With a presence in over 80 countries and over 3,500 companies launched, Founder Institute, the US-based pre-seed startup accelerator is targeting Luxembourg as a European stepping stone. We met with Ivo and Anna Radulovski, the two local directors in charge of building Founder Institute in Luxembourg. Any interested person can apply to the Luxembourg Founder Institute online. Applicants submitting their dossier by the early application deadline of December 27th 2018 are eligible for a variety of scholarships, including the Female Founder Fellowship, which is offered to the best overall female applicant.
by: Marion Finzi
photo: Founder Institute
featured: Ivo and Anna Radulovski
Silicon Valley’s mindset at a glance
Founder Institute planted its roots 9 years ago on the shoulders of a passionate entrepreneur who believes that people make success. With this in mind, Founder Institute has been created to find talented people around the world and spread Silicon Valley as a mindset.
“At Founder Institute, we focus on founders—on what they really are. To create a successful startup, having the right idea is not sufficient if you are not the right person to become a founder. That is the aim of the Founder Institute’s program: to build the right people, and then help them structure and validate their ideas,” explained Anna Radulovski. Therefore, Founder Institute does not look for companies that are already incorporated, instead focusing on the people willing to start a company and to learn how to avoid mistakes with the help of carefully selected mentors. Founder Institute is strongly implemented worldwide. “Becoming a Founder Institute’s graduate gives you access to an incredibly wide network,” said Ivo.
“Each mentor, local chapter, participant and the Founder Institute itself will receive back equally on their investment. This create interests for everyone involved to make it successful!”
The Founder Institute in practice
Founder Institute offers a very rigorous and demanding four-month program. “Participants in the program can have a job on the side, but this will not be easy. Potential founders are quickly made aware of the difficulties, but they need to be prepared for much more stress once they enter the real life of an entrepreneur!” declared Anna. “People that are not fully committed to the program will most certainly quit, and this is in their best interest, as well as ours, as we work towards success,” continued Anna.
To ensure full commitment, potential founders need to take a “Predictive Admissions Assessment,” i.e. a one-hour aptitude and personality test, and they must reach a certain percentage to be accepted into the program. “With this test, we ensure that the person has what it takes to finish the program and most importantly, to become a successful founder. On average the test has an 86% accuracy rate in predicting somebody’s potential,” explained Ivo Radulovski.
The local directors are targeting a maximum of 25 founders per program, with two programs proposed per year. “The Founder Institute’s program can continue beyond the 4 months as we follow the path of our graduates. For instance, the best companies are offered a “select program” in which they get to meet with world-leading VCs around the globe,” detailed Anna.
The program is not free—it costs around 800 euros. “At Founder Institute we believe that participation fees help commitment. Truly, you do not get anything for free!” said Anna.
An interesting side of the Founder Institute way of thinking is its “Equity Collective” system in which graduates share equity in the companies formed from each program cohort. Each graduate contributes 4% of their company equity in warrants to a fifteen-year Bonus Pool with other participants. “Each mentor, local chapter, participant and the Founder Institute itself will receive back equally on their investment. This create interests for everyone involved to make it successful!” underlined Anna.
“Luxembourg is the perfect place to implement Founder Institute. Each mentor has been approached for their skills and ability to talk about specific topics of interest for our participants.”
Luxembourg at its best
Ivo and Anna, the two “chapter leaders” of Founder Institute Luxembourg, took their positions for one main reason: because they truly believe in it. “We ran various companies in the past, with good and bad experiences. Looking back at the failures we had, we realized that it was not because of bad ideas. On the contrary, the ideas were good, but we failed because of the people. That is why, through Founder Institute, we want to help building the right people, allowing them to develop their ideas,” explained the local directors.
The very capable Ivo and Anna are currently reaching out to potential founders and just published the list of mentors* to participate in the program. “Luxembourg is the perfect place to implement Founder Institute,” said Ivo. They already gathered 15 mentors, including CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders, to teach in the Luxembourg program. “Each mentor has been approached for their skills and ability to talk about specific topics of interest for our participants.”
Ivo and Anna are also discussing with Luxembourgish incubators to put in place a “win-win” situation. “Working with incubators will mean that we send them graduates, fully prepared to launch their startup. And they can send us future founders that are not yet prepared to build up their startups,” said Ivo.
Before launching the first program, a “Pre-Program” will begin in October with the goal of building awareness and outreach out to the local community. “We are working on various workshops, open to all, that are chosen appropriately in order to be a good fit for the Luxembourgish community!” indicated Anna.
With this new program, Founder Institute intends to play an active role in building up the local ecosystem. “At the end of the program, our graduates will build their company in Luxembourg, therefore reinforcing the local ecosystem!” concluded Anna.