Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Founders Club

For a few months now, we (organized by me and @daveove) have had a series of exclusive meet-up of startup founders in Cebu, which we called the Founders Club. So far, the agenda is to have a regular meeting, and hang out with the teams who are in the startup stage. There is no clear structure or purpose yet, apart from getting updates from each other. The motivation to do these meetings started after the first Startup Weekend Cebu, to do a regular follow-up with the teams.

In the last meet-up, Jaideep, the managing director of NCR Cebu, joined us for a Q&A and discussions about entrepreneurship and innovation. He also gave critical feedback on the team's vision, plans and strategies. One particular feedback i learned from him, is that the meet-up is very valuable, and that we need to put a structure in place, so as not to waste time, and focus the discussion. I also got the same feedback from Harm.

Lately, i've been reading the "The Launch Pad" book, which is about the Y Combinator program, founded by Paul Graham (coincidentally, Dave is also reading the same book, no wonder we've been agreeing to the same ideas lately). And also been looking around the startup scene in SouthEast Asia, and particularly in Singapore. And i've also heard and read about SW Next, and also experienced organising two Startup Weekends in Cebu, and attended one in Davao.

Right now, we have been discussing what to do next. Certainly there will still be more Startup Weekends next year, and we're looking at a new team taking the lead this time.

One missing item that's been coming back-and-forth to us, is having a co-working space. So we have already made concrete plans to do this, and are doing the initial steps. I previously announced the plan about the BahayStartup co-working space. We will change the name though, to avoid confusing it with the BuhayStartup project. So this one is pushing through.

Another item that's been brewing in our minds now is to take the Founders Club to the next level. And here are some ideas:

  • We're planning to make it into a program similar to JFDI, YCombinator, TechStars
  • All the benefits of a seed accelerator, without the seed funding
  • Teams gets access to mentors, either through an exclusive "office hours" meeting and through the monthly meet-ups
  • Monthly meet-ups are treated as mini-demo days. Teams present progress. Mentors and other teams give critical feedback.
  • We can also do remote "office hours" through Skype
  • 3 months program. Teams apply, answer questions, and are interviewed
  • Very selective process, just like most accelerator programs
  • Exclusive for startups, meaning product-based and looking to grow fast
  • Apply same filtering as YCombinator, largely about the team, background and capacity
  • Access to resources and learning stuffs. We are also looking to do the extra mile to help a team take flight.
  • Make the needed connection or referrals. We understand we don't hold the answer to everything, so we make the best effort to refer teams, or make introductions to the ones we know who can help.
  • Since we don't have funding, we're going to operate it as a club membership for now. We're thinking 500 pesos per founder per month.

Why do this?

  • We don't want to waste our time anymore. So we're taking FC to the next level.
  • This will be our first MVP to a "real" accelerator program. The one that has seed money. I believe seed funding is easy to get, once we show "traction". So me thinks, i'd like to get to traction first, before i start blabbing about how great this is.
  • We're not part of any existing program yet nor are mentors. So, why not start one ourselves. Yes, we're the jealous type, so we also want to start our own.
  • BUT, we're not going to make it exclusive. We're the promiscuous type (and jealous!). It's a club, not a religion, so we think the startup teams can use all the help they can get from all places.
  • Going back to traction, one particular perspective i like to see from startup teams is how they make money. Just as Andreesen and Mixpanel recently said, let's cut all the BS metrics, and focus on money. Traction is all about money, M-O-N-E-Y. If a feature doesn't give you money, or lead you closer to it, it shouldn't be called traction.
  • We are an independent team, from scratch, and does not answer to an outside investor (not yet!). So if no one applies, or no one qualifies, or no teams succeeds, then no harm done. BUT, we will measure ourselves to the highest-nth level. 10X level expectations. What this means, our only goal is to make startups succeed, nothing else.
  • And personally, we could really use an extra 500 bucks from everyone, that's like free dinner at Cafe George once a month. How cool is that!? Seriously, we're doing this already anyway, we're just making ourselves accountable for results.

What's the plan now?

  • We're thinking of doing our first batch in Feb, Mar, Apr 2013.
  • In a few days, when the site is ready (it's still a blank WP site now), we will announce the opening, and teams can start applying
  • We are going to be looking for mentors. So far, there's me and Dave. Yes, the BS team, and we're going to deliver real, hard-core BS this time. :) (sometimes, i wonder if people can relate to this joke)

Alright, that's it. Comments, suggestions, ideas, please leave them in the comments below. Too shy to say something, send me an e-mail, hi@markjeee.com.

p.s. If you think this is cool, awesome, great, please help tweet, share this page, to get some buzz, and reach the right people. THANKS!

p.s. If you think this is ugly, lousy, then keep it to yourself.

p.s. Hey mentors, you might wonder, do we get paid to mentor? Nope. Zilch. Zero. BUT, BUUUT you will have a chance to invest in the teams, should you be interested, and of course if the teams are interested in you (remember folks, all monies are not created equal!). This is actually one personal motivation to be as mentor (speaking for myself here). At this age, any company, who's willing to stay ahead, better have acquisition or investment plans in mind. It's clear, it's becoming increasingly hard to innovate from within the company, largely due to the benefits and well-being perks that employees get. When life is good, there's really not a lot of pain to solve for. (speaking for myself as well, hehe, hoping i will not get burned for this, hi CS people! don't worry, we will introduce some non-artificial pains)