Last week, I graduated from the Founder Institute in Montreal. After almost 5 months of hard work, from the 63 people that started the program, we’re only 11 persons graduated. Yes, I am a part of this FI Mafia, these passionate and talented individuals that all started this crazy journey of entrepreneurship. A lot of people asked me to share my insights on the program, so I decided to sum up what I‘ve learned in a few points:

1- Passion is really important…

One of the first tests you go through during the FI program is the Idea/Founder fit and I can ensure you that if you’re not passionate about your idea you won’t make it throught the process…On a daily basis, you need to convince everyone that you’re the right person to do it, you pitch your idea to potential customers, to mentors, to investors, even to friends and everyone will challenge you on your idea; without passion, it’s really hard to keep on track… So, whatever is the thing you want to create, if you’re not passionate about it, chances of success are limited… You need to find what you’re passionate about, what is it that you really want to do… this will be your fuel through all your journey….

2- Action is louder than any other word…

Like I said, passion is important, very important but you still have to work hard. Even if you’re passionate about what you’re doing if you don’t get the sh*t done no one will follow you, no one will take you seriously, you will be jeopardizing your credibility. In the beginning of the FI program you learn to pitch your idea, you create your presentation, you learn how to get people understand what you’re doing and then, during the second part, you need to show that you can execute, that you can actually do the work! If you can’t, well, the only thing that you have is wishful thinking!

3- Startups do not fail, founders quit…

We started the FI program with 63 potential companies and we finished the program with 10 incorporated companies. I remember some of the companies that were presented, some of them were really good ideas. However, through the program people dropped out, for different kinds of reasons, some personal, some professional, some because they didn’t believe in their idea anymore… I saw people deciding to drop out, the companies… well, they didn’t live enough to fail…

4- Give to people, you will receive back…

During FI, founders are divided in teams of 4-5 people; In the beginning, we were 15 teams, today we are one big team, one family, one tribe, the FI mafia. Throughout the program, you understand the meaning of one for all and all for one. We were all working on our weekly assignments (we had 21 assignments in the last 4-ish months) by ourselves or with our co-founders and we were all helping each other. I personally had to travel several times and I can ensure you that without the other founders I wouldn’t have been able to keep up with the program! Just for you to know, the assignments are about the idea, the vision, customer development, go to market strategy, customer acquisition, … everything that you need to run your startup…

I don’t know if it’s relevant or not, but I noticed that all the people that were more “solo” didn’t finish the program…

5- Trust is a key to a good co-founder relationships…

My co-founder joined me in the first weeks of the FI program and I don’t think I would have graduated without him. However, it wasn’t easy all the time, I had to learn to trust him. We had super tight deadlines and if we didn’t divide the work and didn’t trust each other we wouldn’t have been able to make it to the end. I think that launching a startup as a Solo founder is very hard but doing it with the wrong person/team is worse and if you aren’t comfortable sharing everything (which is all right) with someone don’t call that person your co-founder…

6- No one cares about your idea, it’s just an idea…

During the program you pitch every week in front of mentors that have to rate you from one to five but no threes allowed (1, 2, 4 or 5) and every mentor gives you feedback which are candid but sometime super brutal. During my fist pitch, my whole body was shaking! It got better eventually, but I am still afraid of pitching my startup, the difference now is that I learned that it is better to talk about your idea and get feedback that will make it better than keep it to yourself because you’re afraid someone “might” steal it or for any other reason.

7- Founder Institute is hard, … Building a company is harder!

Finally, the Founder Institute is a great program, that is very well structured, you learn in a few months what you would “eventually” learn in years by yourself. However, it’s a hard program, you can forget about your family, your friends, your nights out and even your weekends. You need to deliver every week and move forward when mentors or peers give you brutal feedback on what you’re doing. If you have an idea and don’t know where to start or if it’s really what you want to do, the Founder Institute will definitely help you get some answers.

However, today, for my team and I, the Founder Institute is over, we have graduated now; first emotion: Joy, it’s been a long journey to get here, second emotion “sh**t” what should we do now!? Yes, the incubation program is over but my team and I have a company, Bridgr, to run and this is much harder than any program we will go through!

Hopefully, what we learned will help us through the process. I will let you know 😉

Amira Boutouchent

About Amira Boutouchent

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