What We Learned Selecting the FounderFuel 2017 Cohort

We kicked off our 10th FounderFuel cohort two weeks ago. We’ll be formally announcing this year’s companies very soon, but before we do so, we wanted to share a quick recap on our recruiting stats, along with some insights from the recruiting process.

Recruiting Stats

Here are some stats from this year’s recruitment period:

  • 8 weeks of recruitment
  • 190 completed applications
  • 90 first round interviews
  • 45 second round interviews
  • 25 pitches
  • 8 teams in the cohort (4.5% acceptance rate)

To understand these metrics, it’s important to know that we cast our net wide at the first interview, especially for teams based in Montreal. Interviewing teams that may be a long shot for the program allows us to build relationships for the future while giving back to the ecosystem through direct engagement and honest feedback.

We also found it interesting that of the 8 teams that joined the cohort, we had developed a relationship with most of them before the recruiting period began. In some cases we had been tracking the companies for more than a year! This pattern is consistent with past years, and we think it reflects something crucial about the nature of accelerator recruiting and venture capital in general – while some deals move quickly, in many cases relationships between companies and investors take time to mature.    

Recruiting Insights

As we reflected on this year’s recruitment period, a few points stood out to us:

1 – Canadian startup ecosystems are thriving – Accelerators harvest early stage startups from within the ecosystems in which they operate. The stronger the ecosystems, the stronger the accelerator cohort. Looking at this year’s applicants, we were blown away by their collective maturity, ambition and traction. Of the many factors at play in improving the quality of early stage Canadian startups, we think its especially worth noting the impact of other incubators and accelerators such as District 3, Centech, Innocité, Creative Disruption Lab, Next Canada, Ryerson DMZ, Accelerateur Banque Nationale, Founder Institute, McGill X-1, Le Camp, and many, many others in helping startups raise their game.   

2 – Good or bad, someone else has your idea – It was remarkable to see so many applicants working on very similar concepts. This was true for ideas that we’re less excited about and ones that we think could be the next big thing. Indeed, after reading almost 200 FounderFuel applications, it’s impossible to avoid the impression that rather than entrepreneurs “thinking up” ideas, the process of venture creation is much more about society getting to a place where a certain idea would be relevant, and then many teams competing to manifest that idea into a viable business.  

3 – Due diligence pays off, even in programmatic investing – Given the number of applicants and our approach to interviewing, the FounderFuel investment process is designed to move quickly. As a result, it can be hard to squeeze in due diligence that goes beyond the interview and pitch cycle. In cases where we did manage to do so, however, it paid off for us, as we were able to use follow-up calls, often with other team members, to better understand whether a company was a good fit for the program.  

4 – Rejections are hard but crucial – We try to give a clearly stated rejection reason for every company that interviews with. Our goal in doing so is to close the loop in a thoughtful way while leaving the door open for future collaboration. Doing rejections in this way is time consuming and sometimes it’s hard to give feedback that is both honest and genuinely valuable. But in almost every case, our efforts were warmly received. Even in cases where the feedback was taken less positively, it was a great chance for us to learn more about how an entrepreneur sees the world.

In Conclusion

We’re incredibly excited about the 8 teams that have joined FounderFuel 2017. But in reflecting upon the recruitment process, it strikes us just how many amazing teams came through our doors that didn’t make it into the program for one reason or another. When there are so many great companies in an accelerator pipeline that you could fill another full cohort with the teams that you passed on, it’s a sure sign of great things to come for everyone working in our ecosystem.   

Isaac Souweine
isaac@founderfuel.com
2 Comments
  • Emma Harris
    Posted at 14:51h, 04 May Reply

    Where are your stats on diversity? The current cohort appears very demographically similar – I only see two women out of 20 participants.

    • Isaac Souweine
      Posted at 21:54h, 04 May Reply

      Thanks for your question, Emma. Our gender diversity stats for this cohort’s recruitment were disappointing, though not surprising. Out of our final 30 teams, 17% had one woman co-founder, w/ 10% having a woman CEO. We saw a similar ratio in our final group, with one woman CEO (12.5% of the group). The same trend holds true further up the pipeline, and in past cohorts. We were happy to do quite well this time around on ethnic diversity, but on gender there is much work ahead of us, as there is for our ecosystem more broadly.

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