Founder Institute: From Idea To Startup

Orkun Ozbatur, managing director of Founder Institute Benelux (© Founder Institute)

The Founder Institute supports pre-seed founders in validating their ideas and getting their startup ready for seed-stage. Orkun Özbatur, managing director of the Benelux branch tells us more about the programme. The applications are open until mid-October and Silicon Luxembourg readers have a chance to participate for free.

You recently opened applications for the Benelux 2022 Accelerator of the Founder Institute. Who should apply and what can they expect to learn and apply?

The Founder Institute Core program is for founders at the pre-seed stage; including the idea-stage founders, solo founders, small teams and companies that are at the pre-funding stage. We work with founders before they are ready to do a seed-accelerator (like Techstars) or raise funding from professional investors.

Since different founders have different needs, our programme is split into two tracks with unique milestones and sprints. In Launch Track, earlier stage founders focus on validation of their ideas; building a team or getting co-founders, and establishing their go-to-market strategy. In the Growth Track, later-stage founders focus on product traction, and preparation for investment. Founders also get sprints specifically designed to address their unique business challenges.

The Founder Institute is actually about doing the hard work to establish a sustainable startup while we cover 360 needs and the focus of an early-stage startup in the programme. As an important part of the programme, founders follow a highly structured and sequential process and they deliver weekly assignments driving their idea and startup forward one step at a time; yet quite fast. At the end of the programme, founders launch a registered company with clear steps to grow their business and get further traction.

Recent graduates include Fonny Bunjamin (Vestis Labs) and Matteo Ressa (ChefPassport). What learnings from the Founder Institute have you seen them implement?

During the programme, founders gain a toolkit of learnings, processes and tools. They can benefit and apply those any time even after the programme. I recall Matteo starting his idea from scratch at the beginning of the programme. Following the structure and the assignments, he conducted many interviews and validated the problem. He identified technical options for his product, and in fact, built his early MVP in the programme. After the programme, Matteo also sought advisors and friends and family funding to grow his business during the pandemic. 

Fonny joined the programme with some early progress and validation of the problem. During the programme, she has focused on defining her product requirements, go-to-market strategy and hiring team members/partners to build her product. The programme assignments and the mentorship helped her focus on the right next steps for her business, technical parts of her product and also finding relevant advisors in the relevant areas. She even got early users before the launch of her MVP, and a year after the  Founder Institute programme she also graduated from Fit 4 Start.

Are there any new additions to the accelerator programme?

Initially, we focused on the founders in Luxembourg. Two years ago, we adapted to the pandemic conditions, and we went fully virtual. Going virtual helped us gain more mentors, partners and founder networks in the wider region. In addition to Luxembourg, we’ve had a large number of participants in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe (even from Asia!). 

Recently, we’ve strengthened our leadership team with Mirjana Perkovic joining the team and in the coming semester, we will have more mentors and partners from Brussels. That means further opportunities for our founders as we also start cooperating with new investment networks.

In addition, we always make changes in our programme structure and assignments. We benefit a lot from the global network, insights and learnings from all other countries. The global network helps us to improve and adapt the assignments. The coming semester is starting in November and we expect to have a good number of founders in Luxembourg and Benelux.

“[…] alumni get free and life-long access to our additional ‘Founder Lab’ virtual advisory programs run by our Silicon Valley Headquarters team.”

Orkun Ozbatur, managing director of the benelux branch of Founder Institute

You are considering collaborating with Startup Luxembourg. Any details you can share about this?

Startup Luxembourg is a key partner for any player in the startup ecosystem in Luxembourg. We’re working together to establish strong and clear support mechanisms for all-stage founders and entrepreneurs. We share the best practices, learnings and insights we gain from our global network with Startup Luxembourg. We also share promising startups which go through our programme and the important problems they are solving. This helps founders to have further visibility and support in the ecosystem. Considering that we focus on very early-stage startups, in some cases, this could be the first introduction of the very new start-ups and the founders in Luxembourg. 

What are the benefits of getting a Silicon Luxembourg Fellowship and how can our readers get one?

We are proud to offer one applicant from the Silicon Luxembourg community the Silicon Luxembourg Fellowship to participate in our coming Benelux 2022 program for free (899 USD value for normal application).

Through the Silicon Luxembourg Fellowship, anyone with a pre-seed startup or an idea can apply to the Founder Institute for free below, and one of the applicants who are accepted will receive a fellowship to the Benelux chapter of the global accelerator program.

To apply for the Silicon Luxembourg Fellowship for the Benelux 2022 Founder Institute, aspiring founders or growing startups can simply complete their application via the following link. 

After completing the quick application, they will be invited to take our Predictive Admissions Assessment, which is our main criteria for evaluating applicants. We will review and announce the Silicon Luxembourg Fellowship by mid-October. 

After graduating from the FI what support will the graduates continue to get?

After completing the Founder Institute core programme, alumni get free and life-long access to our additional ‘Founder Lab’ virtual advisory programs run by our Silicon Valley Headquarters team. 

There are multiple programmes, such as Funding Lab, and their goal is to continue providing direction and feedback long after the core programme ends. Another crucial support is that alumni access private networking events, and get feedback from the world’s largest network of mentors and investors; they can attend these events anywhere in the world. 

When the startup is ready, alumni can have their deals syndicated to a diverse pool of investors in the Founder Institute Venture Network, an exclusive network of investors actively funding pre-seed and seed-stage startups before anyone else. And of course, our alumni also continue taking the advantage of over 2M USD in partner discounts, from services like AWS, Google, Stripe, Dell, and more. These are all free and we ensure to provide life-long support to all of our alumni.

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