Want to Graduate? First, Create a Company
CAN you build a technology entrepreneur from scratch in four months flat?
Yes, contends a global training program called the Founder Institute, which was started in 2009. For tuition of less than $1,000, students attend classes with one goal in mind: to create a fully operational company. In fact, they are required to incorporate before they can graduate.
To be accepted, students don’t need to have a fully baked idea, but they must take a test that the institute says can predict their entrepreneurial success. They can keep their day jobs while attending class, but that does not mean the program is easy. The workload is grueling, and 60 percent of the students fail to graduate.
But this for-profit institute, based in Mountain View, Calif., says it has helped start more than 500 companies. It has done so by going global, with chapters in 14 countries, in a total of 27 cities. It aims to make money partly through its equity stakes in the companies created by its graduates.
Boaz Fletcher, 44, a consultant to new companies in Israel, started the Tel Aviv branch this year. “As a country, Israel is amazing at technology, but not great at building sustainable businesses, and that is one of the things the Founder Institute teaches: how to build an enduring, stable company,” he said. The branch’s first class of nine students will graduate in September.
The institute is the brainchild of Adeo Ressi, 40, who has started eight companies of his own. Back in the mid-1990s, he was a co-founder of Total New York, an online regional city guide that was acquired by AOL.
Mr. Ressi saw a need for nurturing entrepreneurs even before the idea stage. He set out to create a vocational school of sorts to teach the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship, setting it apart from highly selective programs that often support start-ups before the venture capital stage. One of the best known of these “accelerators,” TechStars, accepts only 1 percent of applicants.