Home Thinking Aloud TheFunded.com Launches New-Breed Incubator, Founder Institute

TheFunded.com Launches New-Breed Incubator, Founder Institute

TheFunded.com's Founder Institute early-stage incubator model can work in Singapore.
TheFunded.com's Founder Institute early-stage incubator model can work in Singapore.

I’ve often argued that one of the reasons why the startup community in Singapore is spluttering is because of the fact that we don’t have a good platform where successful and experienced entrepreneurs can help guide our newbie startups.

There simply isn’t any incentive other than the feel-good factor for veterans to contribute back to the startup gene pool, after all. Or is there? Perhaps we can learn from TheFunded.com‘s latest initiative.

U.S-based online community of entrepreneurs and founders, TheFunded.com, has started The Founder Institute, a seed-stage incubator and mentoring program that will teach new and seasoned entrepreneurs on best practices for starting and building next-generation high-tech companies. Every semester, The Founder Institute will recruit 25 renown startup CEOs to mentor program participants and drive its curriculum. For example, its first four-month semester has a list of mentors that include Mahalo‘s Jason Calacanis, Trip Adler of Scribd, Scott Heiferman of Meetup, and Adify‘s Russ Fradin.

But the most interesting part of the The Founder Institute‘s program is its unique economic model, where all the participants of the program is able to share in the equity upside of the entire semester. What does that mean? In short if one company in the program does well, all the companies – including the mentors – will stand to benefit. It’s a great way to spread overall risk. The program also has in-built provisions to protect participating founders, such as a “Class F” common stock and clauses that penalizes a company if its board of directors ever decides to kick out the founder some time down the road.

I’ll stick my head out and argue that this model has the potential to be far more successful than any of the current incubator programs being run in Singapore right now, including MDA’s existing iJAM Microfunding scheme. Instead of he current dubious directive of tapping on “expertise” of recommended venture capitalists and other advisors, at least a The Founder Institute-like program gives startups access to real and seasoned entrepreneurs instead. Sure, Singapore’s entrepreneurial pool won’t be able to provide 25 successful mentors each semester, but that is not an insurmountable problem.

The Founder Institute‘s inaugural Summer 2009 semester will be held in Silicon Valley, and participating founders can access the sessions online as well. The application deadline is May 10th, 2009, so do sign up if you’re interested. Alternatively, if you’re an experienced startup CEO you can sign up to be a mentor here.


  1. Great post. I’d even go as far and argue that mentoring new entrepreneurs starts at school.

    Secondary schools and JCs across Southeast Asia are still mostly geared towards helping students get into college and preconditioned to find jobs in established careers. I’m not saying we should get rid of math and science, but a classroom experience where teachers regularly invite start-up CEOs to guide , provoke, challenge and inspire (which is quite common here at Harvard Business School and an everyday experience I look forward to) completely changes how students think about career paths.

  2. thanks dan for the write up. interesting coincidence, contact me for the reason why.

    as for mda ijam, i do agree with dan’s take on it. it is a little too far in terms of quality of the local mentors, with due respect to all the mentors as well as nicholas who has commented.

    my analogy has always been, go where the best is if not you will never know how far you can go, if you want to improve your craft as an actor, go HK or Beijing or Los Angeles where the best are. in the digital media world, although there are pockets of innovation that are unlike each other if you compare by continents but the majority of the innovation still resides in the Valley. if no mentor/adviser from iJAM has current SV experience (I am not saying 10 years ago experience), how much can you value add as compared with those who do?

    again, it is not hard to improve the ijam program.

    keep your ears and eyes tuned, i will be announcing a few things shortly with regards to this.

  3. That is the model Azione Capital has and is still based on since 2006, just with a slightly different approach.

    The mentors (and co-investors) in our case are our Senior Associates and Directors who are actual serial entrepreneurs from Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei; no non-practitioners are within the core team, although we receive valuable insights and feedback from former practioners turned academics in our advisory team.

    Most of our Associates are also involved directly with an Azione Capital portfolio startup of their choice, of which a few of the Associates have been successfully running their own startups for at least a year.

    The Azione Capital shareholders are our operational team, our investors and our startups (in the form of cross startup ownership), thus incentivizing everyone to work together for the greater good.

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