Can you become a technology entrepreneur in four months? One global startup incubator program strives to teach people to do just that. The Founder Institute (FI) is launching in Texas, setting up entrepreneurial training teams in Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.
Programs in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are slated to begin in late 2018 to early 2019. The inaugural Texas FI cohort started in late 2017 in Austin and graduated founders of eight companies. The second Austin cohort graduated seven participants Wednesday evening.
Recruitment for the next cohort in Austin and San Antonio’s first cohort is ongoing. Those interested can apply here and indicate San Antonio as their desired program location once it launches in late 2018.
Adeo Ressi and Jonathan Greechan established the Founder Institute in Palo Alto, California in 2009 as a business incubator that offers an entrepreneur training and startup launch program. The program operates in over 200 cities in more than 65 countries worldwide. There is a $1,000 course fee with limited fellowships available to cover costs for those who qualify. Upon completion of the program, founders contribute four percent equity in the form of warrants or the right to buy stock upon a future exit.
That equity goes into a shared liquidity pool for those supporting the FI program, creating incentives to attract mentors who can align their interests with those of the entrepreneurs going through each cohort. A typical Founder Institute class has about 30 participants with half or less completing the program. To graduate, participants must pass assignments and reviews during the 14-week course and be ready to launch their business upon graduation.
“It’s an intense program,” ExcellGreen founder James Wilson said Wednesday at Austin’s graduation ceremony. “It’s a second job to master all the skills you’re taught over the course of the sessions.”
The benefits of launching in four Texas cities will help position the state as a global innovation hub for entrepreneurs, said Martin Martinez, managing director for the Founder Institute Texas-wide programs. The goal is for the cities to work collaboratively to enhance and share each location’s expertise and resources, connecting at the foundation of their respective entrepreneurship communities by pooling mentors, investors, talent, resources, and events into one distributed network.
“The Texas startup ecosystem is largely fractured and siloed, resulting in needless competition for resources, talent, and funding,” said Martinez. “We’re excited about establishing closer collaboration among the ecosystems in Texas cities.”
The Founding Texas leadership overseeing the rollout of the Founder Institute programs across the state includes San Antonio native Martinez as director for operations and local outreach, Paul O’Brien as director of market and venture development, and Elisa Sepulveda as director for accelerator partnerships.
“What excites me the most is understanding what makes each city’s entrepreneurial community unique,” Martinez said. “For example, San Antonio has the opportunity to be known as the city of cyber startups, elevating Texas not just nationally but globally.”
The San Antonio program has Nick Ramos as its director, program manager Yvonne Addison, program coordinator Matthew Espinoza, and Drue Placette as the first entrepreneur in residence who will join other mentors in working with program participants. The program will be held mainly at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology at Port San Antonio.
“I feel we all share the same vision and mindset, focused on building the relationships and culture for the Founder Institute to take hold in San Antonio,” Ramos said.
The team represents the broad spectrum of San Antonio’s entrepreneurial landscape and is typical of the recruitment strategy the Founder Institute uses to select team members in each city. Ramos is CEO of Rehabilit8 and co-founder of Clutche, a startup that recently completed Geekdom’s first pre-accelerator cohort with its app for sports game attendees to order food from their stadium seats. Addison manages strategy and business development for StandardAero, a Port San Antonio aviation tenant, while Espinoza is a co-founder of the San Antonio Business Calendar and chapter director for San Antonio Startup Grind. Placette is a serial entrepreneur and experienced CEO, engineer, and executive director at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology.
“The way the community is coming together to form the leadership for the San Antonio’s program, we’re all impacting the ecosystem in other ways supporting entrepreneurs,” Espinoza said. “I’ve connected with entrepreneurs in cities across the country and globally because of Startup Grind, so I understand the importance of belonging to an entrepreneurial network.”
San Antonio’s chapter members will lead the 15 sessions for participants in the local Founder Institute program using the FI-developed curriculum and experienced local mentors to teach aspiring founders. Placette will be working with Ramos as the San Antonio chapter is established and matures.
“This is an opportunity to leverage the Founder Institute presence in San Antonio to work across the ecosystem and bridge the silos in our community,” Placette said. “We will be reaching out to experts in various industries so they can mentor the participants and together, we can help grow the entrepreneurial landscape over the long term.”