My experience in the Founder Institute program

Melbourne Autumn 2015 cohort

I went into the program having a pretty decent idea about entrepreneurship, having started and having run a non-profit for three years and working on Machinam for 18 months prior to the program. There were no real surprises out of my participation, but I can comfortably say that I got what I came for. I went into the program with the intention of developing and clear plan for the execution of our EdTech product and now that I am about to graduate, we are well on the way to accomplishing that.

What I liked about the program:

  • Accountability – you are expected to be accountable for your own performance in the program. The Directors are not there to hold your hand and spoon feed you.
  • Self-selection – there is a high proportion of people who leave the program (ours started with 28 participants and completed with 8). The majority of people who leave choose to do so of their own accord for a variety of reasons ranging from not being able to commit enough time, to pivoting late in the program, to realising the program isn’t the right fit for them.
  • Accepting of all founders - even though FI is a program for tech-based start-ups, it is not biased towards being a tech person, or having a tech co-founder (like I have found some similar programs to be – if your team doesn’t have a tech co-founder you may as well not bother!)
  • Pace – the curriculum is fast-paced. We spent just one week on each topic covering everything from validating ideas, through to revenue models to sales and marketing. I found this was enough to get a taste of each topic - not a deep dive, but enough knowledge to go back and work with later.
  • Supportive team dynamic – the culture of that was generated by the graduating participants was very supportive. No competitive vibe.

What could be improved:

  • Gender diversity – my main gripe. We had two female mentors (one of whom was a Director) and the rest were all male. However, on a positive note, our graduating class is split evenly between male and female participants!
  • Social focus – there appeared to be an underlying assumption throughout the program that every company is driven purely by profit. I did the program as the co-founder of a for profit, for purpose company. I did have some discussions with fellow participants (not necessarily those who graduated) who shared their desire to run a company that also provides a positive impact. As this is a structure that is gaining in popularity, I would love to see that reflected somewhat in the curriculum e.g. discussion about fundraising through methods other than investment, partnerships, measurement and evaluation.