Our Admissions Process

The Founder Institute is a unique program that focuses on founders instead of ideas, and helps founders and companies get to traction and funding at the pre-seed stage. As a result, we approach admissions very differently than other startup organizations.

Read about our unique admissions methodology below.

Hero Admissions

Who is the Founder Institute For?

The Founder Institute is far more advanced than many educational, bootcamp, workshop, or free programs run by governments and universities, but is earlier-stage than seed-accelerators that provide funding and / or space for startup teams.

Inspiration / Education

Inspiration / Education

Aspiring Founders learn basics through courses or bootcamps.

Pre-Seed Accelerator

Pre-Seed Accelerator

Founders and teams get a business to traction / funding.

Seed-Accelerator Angel

Seed-Accelerator Angel

Teams with a product and traction/ funding prepare for seed funding.

Seed / VC

Seed / VC

Fast-growth startups raise a proper seed round of funding.

Applicants Image

What do we look for in Applicants?

At the Founder Institute, we believe Great Companies Start with Great People, and the greatest variable in the success or failure of any company is its leadership. As a result, we focus on the Founder versus the idea in our admissions process.

While most seed-accelerators evaluate your product, company, or traction, the Founder Institute focuses on the pre-seed stage and instead looks for people and teams with the raw skills, experience, determination, and problem-solving skills to adapt and build a great company.

Who Should Apply

The Founder Institute is designed to help founders of tech or tech-enabled businesses and teams at the pre-seed stage. This includes;

  • Aspiring founders who are still employed full-time
  • Solo-founders, or teams
  • Founders of established companies (generally less than a few years old, and before significant funding, revenue, or traction)
  • Founders open to building an enduring business in a number of different ways, whether through bootstrapping, funding (not a requirement), or otherwise.

Who Should Not Apply

  • If your company has significant funding, traction, or revenue, then you are probably too advanced for the Founder Institute. We recommend you apply to a "seed-accelerator" such as Techstars.
  • If you are building a service-related business, like a marketing agency.
  • If you are not committed and ready to perform the hard work required to build an enduring company.
  • If you are just trying to "flip" a company or "get rich quick".

Starting Your Application

After completing the written portion you are invited to take our Entrepreneur DNA Assessment which is our main criteria for acceptance.

The Entrepreneur DNA Assessment

We are serious about our belief that "Great Companies Start with Great People". In fact, we have been working with leading social scientists since 2009 to develop a test that identifies people with the raw skills and personality traits conducive to entrepreneurship.

Through many years of iteration and calibrating the real-world performance of thousands of startups with the test results of their founders, we have developed online aptitude and personality tests that have proven to be over 85% accurate in predicting entrepreneurial success.

The Entrepreneur DNA Assessment is a required component of our admissions process, and the current iteration is online and takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

DNA Assessment Illustration

Our research has been featured in:

Is there any way to prepare?

There is no way to prepare for the test, however we strongly recommend you take the test in a quiet location with minimal distraction.

Will I get to see the results?

We do not share the raw results of the Assessment, because that is proprietary information. However, as part of a new beta test, you may be offered the opportunity to see an instant "Entrepreneur DNA Report".

You can see a sample report here.
We will not reveal any application information to the public.

Application Review Process

All applications to the Founder Institute are human-reviewed, so you will not receive an immediate answer. Our Admissions Team is based at our Silicon Valley Headquarters, and they are typically able to provide an Admissions Decision via email within 72 hours (this timeframe may be slightly longer over the weekend, or during U.S. holidays).

Admissions are done a rolling-basis, and every applicant is judged in comparison to the other applicants in their semester. Our Admissions Team uses the following review criteria (in order of importance):

  1. Entrepreneur DNA Assessment
  2. Written Application
  3. Professional Background and Experience
  4. Input from Local Local Leaders
  5. Other (this includes things like your communication with Admissions Team, etc)
Application Review Process Illustration
After reviewing your application, the Admissions Team will assign you to one of the four categories below. You will receive an email notification, and you can also see your state at the top of your profile page when you are logged in.

What are the Deadlines?

Each Founder Institute semester has three deadlines. Deadlines for the Washington DC program:

Jul 14, 2024
Aug 18, 2024
Sep 03, 2024

Since all admissions are done on a rolling-basis, the earlier you apply, the greater your chances of acceptance.

How do Co-Founders Enroll in the program?

The Founder Institute encourages founding teams to apply to the program, and a typical cohort contains roughly 40% teams, and 60% solo-founders. Founding teams can decide to send one Co-Founder, multiple Co-Founders, or all Co-Founders to participate in the program, but each Co-Founder must apply separately (noting the name of your company in your application, in the "Company Name" section).

What if I have questions about my application?

Simply reply to any admissions email and we will quickly respond.


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The Founder Institute is the world’s most proven network to turn ideas into fundable startups, and startups into global businesses. Since 2009, our structured accelerator programs have helped over 7,000 entrepreneurs raise over $1.75BN in funding. Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 100 countries, our mission is to empower communities of talented and motivated people to build impactful technology companies worldwide.

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