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Startup Weekend


Through the Startup Weekend Fellowship, members of the Startup Weekend Community who want to start a technology company can apply to the Silicon Valley Founder Institute chapter for free, and the best overall applicant will be invited to participate in the Founder Institute's step-by-step startup launch program for free as well.

Eligibility: In order to be eligible for the Startup Weekend Fellowship for the upcoming semester, you must complete your application and admissions test by Sunday, December 11th, 2016, using this link.

Grant: The recipient of the Startup Weekend Fellowship will be awarded within 5 days after the deadline.

Click here to apply for the Startup Weekend Fellowship.

How to Lead the Next Generation of Startups

Posted by Joe Garza on 2017-04-09

The world needs startup for their innovative solutions to pervasive problems, both big and small.

But to ensure that this generation, and future generations, of startups have what it takes to take on major issues, the world also needs startup leaders.

The Founder Institute is looking for startup leaders around the world. Click here to learn how you can help startups in your city.

Have you launched companies before, and want to impart that knowledge to aspiring founders? Do you have years of business experience that can help others in their time of need?

If you said yes to either or both of those questions, then take your first step towards helping tomorrow’s innovators today.

Why Do You Want to Be a Startup Leader?

Before you set out to lead the next generation of tech entrepreneurs, it’s imperative that you take the time to consider your reasons for doing so. The reasons you shouldn’t become a startup founder apply to becoming a startup leader. So, basically, don’t venture to help other startups for the following reasons:

  • Because you think it’s an easy way to get rich. Helping other aspiring founders is an inherently altruistic endeavor with little to no promise of financial reward. Since most startups fail, even if the company you’re mentoring offers you a large share of their equity, there’s still a very good chance you won’t get any return on helping them. And even if the company you’re mentoring does get big, it will take years before your efforts pay off.

  • Because you don’t like your current job. If you think that your job is taking you nowhere in life, branching off into entrepreneurship isn’t the best solution because of its high risk factor. Countless budding founders have started (or tried to start) their own companies simply because they didn’t like the one the worked at, and have failed miserably.

  • Because you think it will get you fame and recognition. Quick, name three world-renowned startup mentors! … You can’t, can you? Sure, helping many local startups can help establish your reputation in your region, but unless one of the companies you help becomes the next Facebook, Twitter, or Google (which isn’t likely), becoming startup leader won’t make you a household name.

  • Because you want to work for yourself. Sure, devoting most of your time to helping other startups means that you have more freedom over your daily responsibilities and schedule. However, at the end of the day, you’re still working for the companies you’re mentoring, as it is your duty to ensure the success of others.

If any of these reasons apply to you, then becoming a startup leader isn’t for you. There must be a deeper, more compassionate reason for your wanting to help other founders succeed. To help put you on the right track. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to help others with their companies the way others have helped you in your career?

  • Can your city benefit from increased innovation?

  • Do you want aspiring founders to learn from the mistakes you made?

  • What are the mistakes you see entrepreneurs making, and how do you want to fix those mistakes?

  • Do you want meet other like-minded individuals in your city?

If you came up with some long, thoughtful answers to these questions, then you’ve laid the foundation for a successful role in mentoring other startups.

How Do You Establish Yourself as a Startup Leader?

Once you’ve decided on your motivation for becoming a startup leader, then it’s time to focus on building your reputation as a startup leader. One of the best ways, if not the best way, to cultivate your reputation is through networking. While networking may seem like an obvious answer, because so few people do it correctly, it’s important that we take the time to outline the most effective ways to build your network and leverage your existing network to brand yourself as an entrepreneurial expert. Below are some tips to help point you in the right direction:

  • Start networking before you need to network. You may already have a sizeable network, but there is always room for expansion. The reason you need to get started early is because nobody likes it when you start asking for work as soon as you meet them. And so, you must first take the time to become acquainted with your connections before you begin advertising yourself.

  • Use social media to build your network. Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter are great platforms to meet others and establish your credibility. Follow other thought leaders and comment their posts to build your presence. This increases the chances of getting other industry experts to follow you back, and that’s a great way to building a relationship with them.

  • Attend networking events and business mixers to network with others. These types of engagements are ideal for meeting like-minded professionals in your market. And an even more effective, though more time consuming, approach is to host events yourself. While this will require more work, using a platform like to host events is a surefire way to build your credibility and network.

  • Take a personal approach to networking. As important as social media is in meeting other professionals, nothing beats meeting face to face, which is why attending events in-person is so effective. Don’t be afraid to cold email or call other thought leaders and startups to set up a meeting over coffee or for lunch, as this demonstrates your willingness to establish meaningful professional relationships.

What Do You Have to Do as a Startup Leader?

After you’ve established your credibility as a startup leader and have some potential companies to mentor, it’s time to focus on how you will build and maintain a strong relationship with your clients. Follow these tips to ensure that you and the startup you’re helping get the most out of your partnership.

  • Establish what you both expect from one another. Proper communication is essential for any lasting and fruitful relationship, so make sure you and your client are upfront about how you think your association should work. For example, you should both discuss topics such as:

    • The number of hours you can spend with the company.

    • How you will be paid (upfront, equity, etc.).

    • The areas of the business you can assist with.

    • The potential for you to invest in the company.

One of the greatest challenges is encouraging communication. It is very hard to help people when they only share wins every few months." - Kevin Siskar (Managing Director of the New York Founder Institute)
  • Give honest and constructive feedback, but don’t hold back either. As a startup mentor, you have to give valuable feedback in order for the company to grow and avoid mistakes. At the Founder Institute, we grade our Founders on a scale of 1 to 5, with no 3’s. By avoiding a middle of the road critique, we are making sure that our feedback is as honest as possible - either the idea is mostly good or mostly bad. However, even if you give highly critical feedback to your clients, follow up with potential solutions, and be sure to give credit where it’s due.

    • Another way to give good feedback to founders is to have them prepare a practice startup pitch that forces them to clearly describe what their company does, which will enable you to pinpoint their areas of improvement. We suggest the Founder Institute's One-Sentence Pitch Format, included below for your convenience. Click the image below for a printable version.

Startup Madlibs

  • Make the necessary amount of time to meet. Simply reaching out only every couple of months is not enough to help a startup, especially in its early stages. Depending on the need of the company, shoot for meeting for several hours every couple of weeks. If the company starts gaining traction, you may only need to meet once a month or so to ensure goals are being met.

    • Also, if you’re only just starting to mentor other companies, focus on only a few to make sure that you giving each the amount of time they need.

  • Utilize your network to help other startups. Regardless of how experienced you are, there will always be a problem that a startup is facing that you can’t solve by yourself. To add even more value to a company, reach out to other professionals in your network to help the company you’re mentoring. Even a brief introductory email that connects your client to a colleague of yours can be massively helpful.

  • Don’t be the boss of other startups. With your (ostensibly) considerable expertise and experience, it can be easy to assume that you know what’s best for another company. And while that may often be true, keep in mind that your role is as an advisor and not the CEO. Give advice and feedback where you think it’s needed, but it’s still ultimately up to the founders to decide to act on it.

  • Formalize the mentor-founder relationship. Once you have found a startup to mentor, you need to take the time to ensure that everyone is clear on the terms of your relationship in the form of a formal agreement. To help with this, the Founder Institute has created the “FAST” (Founder/Advisor Standard Template), which outlines standard terms and allows an advisor agreement to be set by simply checking a few boxes and signing the dotted line. The goal is to encourage more collaboration between experienced and new Founders, both inside the Founder Institute and out. This negates the need for cumbersome negotiation, legal drafting and review.


Download FAST here.

Final Thoughts

Starting a company is hard, risky, and stressful, which is why being an effective leader or mentor for others is so important. Yes, like launching a startup, the path of mentorship will be fraught with obstacles, long hours, and sleepless nights. However, nothing is more challenging than living your life, so why not spend it making the lives of others a little easier?

If you have what it takes to lead the next generation of startups, the Founder Institute is looking for Directors around the world. Click here for more information.


(Young confident woman in red cape and mask image by Shutterstock)

How to Lead the Next Generation of Startups

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