Enter the Founder Institute, a “pre-seed startup accelerator” that got started in California in 2009. The company now has local branches in 180 cities around the world. Last month the outfit opened a chapter in Luxembourg.
More than 100 people are expected to attend its first “Start Pitch Bootcamp” on Thursday evening. In advance of the event, Delano spoke with FI’s Ivo Radulovski and Anna Radulovski about the aim of their events and why they co-founded the Luxembourg operation.
Aaron Grunwald: What do you want people to get out of the Start Pitch Bootcamp event?
Ivo Radulovski: We want people to learn how to pitch complex concepts in a simple way, how to be more specific and avoid using buzzwords and to showcase some mistakes to be avoided while pitching. We also invited a professional Ted [conference speaker] and startup trainer, Patrick “PJ” Brady, who is going to give a keynote on how to be a memorable speaker, as well as Nessim Medjoub, a young and passionate entrepreneur and growth hacker. Also, some of our experienced programme mentors will participate in providing feedback in one-to-one sessions. In a nutshell, we want people to learn how to pitch their business ideas well and to be remembered. It’s not magic, it’s techniques and tips from experienced founders and mentors.
AG: Do people have to change their personality to do a good pitch? Or is more about finding their existing strengths?
Anna Radulovski: It’s all about finding your strengths. If you don’t have a good sense of humour, it’s better not to joke, especially if you are not sure if people will get it. And on the contrary, if you have a great sense of humour, use it! Mostly it’s about being up to the point. If you cannot explain in one sentence what the problem is you are trying to solve or what your business idea is about, you are probably doing something wrong. Knowing some useful and nifty working techniques and tips can be a turning point for your pitch. We haven’t really seen any founders raising money or winning a competition with a bad pitch. No matter how cool your idea or product is if you cannot explain it or sell it, who is going to get it or buy it?
At the Founder Institute, we believe that certain people are more likely to be successful founders. How do we know that? We ask every applicant to take the “Entrepreneur DNA” test. Nothing to be afraid of. We are not going to take your hair or nails. It’s all about your personality. At the Founder Institute, we believe that great companies start with great founders and if you’ve got what it takes, welcome on board! Dare to try?
Ivo Radulovski. Photo credit: Founder Institute Luxembourg
AG: Any funny pitch stories of your own that you can share?
IR: There are many funny situations in pitches and we’d rather experience them without calling them out. Our main goal is for founders to learn without having the fear of being laughed at or making mistakes.
AG: Why did you, personally, get involved with the Founder Institute?
IR: After launching and exiting several companies, I invested in several startups and launched my own early stage accelerator and investment company. While we had some notable success I saw several companies fail, although they had a good product/market fit. It was the right product at the right time with the wrong people. So we decided to build an acceleration programme which focuses on identifying the right people. We invested approximately six months to create the programme and one day out of the blue, Anna Radulovski, now co-director at Founder Institute Luxembourg, approached me and said: “look, isn’t this exactly what you are working on?”
So it turned out that there is a structured programme which focuses mainly on the founder. We looked it up, had a call with its founder, Adeo Ressi, who is running the Founder Institute out of Silicon Valley. We decided to discontinue our own efforts and join the FI global network of more than 10,000 CEOs, mentors and investors, giving us access to up to 200 cities, top investors from all over the world, including Silicon Valley, while enabling us to identify talented founders with a structured programme and to focus personally on the stage after graduation, investment and growth.
AR: You probably wonder why Luxembourg? While our goal is to build great and profitable companies we wanted to do something for Luxembourg, for the country, for the capital, for its people. This is where the model of the Founder Institute fits perfectly. It helps experts to become founders and to build companies, strengthens the local eco-system and connects it with a global network while sharing equity proceedings with everyone involved in building successful startups.