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.