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Lessons Learned at the Founder Institute

Posted by Joe Garza on 2014-08-20

The Founder Institute offers beginner, and veteran, entrepreneurs the unique opportunity to launch a meaningful technology company in an intensive four month program. While those who have graduated from the Founder Institute will tell you that it is not for everyone, many of them will also attest to the invaluable lessons they learned during their time in the program.

But don’t take our word for it; read on to see what two recent graduates from the Melbourne Founder Institute have to say:

In a Cheer Me blog post titled “Shut up and listen, & 4 others things the Founders Institute taught me”, Eric Fitzgerald lists what he feels are the most important lessons he learned during his time at the Melbourne Founder Institute.

Referring to the Founder Institute as “TED for startups”, Eric highlights the benefits of getting real world knowledge from experts in the field of entrepreneurship.

Each week, in an intimate forum, three industry mentors share invaluable war stories and learned insights. Every talk contains gems to educate and excite. Normally business and corporations would pay handsomely to learn from these insights from one mentor; you get 3 every week.”

Eric also takes note of the Founder Institute’s harsh, but effective, grading system:

Mentors also rate your idea. Instructed to be brutally honest, they can only mark you 1, 2, 4 or 5. A 1, is code for ‘ run away, don’t make eye contact’. A 5 is ‘this awesome I want to invest and possibly name my first child after you‘. The is no fence sitting, so no 3‘s.

Each night you pitch, the mentors mark you and give you plain feedback. This average score determines your ongoing participation in FI. Anything below a 2 , it’s an extra assignment or you’re out. Every week ideas get reworked, polished and repitched. Your idea will suck until it doesn’t.”

In an Oz Analytics blog post titled “Brass Tacks”, Steve Bennett stresses the Founder Institute’s emphasis on collaboration among Founders.

People will inspire you. It is a real pleasure to have discovered so many people that want to help me on my startup journey. Each week it is humbling to be reminded of this and it is an important factor behind keeping my spirits high.”

While countless “wantrepreneurs” believe that all you need is good idea to succeed, the Founder Institute goes to great lengths to dispel this pervasive misconception. Luckily, Steve is a Founder who understands that a brilliant concept alone can only take you so far in the world of entrepreneurship:

Success is not only being smart and having a great idea. Yes, you've got to work harder than any corporate job, but more importantly, you have to set clear practical goals for yourself and your team.

And these have to be extremely proactive and practical. Writing a report, or thinking about how to do something is no substitute for actually building a web page, or email/calling real people and achieving something concrete.”

Anyone who has gone through the Founder Institute’s intense four month program will tell you that it is not for the faint of heart, as hard work, commitment, and more hard work are what it takes to succeed in the startup world. However, Eric Fitzgerald offers some tips to help Founders survive the program:

Talk, listen, listen again, listen some more, think and repeat. But listen.”

(Businessman with suitcase walking the scale image by Shutterstock)

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