Frequently Asked Questions

GENERAL
What is FounderFuel?

FounderFuel is a mentor-driven accelerator that helps early-stage startups make meaningful progress on the venture path. Backed by Real Ventures, Canada’s most active seed-stage tech venture capital firm, FounderFuel has invested in 89 companies since 2011. Our 3-month intensive program is supported by a network of seasoned startup founders, investors, and executives along with the entire Real Ventures team. The program culminates with Canada’s largest Demo Day.

Who runs FounderFuel?

FounderFuel is run by a general manager who oversees the program and works closely with each team, and a program manager who is responsible for day to day operations. For more on our current team, click here. The program is supported by the Real Ventures operations team (finance, legal, comms, etc.). In addition, all Real Ventures investment partners are actively involved as mentors and speakers. Outside of the core team, FounderFuel is supported by a network of more than 100 mentors and a sponsor group consisting of leading firms from the innovation ecosystem.

What are some successful companies that completed FounderFuel?

Ten FounderFuel portfolio companies have raised Series A or later rounds: Sonder, Transit, Unsplash, Mejuri, Benchsci, LoginRadius, XpertSea, Bus.com, Oohlala, and Opencare. Another 20+ companies have raised seed rounds or have reached profitability, and 10 or so companies have had small exits. All of the portfolio companies together have raised over $325M in financing.  

Why should we join FounderFuel?

The number one reason to join FounderFuel is to solidify your company’s financing path. From kickoff to Demo Day, the program is designed to help you shape a compelling narrative, strategy and action plan that can unlock venture funding. FounderFuel is also designed to have a major positive impact on a company’s culture, support network and the speed and quality of execution.

PROGRAM
What are the main components of the FounderFuel program?

FounderFuel’s program is built around a few major pillars:

  • Mentor matching – During the first weeks of the program, each company speed-dates with more than 80 mentors. Based on these meetings, the company assembles a small group of mentors with whom they work closely during the program.
  • Weekly check-ins – At the start of the program, each company crafts goals (OKRs). Once the goals are set, the companies meet weekly with the GM to track progress and address key issues.  
  • Expert talks – For each cohort, FounderFuel assembles a group of experts to speak about key domain areas (sales, marketing, financing, etc.) and a group of successful founders to share their stories.  
  • Pitch prep and Demo Day – Beginning about mid-way through the program, all companies work weekly, with the GM and the Real Ventures team, to craft compelling narratives for their Demo Day pitch.
How big a time commitment is the program?

FounderFuel is an intensive program that is also expressly designed to allow companies to continue executing effectively. The most intensive parts of the program are during the first 3 weeks (for mentor matching) and the last 3 weeks (for pitch prep and Demo Day). During these periods, co-founders can expect to spend 15-20 hours a week on FounderFuel-related activities. During the middle 7 weeks of the program, the time commitment is around 5-10 hours a week for talks, check-ins, and social events. The FounderFuel program is most intensive for the co-founder (usually the CEO) who will be pitching the business on Demo Day.

What are the exact dates of the program?

The next FounderFuel cohort starts on Monday, April 15, 2019, and runs for 13 weeks. Demo Day is on July 9, 2019.

Where does FounderFuel take place?

FounderFuel is hosted at Notman House, in the center of downtown Montreal.

Does FounderFuel provide office space?

Yes, during the program Notman House rents out dedicated workspaces to all companies. Companies can choose to extend their stay at Notman after the program ends.

REQUIREMENTS
What are the requirements to be accepted into FounderFuel?

In general, we look for teams that meet the following requirements:

  • A founding team of at least two people
  • At least one technical co-founder
  • All key members committed full-time
  • Founders need to be based in Montreal for the duration of the program

For the record, it is possible to be accepted without meeting all of these requirements, but your chances are far better if you fit the above profile.

What are the main selection criteria for admission?

While many factors come into play, we’re especially focused on a few key aspects:

  • Team – Do we think the founders can build a massive company?
  • Market – Is the company attacking a venture-scale opportunity?
  • Product – Can the product deliver 10x value vs. other options?
  • Stage – Is the company at the right stage to benefit from FounderFuel?
Why don’t you encourage single founder applications?

In our experience, startups have a much higher chance of success if there are at least two co-founders involved in the business. Co-founders not only share the enormous workload associated with startups, but they also help each other through emotional challenges. The intense environment created by an accelerator makes it even more desirable to have a co-founder. While we have accepted single founders before, co-founding teams are strongly preferred.  

Are you interested in any particular technologies?

FounderFuel works with companies across all sectors that are using technology and business-model innovation to create value in large markets. While we view technology-powered innovation broadly, we focus primarily on companies that have software and data as part of their core technology. We are especially interested in companies leveraging artificial intelligence to drive innovation. This is driven by Real Ventures’ investment thesis and the strength of Canada’s AI ecosystems.

Do you invest in hardware companies?

Yes, we do. Some examples include Mosaic Manufacturing, XpertSea, Vanhawks, Nectar, and YPC. When we do invest in hardware we prefer that the technology also has a software or data component.   

How do I know if the program would be right for my company?

FounderFuel works best for companies that have:

  • A functioning product or prototype
  • Some sort of early user base
  • Have not raised a full seed round ($1M+)
  • Are looking to raise financing in the next 6 months

Companies that fit the above description are best positioned to maximize the value of the program.

We've been working on our company for years. Is the program still a fit?

Quite possibly. We do not consider the amount of time you’ve been working on the company as a key factor. What matters most is whether the company is at a point of time today where our accelerator can be impactful.

We've already raised funding. Is the program still a fit?

If your company has raised financing via friends and family, angel investors or micro VCs then the program could still be an excellent fit. Many of our most successful companies had already raised before joining the program. If your company has raised a full institutional seed round, then it is less likely to be a fit.

Do we need to be in Montreal for the entire program?

Yes, founders are expected to be present in Montreal for the duration of the program. Physical presence is essential so that founders can interact directly with the mentors and speakers as well as the FounderFuel and Real Ventures team.

“Je ne parle pas français”. Is that a problem?

Speaking French is not a requirement for the program, as all sessions are held in English. Outside of the program, Montreal’s startup ecosystem, and the city in general are both easy to navigate with little or no French.

INVESTMENT
How much does FounderFuel invest?

FounderFuel invests $120K CAD into each company that participates in the program. This investment is split into two parts. $20K is invested for 5% of the company’s common shares. $100K is invested in a SAFE with a $3.5M cap and 20% discount. In cases where a company has already raised funds at a higher price or cap, FounderFuel will adjust the terms of the $100K investment to match those terms.

Are the investment terms negotiable?

The terms of the equity investment are not negotiable. The terms of the SAFE may be adjusted in cases where a company has already raised funds at different terms.

What else do FounderFuel participants get besides money?

FounderFuel’s non-cash benefits represent a significant portion of the overall value provided by the program. Key benefits include:

  • Mentorship – Direct access to one of the premier startup networks in Canada, with over 100 active mentors.
  • Coaching and support – Intensive weekly support from the FounderFuel and Real Ventures team.
  • Investor exposure – Intros and engagement with our extensive investor network, culminating with Canada’s largest Demo Day.
  • Fundraising prep – Deep and focused work on the company’s narrative, fundraising strategy, and fundraising materials.
  • Workspace – Office space at Notman House for the duration of the program.
  • Training – Talks from top founders and practitioners.
APPLICATION
When do applications open?

Applications for FounderFuel’s 2019 cohort opened during the second week of January. You can apply here.

When do applications close?

Applications will close on February 10th. Completing your application before this date is recommended as we begin interviewing companies while applications are still open. Early applications generally receive more attention and offer you a greater number of options for interview times.

When are final offers given?

Offers will be made by March 15.

MISCELLANEOUS
Are you hiring?

All open positions at Real Ventures are listed on our careers page. If you’re interested in working for our one our portfolio companies, please check out our job board. If you’d like to stay up-to-date about Real’s activities in general, please check out our blog, Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter pages.