FounderFuel applications are now open and we could not be more excited!
We know, we say it every year 🙂
But after 12 cohorts, 95 companies, 3 GMs, 5 program managers, 7,500 mentor matches, and 10,000+ Demo Day tickets, FounderFuel really does feel more vital than ever.
As we look toward our 13th cohort, here are some things that keep us coming back for more.
The power of community: Over three short months, hundreds of talented, connected, and extremely busy startup practitioners will engage seriously with our next cohort — mentoring, giving talks, listening to pitches, making intros. They do it to build bonds, to pay it forward, to create momentum for the larger community. They do it because #givefirst is real, and it’s the thing we love most about investing at this stage.
Overachievers: 13 weeks is a short time period! The best companies make the most of it — wowing mentors, hitting their numbers, nailing their pitches and driving their fundraising process with confidence. There is no greater pleasure than to see founders max out the value of this unique platform and then to write a follow-on check out of our venture fund to cap it off.
Crafting the story: Founderfuel is known for its focus on storytelling as a lever for company building. We’ve thought a lot about how to convince investors to care, believe and join. And after 95 pitches we’ve got some ideas about how to move the crowd. Occasionally smooth, often gut-wrenching and always deeply gratifying, working with founders to unlock their story for Demo Day and beyond remains one of our great honours.
The alchemy of impact: FounderFuel at its best can be magical. For 13 weeks, on the 3rd floor of Notman House, a temporary community forms fueled by high expectations, intense execution and mutual support. The mixture isn’t equally transformative for every company, but for many it makes all the difference, shaping founder mindset and company DNA in a way that sets the stage for everything that follows.
Pushing the boundaries: Since Real launched FounderFuel in 2011, we have used the program as a lab to explore and improve on our approach to supporting early-stage startups. Much of what we now apply with our seed companies on strategy, go to market, founder narrative and fundraising was first developed in the accelerator! Our investment and operations teams remain deeply engaged with FounderFuel and we continue to view it as a primary means to push the boundaries of how we think and work.
Venture success: Each year we invest ~$1M CAD into FounderFuel companies, not including follow on. While it’s a small percentage of total capital deployed yearly by Real, delivering strong returns on these investments is material to our success and key to aligning with founders who want to build large companies. Happily, thus far it’s working! Given VC time tables, most of our portfolio value remains on paper, but with market leading companies like Sonder, Transit, Mejuri, Bus.com, Benchsci, Unsplash, XpertSea, Login Radius, Opencare, Ready Education and Gradeslam along with strong momentum for our more recent cohorts, we remain bullish on acceleration as an investment strategy.
So yes, we really are excited!
If you’re an early stage founder who feels the same you can apply here until January 26th at midnight. Early applications are encouraged. For more info on program dates and eligibility, check out our FAQ.
FounderFuel invests across all sectors – if you are using technology to transform a large market, we want to meet you. That said, a few themes are top of mind for this year’s cohort:
Diversity: In 2019, we grew our pipeline of women-founded companies to 40% for both finalists and cohort participants. We would love to do even better this year on all diversity measures. It won’t happen without help. Please send us referrals. If you’re from an underrepresented group please reach out, we want to hear from you.
Conscious Leadership: This year, we are adding a new programming track for leadership development, founder mindset and company culture. Our goal is to prepare founders for the emotional rigours and intense leadership growth curve of the venture path. We are keen to work with founders who are interested in developing in these areas.
From idea stage to seed stage: Timing is important in acceleration as in life, but as the cohorts stack up, we’ve come to realize how many different scenarios can work. We’ve witnessed companies formed a few months before the program become the star of their cohort, and we’ve seen companies raising strong seed rounds use FounderFuel to push further, faster. The definition of early-stage is broad. We’d love to chat with anyone in that spectrum.
We look forward to receiving your application!
Isaac and the FounderFuel team