Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My experience in Founder Institute's Bangladesh chapter

I am currently in the process of graduating from the Founder Institute’s First Dhaka/Bangladesh program in 2015. The program started on 17th of February with an orientation and now finishing on 21st of May with the graduation session. In Founder Institute, I have been working with my idea to publish localized mobile and social games with my startup "TapStar Interactive Software Limited". I want to share my experience and advice for the possible future founders or people just interested in this program so that they can get an idea of what is like to be in the program, what to expect from it and what not to expect. Feel free to reach me at the contact information given at the end of this post.

So what is Founder Institute. The Founder Institute is the world's largest entrepreneur training and startup launch program, helping aspiring founders across the globe build enduring technology companies. Although it is based in Silicon Valley it has chapters across 50 countries, like Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Japan, UK etc. The program is heavily mentor-driven, who themselves are entrepreneurs, CEO's of existing companies. The goal of the program is to take people with the right personality and determination from idea stage to start a viable business at the end of the program through structured effort and experienced mentor-ship .

What is great about the program:

  1. The program lasted for about 3 and half months. There were assignments, group meetings, mentor feedback every week and these are all very structured, well-designed to make sure you make lesser amount of mistakes while building your company.
  2. At every session, the founders get to pitch and hone their pitch about their company. You will get some real and brutal feedback from mentors that will help you will reshaping your idea in a better way.
  3. You get feedback on your idea not only from mentors, but from your peers also. This is great because it is hard to find so many people with entrepreneurial mindset in the same room anywhere else. 
  4. Once you are enrolled in Founder Institute, you get access to lot of great resources in FI's site, like videos, slides from experienced Founders from all around the world, which were recorded from other Founder Institute sessions. 
  5. Getting to discuss your idea/business with mentors in one to one meeting. There are 2-4 mentors in each session and after the session you can talk to the mentors to get some schedule out of their busy time and if you can do that, the advice you will get is invaluable.
  6. You will most probably need some seed fund when you have finalized your idea at the end of the program and you can get the chance to meet local and global investors through this program.

What to consider before joining in:

  1. The dropout pressure. In all the sessions, the most pronounced word we heard was the word "Drop Out". The pressure of dropout begin from the very first class and it would be there till the ending classes. So, determination is one of things you need to preserve in order to continue in the program.
  2. Assignments are important for graduating and there is deadline for each assignment. If you miss one or cannot finish one in time, guess what will be waiting for you, another assignment, a "Special" assignment. But trust me, you don't want to feel special in this scenario, as there is chance for "Drop Out".
  3. If you are very sensitive about getting negative feedback from mentors, then this program is probably not for you. I remember one of the sessions where Adeo was present and was giving feedback about the names of the companies by the founders. Some founders were not ready to accept the feedback the way Adeo gave it. But Adeo's feedback was helpful for me to finally choose my company's name.
  4. You have to be serious about incorporating your company and the cost behind the incorporation. There were cases where founder had to drop out for not being able to complete the incorporation.
  5. The program is mainly for technology startups. If you starting a different type of company, you might want to check the local directors first.

We started with 29 founders in the beginning but now left with 6 founders. And this is pretty common in FI's  program of other cities around the world. Although the percentage of founders finishing the program is very low, Founder Institute boasts about success rate of 85% for their graduating founders. 

Is Founder Institute an ideal incubator for a Dhaka based Entrepreneur? 

The answer can be yes or no depending on how Founder Institute's program structure fits you. Positive personality, more than 100% effort along with good business idea is a must to survive. If you look for startup incubator or accelerator program in Dhaka or Bangladesh, I believe Founder Institute is the best offer that you can go out for now.

Thank you for reading this. and in case of any question you can reach me here: masud <at> tapstarapps <dot> com.

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