This article was published on April 19, 2012

Founder Institute: Calling all women entrepreneurs

Founder Institute: Calling all women entrepreneurs
Tara Roberts
Story by

Tara Roberts

Tara Roberts co-founded girltank (, a social enterprise designed to connect and support young women social entrepreneurs a Tara Roberts co-founded girltank (, a social enterprise designed to connect and support young women social entrepreneurs and innovators from around the world. Presently, she resides in Santiago, Chile, where she is a participant in Start-Up Chile, and she writes columns about women, innovation and entrepreneurship in Latin America. @idealisticnomad

Recently, Pablo Ambram said he wanted me to apply to the Founder Institute (FI) in Chile, one of the 9 Latin American Accelerator Programs you should know about. Actually, it’s not that personal, Pablo, the Co-Director of FI’s Chile Chapter, wants all women startup entrepreneurs to apply to Founder Institutes everywhere.

With locations in 22 cities worldwide, the organization offers a crash course in entrepreneurship for founders of startup tech companies. With prominent CEOs and venture capitalists as mentors, participants work through a four-month, intensive course with weekly classes, events and homework to help them think through every aspect of their businesses. Participating in the semester, some say, is akin to getting your MBA at a fraction of the cost for a quarter of the time with the help actual business professionals who have already been successful at what you’re trying to do.

And right now, application season is open globally in 15 countries from Israel to Colombia to Jakarta to Chile.

Is it worth it?

FI counts a number of success stories with close to 40% of its graduated companies receiving funding. Getable, formerly Rent Cycle, for instance, a company that helps consumers find and reserve almost anything rentable, raised $1.4 million. Udemy, a platform that helps you build and take online courses, raised a $1 million seed round just after graduation and recently raised a $3 million Series A round. And Retailigence, which connects shoppers who have mobile phones with nearby retailers, raised $2.6 million. And with over 700 mentors worldwide and about 300+ graduates, graduates can access mentors, other graduates and visit classrooms around the world.

Unfortunately, the track record for women applicants and graduates is dismal. Of all the companies launched by graduates in the three years the Institute has been in operation, only 21% are female-founded. In Chile, no women graduated from its inaugural semester last year, a situation commonly reflected across many of the chapters worldwide. Founder Adeo Ressi (pictured below) acknowledges this as a failing that the Institute is seriously trying to address. He created the Female Founder Fellowship Program last year, with the goal of doubling the percentage of female founders. The program allowed top women applicants in 10 locations to apply for free.

And on the local level the Institute supports and encourages people like Pablo, who lugs his backpack around Santiago to meeting after meeting to generate interest and encourage women to apply.

Pablo graduated from the FI semester in San Diego and relocated to Santiago, Chile as a part of Start-Up Chile. His company, Agent Piggy, a cloud application that teaches kids how to manage their money, is in the process of closing its first big deal. He says he wouldn’t be where he is today if not for the help of FI. And now he wants to help level the playing field for women.

But Pablo says FI is tough. “It’s like the Army,” he says. “It breaks you down, then builds you back up.”

That means your business idea will likely be stripped down, perhaps even discarded. But, Pablo adds, if you can hang in there and make it to the finish, “you will end with a much stronger and more well-researched idea, an excellent 60-second pitch and access to a powerful network of global business allies who can help turn your idea into a reality.”

The Founder Institute even helps fine-tune the business models of social enterprises that may never generate billions in revenue but will likely have positive social impact on millions of people.

I think I might apply. Will you?

A few details about FI:

  • The semester costs between $550 – $650.
  • Admission is based on an aptitude test.
  • Classes are once a week for 3 ½ hours with about 5 – 10 hours weekly of homework.
  • Mentors and graduates share a 3.5 % pool of equity in each graduate’s business.
  • The Institute only supports technology-based businesses.
  • You can enter with a new idea or a current business that has been in operation for less than two-years and generates less than half a million in revenue.
  • Bonus? Our very own Robin Wauters is a mentor.

➤ Founder Institute

Yuri Arcurs via shutterstock

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.