony (2 June 2009). "TheFunded Founder Institute tries to tempt investors with a new financing model". VentureBeat. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  30. ^ Yap, Jacky (15 September 2012). "Gridblaze launches with the huge ambition of making data local again". E27. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  31. ^ Yap, Jacky (20 February 2013). "[Breaking] Singapore's Gridblaze acquired by undisclosed San Francisco startup in tech transfer, cashes out in the millions". E27. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  32. ^ Millward, Steven (7 November 2014). "Two names, two countries, 120,000 cars, and $60M in funding – iCarsClub gets a fresh round". Tech in Asia. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  33. ^ Lee, Terence (13 March 2013). "Singapore Founder Institute launches for 2013, promises to be 'a lot more brutal'". Tech in Asia. Retrieved 6 December 2014.

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