Silicon Valley entrepreneur training course to expand to Sydney

A Silicon Valley training and networking program for entrepreneurs is to extend to Australia, promising to help nurture start-ups with the aid of mentors from around the world.


The Founder Institute is to open a chapter in Sydney, with a 14-week “semester” of entrepreneurial training set to kick off in February next year.


The concept was originally launched by serial entrepreneur Adeo Ressi in Silicon Valley in 2009, with the program subsequently spreading to more than 30 cities around the world.


More than 400 entrepreneurs have “graduated” from the course, with a network of 600 mentors offering their time to the program.

The Sydney version of the scheme is being headed by Benjamin Chong and Benjamin Ranck, who will pay a percentage of revenues to the US headquarters.


Chong tells StartupSmart that Michael Fox, co-founder of online retailer Shoes of Prey, and Darin Walters, managing director of travel agency Jetabroad, have already been signed up as mentors, with others sought from Australia and overseas.


“We thought this would be a great thing for the Australian start-up space,” he says. “The Founder Institute is about bringing Silicon Valley thinking to the rest of the world.”


“It’s useful for current and potential entrepreneurs who maybe don’t want to spend years doing an MBA. It’s a good opportunity for learning and building peer networks.”


“I’ve spoken to some of the incubators here, like Startmate, and while they are great programs, what we provide is complementary. This is a structured course for people who have maybe not had any business experience before.”


Applicants will be selected following a two-hour “admissions test”, with the 30-strong class required to pay a $1,000 fee.


On top of this, the participants are obliged to pay $4,500 once they graduate and start-up, as well as give up 3.5% of their business to the program directors and fellow alumni.


Chong denies that this fee structure will put off cash-strapped start-ups.


“Giving a share of the business to other entrepreneurs helps build a sense of community and builds world-class connections,” he says.


“We will be flying mentors out from the US, so that cost obviously needs to be met. The benefits definitely outweigh the costs.”


The Founder Institute will be holding two events prior to opening up applications in January.


The first will be taking place tomorrow, October 19, in Sydney. For more information, click here.


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