Early-stage startup accelerator with Silicon Valley roots to launch in SA soon

The Founder Institute (FI) is the latest incubator to hit South Africa. The global network, headquartered in Silicon Valley, focuses on accelerating early-stage startups.

Founded in 2009, the FI has helped more than 650 companies in roughly 50 cities around the world create enduring technology companies — we’ve briefly written about Udemy, an FI alumnus before. The South African chapter, steered by director Keith Jones, is in the process of preparing for its first full length programme, scheduled to commence 28 May 2013 in Johannesburg.

The FI aims to improve the success rates of early-stage startups. With that goal in mind, the incubator offers training, critical objective feedback, and peer support to high-potential entrepreneurs in the early stages of their entrepreneurial journeys. “Ideas generated here in our own back yard are making an impact around the world, particularly in the IT sector,” says Jones. “What we lack is a vehicle to help bridge the gap between concept and going concern. The FI provides just the right level of support and guidance to help potential founders take that leap,”

The FI says that it applies proven methodologies to identify and nurture potential startups. Its 15-week programme is structured to “maximise exposure to critical skills, best business practice, and real-life mentorship that is relevant to the local IT sector.” Justin Spratt, CEO of marketing agency, Quirk, has been confirmed as one of the mentors.

Director for the FI’s South African chapter, Odette Jones, explains why the incubator’s approach to identifying and nurturing raw talent is crucial for successful incubation. “As important as business skills are, successful entrepreneurs have to have that essential ‘X Factor’ to stand out from the crowd. The FI applies a combination of online aptitude and personality tests to all potential applicants, and only those that display optimal results in this testing phase are accepted into the programme where they are nurtured and coached according to the FI formula,” says Jones.

On the back of its formula, the incubator boasts an extremely high success rate. “Of the Founders who graduate, more than 80% will go on to get funding and become successful business owners,” says Jones. “That is our end game – to assist talented individuals with great ideas realise their dream of starting a sustainable business.”

Prospective Founders will have the opportunity to meet the team for a Q&A session at the upcoming launch event. There will be a series of information sessions leading up to the programme’s commencement in May. Applicants are required to complete the registration form and accompanying test. There will also be a second information session at GIBS for those who are unable to attend the launch, 19 March 2013 from 7pm.



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