The Founder Institute: My crash course in Tech Startups

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“Globalizing Silicon Valley” is the ambitious tagline of the Founder Institute. Basically, FI is a 4 month part-time course for anyone who wants to do a Tech Startup. No prerequisites. You don’t have to be a coder. You don’t have to be a business guy or marketer. You don’t even have to have an idea coming in. All you need is the time and energy to work your butt off in an extremely taxing program for the next 4 months.

I enrolled in the first Founder Institute batch in Manila last June, and it is about to come to a close. Graduation is in 2 days and I’d like to share some of my experiences and learnings while in the program. I know I tend to be long-winded, so I’ll try to keep this short. I’ll share first some notable highlight experiences and then some main takeaways.

 

Highlights during the past 4 months

The Customer Validation Assignment. All my business ideas were destroyed in the first 2 weeks. We had to generate 3 ideas, and then conduct interviews with people who would potentially buy/use the product. I didn’t sleep much in those 2 weeks and still I had no solid idea to go forward with.

Shelving my first idea. Finally, after getting a low score at the Mentor Idea review, I got a very difficult special assignment. It made me realize that what I was building, or at least the angle in which I was presenting it was not as unique as I thought. I decided to shelve my original idea and co-found Jumpsparc with Ely, one of my classmates in the program.

 

Main Takeaways

It’s not about what I can imagine. It’s about what people want. Keep listening. People think that customer validation is a phase to get through, and once done you can start building. Of course you can start building at any time, but the truth is, knowing a customer is a continuous process that never stops.

I should know what I am excellent at, and what I stink at. Doing a startup is really hard. I can’t do it all on my own. In this program, I realize that I am very strong technically, but am lacking on the business side. I’d give away everything for free if left on my own. I need someone to see value from other people’s perspective.

Entrepreneurship is crazy. It’s hard to find like-minded people in the normal everyday scenarios. This makes the working group an extremely valuable resource. That’s where we brainstorm, get feedback, get support, connections, you name it. Eventually we have grown very close and are cheering each other on in our respective businesses.

 

Best benefits of the FI program

The network and people you meet. I came in working as a developer and had zero connections to the startup world. I didn’t know anyone into tech startups, let alone any mentors who I could consult to guide me in my journey. Now I have my working group, as well as access to all the mentors who helped us along the way.

The learning and wisdom gained. Benefitting from other people’s mistakes, successes, and well thought through hindsight has changed my view of business. I know enough now not to jump into just any project, and that there are ways to see if it is really viable before going all in.

The drive. Entrepreneurship is in the air. With everyone talking about addressing needs and pain points that people have, you can’t help but be encouraged to go and change the world!

 

Conclusion

All in all, it has been a great experience for me.  I can honestly say that I now look at the world, as well as how I can affect it, in a very different way. Everything is now more realistically difficult.  But anything is now possible.

If you have a business idea, want to get into the tech startup scene, check out the Founder Institute at http://fi.co.

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6 Comments

  1. I’ve heard about this FI thing too, and it’s really tough. Good job on your first steps toward a new life!

    • Yup, it’s no money back. But, if you drop out, you have the option of enrolling again in a future semester.
      With Jumpsparc.com , we haven’t been funded formally, but we have a lot of partners now who help/sponsor other things, such as venue, hardware, manufacturing, etc…

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