Founder Labs Brings Its Silicon Valley Flair for Fostering Startups to Manhattan

5/16/11Follow @jpruth

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the program, similar to TechStars but at an earlier stage. Charania said the participants will divide into four teams that will each consist of two engineers, one designer, and one marketing professional.

A diverse mix of experience was sought, she said, among the candidates. She chose engineers with an average of five years experience—with startups or large technology firms—who also developed side projects to demonstrate their entrepreneurial spirit.

Among designers, Charania said she looked for raw talent and a desire to start a company. For the business and marketing role, she sought professionals with at least five years of experience as well as leadership skills. “Have expertise in something you are passionate about,” she said. “We’re looking for action-oriented folks who are out there to make a name for themselves.”

The program starts with participants getting to know each other. During the first week, the participants work on small projects together, coming up with quick ideas. “We call them rapid prototyping tests,” Charania said. The concept is similar to Startup Weekend, though Founder Labs participants have one week to court potential team members and coalesce their ideas.

The subsequent weeks will include customer development tests where the teams communicate with 50 to 100 customers to sharpen their ideas. Each Tuesday night will include one-on-one team mentoring. On Wednesday nights, teams will make presentations based on feedback from customers about the product. Charania said a one-hour lesson from a Silicon Valley mentor on such topics as lead marketing and early stage funding will follow those presentations.

The program will end with a Final Demo Night on June 29, where the teams show off what they developed. “The real magic happens after,” Charania said. “At the beginning, you don’t know if this is the team you want to work with or if the idea is going to work out. By the end of it, you have some sense of that.” The teams can choose to part ways and stick with their day jobs, or pursue their ideas and apply to an incubator such as 500 Startups.

Charania said Founder Labs will serve as formal advisors to the teams that show the most promise. “We get them in front of investors, grow their teams, and give them feedback on their products,” she said.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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