As we graduated last week, with the five other (surviving) founders in our session, now seemed like a good time to share one last time about the experience (our previous posts on this subjects were done after one and three weeks). If I look back on those three-and-half-month, some points pops out my mind.
Doing the program means shutting away a normal life, staying awake at stupid hours in the night to submit assignments into an automated process. However, it seems to work, as we've made incredible progress on our business during this time, and learned a lot of real world/practical things. Recommended.
During this period, I worked between sixty and eighty hours a week (initially the latter, lately mostly the former), not only on the Founder Institute program (it takes time, but not that much), but if you add a work job and doing your homework seriously, it will quickly add up. Even in the last period, when I had left my day job, it still did sum up to something like that. The simple consequences of this are:
- If you do not want to work that much (which is perfectly reasonable, and do not means you'll never succeed in your ventures), do not start. The first drop-outs were typically people not willing/not able to meet to work criteria, which is probably a benefit of the program: like any good test, it allows you to fail fast
- Regular activities will be difficult/impossible to met. Used to meet friends for some games once a week, get some piano lessons. Stopped for the whole semester
- Expect impact on family/social life. Remember a tweet from not so long ago "Startup choices: build a great company, keep friendship relation actives, stay fit, sleep, spend time with family. Pick three". I agree. My picks: company, family, fit. Your choices may be different, the fact that you will make some will not.
It is still "only" a learning exercise
Even if the program is some sort of incubator, you have to take it for what it is: an educational program for would-be entrepreneurs. It is not the real thing, even if it try to emulate it, so profit from this: here you can try, experiment, make stupid errors without hurting anything but your ego. You'll survive, and increase your success chances along. During the sessions, just out of my head, we got feedback such as "I have no idea of what you are talking about" (pretty bad after a pitch) - "Your slides are just plain ugly" - "I do not understand this problem" (if there is no problem, there is no business) - "Your business plan is science fiction". The important thing is that we worked on it, allowing us to get more interesting feedback.
It is just a website
Well, almost: there are weekly sessions where amazing people come to talk, and actually take time to listen to you and give you honest (even if sometime brutal) feedback. The program is common for all the Founder Sessions worldwide, an the plan itself (the subject of the sessions, their order and the material that is proposed) is actually a sort of "business roadmap", and is of no small value : you find yourself doing or thinking about things that were nowhere near your current preoccupations (doing the work allow you to understand why you are wrong).
For the rest, the assignments are available on the site, and you have to submit them back there also. You'll probably never hear anything from them again. Well, except if you fail to submit one, in which case you'll receive a nice (automatically generated) letter letting you the choice between dropping out (encouraged) or doing some kind of ridiculous difficult assignment in a very short among of time (discouraged). Anyway, it came down to the fact that you are supposed to do the assignments for yourself, with the additional reinforcement of being kicked out if you do not.
None of this change anything to the current situation: I've learned more in those three months than in years, and business speaking, we would never be that far without the program. During those three months (taking into account that we were still at our day jobs for half of it), we did go from "We want to do something in IT" to preparing the launch of our product. Among many other things, we did brainstorms ideas, validate them with twenty plus people, size a market, evacuate some legal issues, prepare an investor pitch that we are able to use at any moment... Add to this a network that has increased tremendously in quality and quantity (peers and founders), and I heavily recommend the Founder Institute program to anyone hesitating. If we can help by answering some additional questions about our experience, do not hesitate to contact us or let a comment below.