Introducing the FounderFuel 2017 Cohort

Photo credits to Carl Atiyeh

12 weeks ago, we launched the recruiting process for our FounderFuel 2017 cohort. After reviewing almost 200 applications, we narrowed down the field to 8 companies. Now that they’ve settled in, we’re excited to formally present them to the world.

Introducing our 2017 Cohort

  • Brisk Synergies – Using computer vision to transform traffic video into safer roads
  • Instamek – On demand mechanics that service your car at home or work
  • Lexop – A digital platform for proving receipt of important business documents
  • Nectar – Sensors and software to help beekeepers look after their hives
  • My Intelligent Machines – Platform as a service helping biologists analyze genomic data
  • Porpoise – App that make corporate social responsibility measurable and engaging
  • Stay 22 – Making it easy for event-goers to find a place to sleep
  • Vish Color – Smart, intuitive technology to help hair salons manage their color business

Every startup has its own strengths, but all of these companies displayed a few common traits that we prioritize as selection criteria:

  • Strong founding team that we believe in
  • Appropriately large market that we grasp
  • Compelling long term vision for the company
  • Benchmarked well against other teams in terms of momentum

Our evolving role as an accelerator

In addition to sharing some common traits, we think the cohort as a whole reveals a few trends about the role that FounderFuel plays in the broader startup ecosystem:

1 – Discovery to Validation  – When we launched 6 years ago, the majority of FounderFuel companies were working on what we call “discovery”, i.e. they were trying to figure out what problem they were solving and how they should solve it. In this year’s cohort, the majority of companies have moved past discovery to “validation”, i.e. they are working to prove that the product that they have built can create value for their users. As ecosystem builders, we are gratified to see the work of so many actors starting to bear real fruit in terms of startup quality and maturity. As investors, we are naturally pleased to be able to invest in companies that have proven a few more of their key hypotheses.

2 – Startup 101 to Startup 102 – The increased maturity of this year’s cohort is reflected in their general awareness of startup best practices. From term sheets to product roadmaps, most of our founders have been exposed to the basics and are looking to go deeper. We find ourselves iterating on our own content in response, reducing programming in general so teams have more time to focus on hitting their metric and shifting some talks to group mentoring sessions to allow participants to spend more time discussing actual problems they are facing.

3 –  First Check to First Institutional Check – Along with more traction and awareness, many of our startups in this cohort are also bringing more money. This pattern is mixed, but the trend is noticeable. Whereas once FounderFuel was the first investor of any sort into a company, now we are often the first institutional investor, following-on from angels, friends and family, non-VC investing groups and the many forms of non-dilutive funding available to Canadian startups. While our investments are still material, the existence of other funds orients our program more towards optimizing our companies’ next round of financing. This is a trend we have seen in US accelerators for a few cycles which we are happy to see arrive in Canada.

Raising the bar

That the ecosystem is producing better startups, allowing us to raise the bar for our cohort, is undoubtedly good news. But as we begin to angle toward Demo Day, we are reminded that the bar is being raised all the way down the line. More and better startups at the accelerator stage means more and better startups for seed investors to choose from. So even as our role in the ecosystem evolves, we remain focused on the same task as always, helping our startups level up at warp speed to attract support for the next stage in their journey.

Isaac Souweine
isaac@founderfuel.com
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