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Thoughts on the Founder Institute?

I'm a non-technical founder at the idea stage (I have a deck, landing page, clickable prototype, but no working code). I'm considering applying to the Founder Institute, but it seems to have a heavy focus on building a business as opposed to build a product, as Y-Combinator focuses on. I could either do the FI, which would provide a rigorous program for getting business started, and access to great mentors and the creation of a great network. Or, I could spend my time learning to code, which would get me to a hacked-together prototype sooner (which could help me find a co-founder, angel, etc). Has anyone been through the Founder Institute?

22 Replies

Detrick DeBurr
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Detrick DeBurr Entrepreneur
Co-Founder at Game Time Giving
I would never recommend a person learn to code simply to get a MVP built... There are thousands of people out there who do this stuff (i.e. write code) for a living. They can build in a weekend what would take you a month (no offense). Take a look at creating a grunt fund (http://www.slicingpie.com/) and find a technical co-founder
Robert Clegg
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Robert Clegg Entrepreneur • Advisor
Game Based Learning Expert
yes. contact me directly for insights.
Matty Sallin
0
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Matty Sallin Entrepreneur
System Financial, Inc.
@ Detrick: You say "find a technical co-counder" like that's some easy thing. Every investor and person who runs an accelerator has told me that your co-founder should be someone you've known and worked with for years, and it's hard to disagree considering a startup is like a marriage. Plus, technical co-founders are in crazy high demand. Any advice for finding developers to work on your project for equity?
Paul Travis
1
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Paul Travis Entrepreneur
Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development
Matty --

I've built companies as founder and joiner before, and actually recently applied for Fi.Co myself (though I've not heard back either way within the time they said they'd reply). I also just went through StartupWeekend.org last week, which has super networking opportunities as well.

I think you could teach yourself to program which is a life investment, but agree with Patrick that a sharp coder can crank it out for you. Keep in mind that software engineering industry experts will tell you that there is a 10x standard deviation in productivity between awesome and meh developers. That said, if you've gotten as far as you have, you might post and compare 10 bids on Odesk.com -- drop a grand and get it done.

But before you plunk cash down to build something, have you practiced customer development principles to convince yourself people are really burning for what you've got to offer? Reference Steve Blank, e.g. show 10 prospective customers your slides and see how many would pay $x for it. The technical colleagues on my StartupWeekend team were somewhat surprised that GIVING away a service is much harder than we generous entrepreneurs think -- much less asking for money.

Hope that helps; feel free to follow up.

Paul@VivifyLLC.com
Detrick DeBurr
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Detrick DeBurr Entrepreneur
Co-Founder at Game Time Giving
I'm sorta laughing... cause everyone I know is a developer looking for start up opportunities. I think I'd start with checking out hack-a-thons ... Investors want to see that you have "done something" together... in a perfect world successfully... I'd also look at my past jobs for technical folks. Using a grunt fund (http://www.slicingpie.com/) is the best way I've seen to handle the equity situation. I am working with a group of non-technical guys to build an app... Here's how we do it... (1) Our relationship goes from week to week... we have a quick online meeting once per week to check progress and see if we want to continue (2) I bill the time on the project as an outside consultant would at my normal rate... let's just say they owe me quite a bit of money today (3)They always pay something on the invoice only if its a few bucks but it demonstrates that we are still "all in" (4)They are taking what I've built so far and demoing it where they can... (5)At our annual check point, we will either convert the debt owed to me to equity or cash me out (6)If they can't if goes on their books as debt (i.e. I gave them a lone)... In the meantime, we are dating. We are getting to know each other better, while producing something at the same time. Hope this makes sense...
Hartmut Jahn
1
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Hartmut Jahn Entrepreneur
Entrepreneur
Don't start learning code, get you idea validated by raising money. Money is a pretty good indicator whether you and your idea are convincing and might become a success. Focus on your strengths and don't try to catch up with people who have done coding for a lifetime. Good luck!
Matty Sallin
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Matty Sallin Entrepreneur
System Financial, Inc.
@ Harmut: It seems that any investor/angel/accelerator wants to see working code, better yet, a shipped product with customers. Do you have any advice for raising money without a tangible product or even MVP?
Detrick DeBurr
1
0
Detrick DeBurr Entrepreneur
Co-Founder at Game Time Giving
In other words... find a developer willing to be your first investor... investing their sweat equity... that's convertible to debt on a schedule... then cash when available
Matty Sallin
0
0
Matty Sallin Entrepreneur
System Financial, Inc.
@ Paul: all good points, thanks.
Matty Sallin
0
0
Matty Sallin Entrepreneur
System Financial, Inc.
@ Detrick: Thanks for walking me through your process. How do you find hack-a-thons, is it through Meetup? Are non-hackers welcome at Hack-a-thons?
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