Insights from a Founder Institute Dropout

Posted by Joe Garza on 2014-07-17

Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t easy -- which is why, as a program designed to turn would-be founders into bona fide entrepreneurs, the Founder Institute aims to make its semesters as challenging as possible. The rigorous program isn’t for everyone; fewer than 40% generally make it through and graduate.

But what becomes of the fallen Founders, the dropouts who couldn't see the program through? In a recent article titled Lessons Learnt at the Founder Institute in Melbourne, Jo Sayer describes her experience at the Melbourne Founder Institute and what ultimately led her to withdraw from the program.

Sayer, acknowledging the difficulty of the Founder Institute curriculum, says:

It is intentionally tough. But so is the real world. Most of the people who leave the program do so because they don’t want to work that hard or they can’t keep up.”

Its challenging nature, however, is not the reason she dropped out.

Sayer dreamed of starting a company called MoreSo, short for “More Social Good,” with the intent of creating an online community for businesses to discuss their social purpose. Despite positive reception from mentors and confidence that she would in fact graduate, Sayer eventually hit a roadblock in terms of her product/market fit.

It wasn’t a particularly remarkable problem for an entrepreneur. [...] But it is a big problem if you’re approaching the later stages of an accelerator program. [...] So, sadly, I had no choice but to withdraw from the program.”

Sayer doesn’t regret her time at the Founder Institute, however, and views it instead as a valuable learning experience.

Even though I didn’t make it to the end of the Founder Institute, I’m still so pleased that I embarked on the program. I learnt many things about building a startup and also about myself. Most importantly, it has given me a solid foundation to continue building and testing MoreSo.”

One of the key takeaways she discovered through her participation in the Founder Institute was the importance of product/market fit in defining the potential success of a startup. She emphasizes that entrepreneurs must take their time with determining their product/market fit, as failing to do so early on can have serious repercussions in the future.

You will never regret taking time to perfect your product/market fit. And when you think you have it, ask yourself: Why is this problem a problem? What solution(s) is/are my potential customers using to solve this problem? Why is my idea at least ten times better than those solutions? And if you can’t make other people’s heads nod in genuine agreement when you answer these questions, there’s still work to be done.”

(businesswoman balancing on a tightrope conquering adversity image by Shutterstock)

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