Go to New Site

The Founder Institute is the world’s premier idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program. 


Through a challenging and rigorous curriculum, we provide early-stage and aspiring entrepreneurs with the structure, training, mentor support, and global network needed to start an enduring company. Many leaders of the world’s fastest-growing startups have used our program to transition from employee to entrepreneur, test their startup ideas, build a team, get their first customers, raise funding, building a co-founding team, and more.

Founder Institute Washington DC Spring 2023 Semester

Early Deadline:
Sep 25, 2022
Final Deadline:
Dec 11, 2022
Jan 24, 2023 - May 23, 2023
Entrance Fee:
$799 USD

(not in Washington DC? See the full list of enrolling semesters here)

Based in Silicon Valley and with chapters across 200+ cities and 95+ countries, the Founder Institute’s mission is to “Globalize Silicon Valley” and empower entrepreneurs to build companies that will create one million new jobs. 


Program Benefits

Here is what our Graduates say are the benefits of the program:

Intensive Curriculum

Committed Startup Mentors

"I entered FI with a vague idea. After 3.5 months, I had a concise idea that was validated with potential investors, an incorporated company, a board of advisors, complete product roadmap, go-to-market plan, and a solid pitch deck."

"The Mentors are aahhh-MAZ-ing. Seasoned CEOs and Investors that have been there, done that, and exited (in many cases, multiple times over). They’re available, helpful, generous, and willing to work with you."

Errette Dunn, Founder & CEO of Rever


Al Bsharah, Co-Founder of Email Copilot(acquired 2016)


Support with Investment

Part-Time Friendly

"FI was a critical factor in Udemy's successful fundraising. I can't say how valuable the team was in providing advice and introductions throughout the process. Without their sage wisdom, Udemy may not have raised any money."

"I had the opportunity to keep the security of my full-time job while attending the Founder Institute. Also, I am 100% sure I wouldn’t have the contacts I have in Warsaw without the Founder Institute."

Gagan Biyani, Co-Founder of Udemy& Sprig


Zuzanna PrzybyƂa, Co-Founder of Devinity


Actionable Training

Truly Global Network

"It's like getting a industry-specific MBA custom tailored to your business. They don't bother with theory, only real substance, challenging assignments, and hard facts behind actual steps to success."

"After graduation, I now have relationships with top entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angels, and bankers and lawyers from the top firms in Montreal, and further, even Silicon Valley."

Branden Spikes, Former CIO of SpaceX, Founder of Spikes (acquired 2016)
Graham Mann, Co-Founder of Flystro, Techstars Alum


How it Works

Our approach is unusual, and so are our results. 

Program Design

There are plenty of free “business training” and “startup bootcamp” workshops that accept everyone and provide high-level startup education and encouragement. 

This is not what the Founder Institute offers. 

We are an extremely rigorous, real-world program for talented people that are motivated, open to honest and critical feedback, and ready to perform the hard work needed to build an enduring company. In fact, less than 30% of accepted Founders are typically able to make it to Graduation.

The Founder Institute is hard, because starting an enduring company is much, much harder" - Adeo Ressi, CEO of the Founder Institute and 9X entrepreneur & investor

In the Founder Institute, we will push you to make years of progress in just 3.5 months time. Every week you will pitch your ideas and strategies to the top startup mentors in Washington DC, and they will provide you with feedback, ratings, and evaluation. You will get Office Hours with top entrepreneurs, and weekly real-world assignments and milestones to push your business forward. Founders that do not complete their assignments or meet a minimum rating from the Mentors may be asked to leave and join a future program. 

The Founder Institute does not promise a path to startup riches - but we do promise that if you are ready to work hard and take critical feedback, we will provide you with the structure, mentorship, and network that gives you the best possible chance of startup success. 

The Founder Institute is the most raw, 'street' program out there for startups” - Jason Calacanis, Host of ‘This Week in Startups’, Founder of WebBlogs Inc. and Mahalo, initial investor in Uber 

Applying to the Program

More than anything else, Great Companies Start with Great People

As a result, we focus on the Founder versus the idea in our admissions process, and welcome applications from aspiring founders with a full-time job, solo founders, teams, and founders of established companies (pre-funding). After a short written component, applicants take our Entrepreneur DNA Assessment - a one-hour long collection of aptitude and personality tests that have been in development with leading social scientists since 2008 to identify people with the highest potential to adapt and thrive in a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment. 

To date, over 70,000 people have applied, and the Founder Institute can predict with great accuracy somebody's potential to become a successful technology entrepreneur. Our entrepreneur research has been featured in The New York Times, CNN, and Forbes.

The Founder Institute appears to have developed an assessment that any population, any city, university, or country could use to determine who among them has the best shot at succeeding as an entrepreneur” – Aaron Patzer, Founder of Mint.com 

There is a $0 USD Application Fee to cover the costs of administering the Entrepreneur DNA Assessment, but anyone who attends a Founder Institute event can apply for free.  


Program Mentors

Each Founder Institute program includes 20-40 Mentors that have built, led, or invested in high-growth technology businesses, and the average Mentor:Founder ratio is over 2:1. Our Mentors lead the weekly training sessions, and their mandate is to help our participants by sharing their experience, outlining the latest tactics, and providing critical feedback. 

Unlike most programs, we avoid consultants, academics, and service providers whenever possible. In addition, Founder Institute Mentors are compensated through our Equity Collective, so they are typically much more supportive than Mentors in other programs. In fact, our Mentors either become formal advisors or investors in Graduates in almost every cohort worldwide. 

Upon completing the program, Graduates have access to the Founder Institute's Global Mentor Network, which includes 25,000+ Founders and CEOs from 6 continents.

See the Mentors for the Washington DC Spring 2023 semester

For three months, esteemed mentors (consisting of CEOs, entrepreneurs, and investors) not only provided insights from their own journeys, but also looked at our businesses, challenged our assumptions, and pushed us to continually pursue validated learning" - Vicente DyReyes, Founder of Mise en Place

Program Curriculum

The Founder Institute curriculum provides early-stage and aspiring entrepreneurs with a practical, step-by-step roadmap to building an enduring business. It was built using Silicon Valley best practices and with input from hundreds of successful technology entrepreneurs from across the globe. 

Each week, participating Founders attend a 3+ hour session to pitch the mentors and receive training and feedback on a specific topic, and then build their business for the rest of the week through a series of practical and challenging assignments, office hours, and group meetings.  

Founder Institute Curriculum Topics

Our curriculum is also updated frequently to reflect the latest best practices in early-stage tech entrepreneurship, leveraging the feedback and experience of our Local Local Leaders running programs in 200+ cities worldwide. 

See the Curriculum for the Washington DC Spring 2023 semester

Session Format

Each Founder Institute session contains a mixture of progress reporting, training, feedback, evaluation, and networking with at least 2-4 program mentors. 

Founder Institute Session Format

Founders are also constantly evaluated and rated by the FI Local Leaders, Mentors, and their peers, all with a goal of achieving as much learning and progress as possible in a short period of time. 

See Videos from a Founder Institute Session


Program Assignments 

We don’t give you theoretical “homework”. Founder Institute assignments include challenging, real-world tasks critical to building a business like interviewing customers, filling a mailing list, generating revenue, and forming an advisory board. Each week's assignments are based on the topic of that week’s session, and are designed to take approximately 20 hours.

Founders in the program also get customized assignments to push their particular business forward based on their recent progress, challenges, or feedback from Mentors. 

Founders that do not complete their assignments are given an extremely challenging “Epic Sprint” to rectify the issue, or they may be asked to leave and join a future program. 

See a Sample Founder Institute Assignment

Program Resources

To help you complete your assignments efficiently and effectively, Founders also get access to a vast library of resources that include step-by-step guides, templates for things like legal agreements, financial models, and pitch decks, and a collection of top private videos from thousands of Founder Institute sessions from across the globe. 

In addition, Founders engage in group work with companies building similar businesses in their class, and have the opportunity to participate in “Office Hours” with their Local FI Local Leaders or Mentors. 


Graduating from the Program

Graduating from the Founder Institute is hard, and less than 30% of accepted Founders generally make it through the program to Graduation. Reasons for not graduating differ, but each Founder who leaves is invited to join the next semester for free, when they are ready and more prepared to launch a business. 

However, it should be noted that dropping out from the program is by no means a failure. Many Founders that drop join the next program (for free, as per our policy), or even thank us for saving them years of time (and possibly their life-savings) on pursuing a bad startup idea. For example, read this review from an FI drop out.

For those that do graduate, they are required to complete all of the program assignments, develop their product, incorporate their company, build an advisory board, and outline or begin their go-to-market plan, all while receiving satisfactory ratings and validation from the program Mentors. 

At the very least, each Graduate completes the program with the following: 

  1. Well-Formed Corporation
  2. Advisory Board of Top Mentors
  3. Significant Product Progress
  4. Leads and Customers
  5. Validated Idea & Go-to-Market Strategy
  6. Investment-Worthy Pitch Deck
  7. Clear & Actionable Next Steps for Growth

Many Graduates are also able to secure funding and significant revenue by the end of the program (especially those that begin the program with some of the above milestones already complete).


Post-Graduate Support

The 3.5 month Founder Institute semester is just the beginning.

Graduates of the program receive assistance well after the program concludes, including access to the #FIWorldwide Network of  6,500+ startups and 25,000+ CEO Mentors, investment support, invitations to exclusive FI events ike FounderX, over $2M in partner discounts, and several post-Graduate support programs: 



Our scale and number of successful Graduates is truly unprecedented.

In 2015 and 2016 alone, Founder Institute Graduates raised over $225 million from investors, and 10 Graduate companies were acquired. A conservative estimate is that our companies employ over 25,000 people and have raised over $1.75BN.  

Read about some of our recently featured Graduates below.

Do Tuan Anh, Founder of Appota. Read Do's story.

Jilliene Helman, Founder of Realty Mogul. Read Jilliene's story. Branden Spikes, Founder of Spikes. Read Branden's story.
Lucy Beard, Founder of Feetz. Read Lucy's story. Daan Weddepohl, Founder of Peerby. Read Daan's story. Danny Adams, Founder of GoFar. Read Danny's story.

Learn more about Founder Institute Graduates


Program Costs

The Founder Institute is designed to keep costs low for Founders. 

First, there is a $0 USD Application Fee to cover the costs of administering the Entrepreneur DNA Assessment, but anyone who attends a Founder Institute event can apply for free.

Second, Founders accepted to the Washington DC Spring 2023 program are asked to pay a $799 USD Entrance Fee to cover the costs of running the program. This Entrance Fee is fully refundable before the start of the third program session, so that founders can make an informed decision if the Founder Institute is right for them. In addition, if a Founder drops out from the program after the refund deadline, they are invited to put their Entrance Fee towards the next semester in their city.

If you're lucky enough to get accepted and graduate from the program, these costs are negligible. In fact, I would go as far as saying that this is the best money you'll ever spend on your business" - Gary Herman, Founder of Story Home


Shared Equity

When talented people work together towards a shared goal, amazing things happen. 

In many ways, the “secret sauce” of the Founder Institute is the teamwork-oriented culture we are able to instill in each program cohort. We do this through a groundbreaking Equity Collective, where everyone shares equity in the companies formed from each program cohort. 

Here's how it works - each Founder Institute Graduate contributes 4% of their company equity in Warrants to a 15-year Equity Collective with other peers from the current semester. When a liquidity event occurs, the returns are then split evenly between the Graduates, the Mentors, the Local Local Leaders, and the Founder Institute.

This is not a cost, but rather an investment, because 25% of the Pool's returns goes right back to the Graduates themselves, allowing them to earn returns based on the success of their peers.

Learn more about the Equity Collective.


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. 

Stages of starting a technology company

The Founder Institute is also designed to accommodate founders at many different points of idea stage, and as the program goes on Founders are given custom assignments based on the progress of their business. 

Founder Benefits of Founder Institute



The Founder Institute is a very unique program, so it is natural to have questions.

To help Founders make an informed decision, we host two Q&A Conference Calls with Founder Institute Local Leaders every week. Many people are also able to find answers to their questions on our extensive FAQ page, or by attending a local event to meet the Washington DC Local Leaders. 


Apply to the Washington DC Spring 2023 Program

The Founder Institute can provide you the structure, mentorship, and network to make years of progress in just 3.5 months

We hope you will join us!

Founder Institute Washington DC Spring 2023 Semester

Early Deadline:
Sep 25, 2022
Final Deadline:
Dec 11, 2022
Jan 24, 2023 - May 23, 2023
Entrance Fee:
$799 USD

(not in Washington DC? See the full list of enrolling semesters here) 

Feedback Form

We welcome your feedback to improve the Institute. Please contact us using the form below, and we will get back to you promptly.
Your Email Address:
Message to the Institute:
What is ? (enter the answer below):
Close Window