Building a startup can be a lonely journey. In addition, too many aspiring entrepreneurs never start, and too many pre-seed businesses fail, because they lack expert feedback and proper focus during the earliest stages.

To give entrepreneurs a critical support network to help them across the entire lifecycle of their business, the Founder Institute developed a groundbreaking Equity Collective where everyone shares equity in the companies formed from each program cohort.

Here's how it works - about halfway through each program, companies contribute 4% in Warrants to a fifteen-year Equity Collective with other peers from the current cohort. Any financial returns we receive from this Equity Collective are then shared equally across each cohort:

  • 3/4 of the Equity Collective Returns go back to your Local Cohort
    • 1/4 goes right back to the program Alumni, split evenly.
    • 1/4 goes to the program Mentors, and each Mentor's individual share is based solely on anonymous ratings received from the Alumni. This incentivizes Mentors to take an active role in each cohort's success.
    • 1/4 of the Equity Collective Returns go to the Local Leaders for their efforts in organizing, building, and running the local cohort.
  • 1/4 of the Equity Collective Returns go to the Founder Institute, which provides operating capital for the business.

When one FI company succeeds, every participant from that program cohort receives financial upside, establishing a devoted network of advisors who are invested in your success.

Please note that Founders are NOT asked to join the Equity Collective to enroll and start the program. Instead, you will be asked to join approximately two-thirds of the way through the program ( for the Washington DC Fall 2022 cohort), allowing you to fully understand the value the Founder Institute Network provides before committing equity in your business.

Why Shared Equity?

There are several benefits to the Founder Institute's Equity Collective model. 


Starting a technology company is one of the hardest and loneliest things you can do. As Elon Musk once famously said, Entrepreneurship is like eating glass and staring into the abyss.

By joining the Equity Collective, aspiring founders ensure themselves a strong support network of new founders just like them, and experienced startup Mentors, who are all vested in their success. In addition, the higher a mentor is rated by the Founders in a cohort, the larger their share of the 25% Mentor allocation becomes. As a result, Mentors are incentivized to help Founder Institute Graduates, and many Mentors become formal advisors or investors as well.

When smart people work together towards a common goal, amazing things can happen.

Community Development

The Founder Institute's Vision is to Globalize Silicon Valley and help entrepreneurs across the globe launch meaningful and enduring technology companies. The Equity Collective is a key component of our strategy.

  • The Equity Collective incentivizes collaboration between new and experienced entrepreneurs in local startup ecosystems, creating a pay-it-forward mentality similar to the one found in Silicon Valley.
  • By sharing 75% of the Equity Collective proceeds back to the local program participants, the Founder Institute facilitates local economic development.


The likelihood of one company being successful is small, whereas the likelihood of one successful exit out of 10 companies (the size of an average Founder Institute Graduate cohort) is very high. By joining the Equity Collective, you are diversifying your startup risk, while investing in expert mentorship and upside in your peers.

This diversification strategy has been successfully leveraged by top startup CEOs in Exchange Funds. The Institute innovated on the Exchange Fund model by taking very early stage companies and mandating that each Founder or Founding Team gets one share of the Equity Collective in exchange for one fixed amount of equity, 4%.


Even in small acquisitions of $5 MM or less, the financial return from the Equity Collective far exceeds the average Entrance Fee by multiple times. To date, the Founder Institute has distributed returns to the Pool of approximately $5M. These exits have returned approximately 10 times the Entrance Fee for each Founder in the Equity Collective. The Founder Institute predicts that exits from any one semester will occur between five and ten years after the semester ends, which is slightly longer than for the average angel funded startup.

After two years, the average Founder Institute semester with 10 companies has results resembling the following:

  • There are approximately 3 leading companies that are well-funded and well-respected in their fields.
  • There are 3 strong companies that have raised some capital, have a solid team and are making good progress in their market.
  • There are 2 or 3 companies that are still working on their business in a part-time capacity or with limited success, and some of these companies will ultimately be successful, while others will fail.
  • The final 1 or 2 companies are either bankrupted or completed stopped.

The very first cohort of the Founder Institute had a post-money valuation determined by private company investors in excess of $300,000,000 three years after graduation. Since investor valuations are normally much smaller than acquisition values, the oldest Founder Institute cohort may be worth in excess of a billion dollars today. Many checks have already been mailed from that cohort, and we expect many more as well!

More questions about the Founder Institute's Equity Collective?  See our Equity Collective FAQ