The world’s largest pre-seed startup accelerator has moved all of this year’s programs online in an effort to keep founders safe amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Founder Institute, the Silicon Valley-based accelerator which operates chapters in over 185 cities across more than 60 countries made the decision in May, and is reassuring founders that despite the new virtual setting, “the program quality is not changing.”
In a press release, the accelerator said it has already opened up applications to over 70 chapters (the most at one time in its 11+ year history), and that interest in the program is spiking.
“Our application volume is as high as it has ever been, because times like these are when smart entrepreneurs build the future,” said Adeo Ressi, CEO of the Founder Institute.
“Making our 2020 programs online not only makes the program safer, it also allows us to help entrepreneurs in new regions where we’ve never had a physical presence. No matter where you are located, you can now find an FI program that works for you” said Mr. Ressi.
A virtual setting will also open up access to startups in far flung parts of the world who in a normal cohort would have to travel to the nearest city with a Founder Institute chapter for the in-person program. What’s more, FI is offering founders in its virtual 2020 cohorts even more opportunities for collaboration, relationship building, and feedback because, according to the organizers, the virtual setting allows for:
- More office hours with local and international mentors
- A weekly Ask Me Anything (AMA) conference call with FI leadership in the Silicon Valley headquarters
- A fast track to their Post-Programs (“Founder Lab”), where entrepreneurs can work closely with FI’s Silicon Valley HQ virtually to reach advanced milestones like raising a seed round of funding.
For people hesitant to start a business in an economic crisis, the accelerator is asking folks to consider history.
“This is the best time in history to build a digital business,” said Jonathan Greechan, Co-Founder of the Founder Institute.”
Added the entrepreneur, “When customer needs change quickly, as they are now, entrepreneurs are uniquely equipped to move fast and build new solutions while the big companies reorganize and narrow their focus. This is why many of the companies that defined the last decade in startups, such as Airbnb, Uber, Cloudflare, Udemy, Square, and Venmo, were formed during the last economic downturn. The companies being formed and getting their initial traction now will be the ones that define the 2020s in tech.”
Other notable accelerators like 500 Startups and Y Combinator have also made changes during the COVID-19 outbreak that affect participation, with the former moving to a rolling admissions structure and the latter moving to a virtual format as well.
Any aspiring entrepreneur or team interested in building a business and would like more information about the Founder Institute’s program can visit http://fi.co/enrolling, or attend a free online startup event at OnlineStartupEvents.com.
This article features a client of an Espacio portfolio company.