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Why The Founder Institute? by Darryl Rettig and Renee Zau

Posted by Amity Sims on 2013-02-27

Founder Feedback gives you insights from the startup trenches.

In a post from their blog, Darryl Rettig and Renee Zau, Co-founders of DonationMatch, share their experience at the San Diego Founder Institute. They compare the program to the popular 90's film The Karate Kid, suggesting that much like the underlying plot of the film, the Founder Institute teaches the necessary tools for success by offering "practice in disguise".

Below the post "Why The Founder Institute?" has been republished.

"Pretty much everyone is familiar with the movie The Karate Kid. The short story is that the protagonist, Daniel, was new to an area and was bullied by a bunch a local kids while trying to win the heart of a girl. Into his life steps a handyman, Mr. Miyagi. He instructs Daniel to wash and wax his car, then paint various items around his house. Daniel doesn’t see how these tasks relate to effectively fighting back, but does them reluctantly. At a critical point in the movie, Mr. Miyagi shows Daniel that the tasks he performed were actually practice in disguise, not a waste of time. He was being taught the necessary tools of success.

Going through Founder Institute often reminded us of The Karate Kid. Our mentors and our facilitator Jeanine Jacobson played the role of Mr. Miyagi; and we (Darryl and Renee, co-founders of DonationMatch) were Daniel. Every week we had presentations to watch, pitches to give, and about 30 hours of homework. While reviewing the homework assignments we’d say to each other: “Don’t we already know this?” “How does all this busy work help us?” And sometimes, “This doesn’t apply to our situation.” But while completing each assignment, we inevitably would discover some critical bit of information that could increase our chances of success. Every task had a valid takeaway, and we learned that some of our assumptions were completely wrong. Whether it was from interviewing our customers, completing a financial model, or meeting one-on-one with mentors, we made improvements that likely would never have happened, or would have come too late for our long term success.

In the end, with the tools taught at FI, DonationMatch will be a better product for our customers, a stronger organization financially, and ultimately a more successful company. As we apply these principles going forward, we certainly won’t have all the answers, but we at least we’ll have a better idea of the questions to ask. This is not only a win for us, it’s a win for our customers."

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