The Founder Institute graduates 16, thanks to a leg-up from Colorado mentors

Carlin Sack

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After 16 weeks of intensive courses, 16 founders and their 16 digital companies graduated from the Founder Institute Tuesday night at SendGrid - and are now set free to try their hands in the startup world.

These 16 internet companies, all with a minimum viable product, have a pretty good chance at survival going from the Founder Institute’s track record: over the course of four years, it has graduated over 1,100 founders and over 1,000 companies, 90 percent of which are still operating.

But it’s more than the statistics that are leaning in Founder Institute graduates’ favors, it’s the fact that they’ve had some amazing Colorado mentors backing them up for the past few months such as: Dan Daugherty of rentBits, Michael Clark of Photobucket, Jim Franklin of SendGrid, Max Miller of Sympoz and Anke Corbin of MapQuest.

“The most valuable aspect of the entire program was the opportunity to interact with the mentors, to be able to get genuine feedback and insight from people who I truly believe care about the success, not only of the company we're building, but of us as entrepreneurs and innovators,” this semester’s class president Ryan Smith said.

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Although Founder Institute’s curriculum wasn’t a fit for all teams all the time and could be a little intense at times (like when Josh Mollohan, founder and CEO of fitness app My FitOption, gave his initial Founder Institute pitch two hours before welcoming his newborn baby), it was the supportive and collaborative Colorado startup culture provided by the mentors that ultimately pulled through for the participants.

“The culture of Denver is definitely not that of Silicon Valley,” Smith, who founded scheduling platform LetsMeetAtJoes during the 16 weeks, said. It’s Colorado’s charming culture that kept the program lively throughout courses on fundraising, product development, hiring and revenues.

Chris Snook [of Launch Haus] should get an award for delivering the most energetic sessions, sharing his success stories and, more importantly, his failures too,” Aleksey Dmitriyev, founder of wholesale analytics tool SharpGauge, said. “I never felt bored.”

Even for participants like Michael Catlin, co-founder of sales and distribution system The Engine, who came into Founder Institute in July with six months of work on his idea, Founder Institute’s mentors helped his team sharpen it to the tee.

“We were looking to be challenged on our assumptions, to be polished and honed,” Catlin said. “The process did not always fit where we were in our process, but it completely supported what it was we wanted to accomplish by being in the program.  We've come out with a highly developed idea, a great team, the direction forward and an initial raise.”

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