The Founder’s Institute: Entrepreneur’s “College”

February 23rd, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

A few days ago I attended The Funded’s Founder Institute in NY.  When I got the invite I was a bit weary as it was slotted from 6pm – 10pm and 4 hrs is way to long for me to do anything.  I was pleasantly surprised that the time passed without dragging on.

From what I gather the Founders Institute is essentially ‘college’ for starting a company.  A group of smart people ‘mentors’ come together with a larger group of bright eye entrepreneurs and work together to build companies.

Tonight’s format was pretty straight forward 8 entrepreneurs’ pitch their ideas for 5 minutes (no slides which made it difficult to follow at times) and than the audience gives feedback.  The audience was other ‘students’ and a mix of a dozen or so mentors, entrepreneurs and VC’s.

After the pitches are done there are three panelists that speak.  There is an underlying topic (tonight’s was legal/incorporation) but they mainly focused on general entrepreneur success.  Tonight’s speakers were Munjal Shah of, Scott Heiferman of and Jed Alpert of MobileCommons (MobileCommons is a Zelkova Portfolio Company).

In regards to the eight pitches they were all at very different stages in their early lifecycle, some were sprouts of ideas and other’s had been far down the development process.  There didn’t seem to be a general theme to the companies, except they all ended in .com.  As I alluded to above  none used slides, I think this was a disadvantage as a screen shot or two can go a far way in explaining a concept.  Also most entrepreneurs as always didn’t really introduce themselves or give their background.

While I only have attended one Founder’s Institute event my take away is that is college for entrepreneurs.  There is class, homework, group work, and time to hit the bars.  The most encouraging part of the night was the sense of collaboration among the ‘students’ they all seemed to want to help each other; though id assume there is internal competition. If successful the Founder’s Institute has the potential to lay the groundwork of an education around starting a business (Note: I don’t believe you can teach someone to build a business, but I do think you can lay the ground work and provided a guiding light).

As many of you are aware im against the concept of ‘pay for pitch’ and while the Founder’s Institute does charge its relatively small and based on their ability to create value ($650 to join and than $4500 if you raising money + 3.5% warrants) it does seem like the program is built much more around the sense of education, building and community that a pure pitch event.



February 22nd, 2010 by Jay Levy View Comments

Welcome to the first post on the new Zelkova blog. We figured the best way to start was to blog about what we plan to blog about (though like everything in life where we wind up will surely not be where we started).

We look forward to talking about all things startup-related. Most of what we write about will be centered on startups and raising capital. This could include everything from the not-so-glorious aspects of investing to profiles of some of our successful leaders. Occasionally, we will turn the microphone over to others for guest posts, including entrepreneurs from our companies, so let us know if you’re interested in contributing.

We will try not to make this blog an endless stream of shameless promotion of ourselves or our investments, but like any proud parent, we will have the My Child is an Honor Roll Student bumper sticker post from time to time.

We look forward to your comments, criticisms and ideas!

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About Jay Levy

Jay Levy

Jay Levy is a co-founder and principal of Zelkova Ventures. Jay focuses most of his time in working with the current portfolio company and looking at new investments in the software-as-a-service, internet media and green tech space. More »


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