Founder Institute Coming to Denver

A handful of folks that I know and respect have gotten involved in the Founder Institute’ Denver program.  Andy Vuong of the Denver Post wrote a nice article on it titled Founder Institute is training minds for a great ideaSeveral people have suggested that the program is competitive with TechStars – including the first sentence of Andy’s article.  However, I just don’t see it that way and encourage all kinds of programs like this in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In the case of the Founder Institute, it has a very different tempo and dynamic than TechStars per their weekly agenda.  While there is a little overlap in the mentor group, their’s is very Denver centric.  And it’s a part time program vs. something that is fully immersive. 

Jon Nordmark, a well known Denver entrepreneurs who founded eBags is running the program.   John previously ran a fun program called Startup BasecampI was at the one in 2000 where my infamous “bowling and get wasted test” (actually, just the description) made an appearance.  I have a lot of respect for Jon and expect he’ll do a great job with this.

If you are interested in starting up a business and looking for an educational program around it, consider applying to the Spring 2010 Denver Founder Institute program

  • Brad, I completely agree: the Founder Institute is not competitive with TechStars.

    I consider both programs complimentary, and, even if there is some overlap, any well-intentioned effort to help entrepreneurs is something that I fully support. Thank you for the kind words, and I hope that some FI Graduates in the Denver and Boulder area apply to your next TechStars cohort.

  • Brad — you are so right (as usual) about the TechStars / Founder Institute comparison. I don't believe they compete as much as they both feed the entrepreneurial eco-system which our local and national economies depend on. At their core, both TechStars and Founder Institute promote technical innovation and job creation. Yet, they are different —

    — TechStars is a deep immersion and 100%, full-time commitment to starting a new company; over the past few years, a number of great companies have been started via that process; in fact, my new company (Wambo) is deeply involved with one of the TechStars graduates, called, which shows tremendous promise

    — Founder Institute works very well for people who are still working — moonlighting their way into entrepreneurship (yet serious about it); that is how I started — it involved many late nights and weekends while I worked my day-job

    The great thing about and is the transparency created for entrepreneurs. When eBags started, I couldn't find entrepreneur mentors. Yet, new entrepreneurs typically need a network or mentors — because you can't be an expert in everything (legal, accounting, marketing, technology). While starting eBags, I felt like I was working in a black hole, trying to figure out the legal issues, the accounting issues, the financing, online marketing and technical issues. Fortunately, I had a few great co-founders, but still, it was sooooo hard. And, looking back, despite eBags success (10 million bags sold, 35% CAGR for nine years, profitable since 2001, no down financing rounds), we made a few big mistakes that we didn't find out about until years down the road.

    In any event, I love the effort to help newly minted businesses become successful contributors to society!

  • Simon Murtha-Smith

    I’m suprised that they charge a fee. I can’t really imagine PAYING someone to take equity in my idea, regardless of any amount of mentorship.

    • I’m bothered by the fee also.  I despise “pay to pitch” and, while this is different, it’s still a barrier for me. 

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