Founder Institute, Early-Stage Startup Program, Comes to Seattle Thanks to a Gaming Connection

10/27/09Follow @gthuang

There’s a new tech startup incubator in town. The Founder Institute is accepting applications for its four-month training program, which begins in Seattle on December 7. The program is designed to mentor very early-stage entrepreneurs, with the goal of creating new companies across a wide variety of tech sectors including software, social media, consumer electronics, e-commerce, medical devices, and cleantech.

The program fits with a trend of increasing resources for entrepreneurs in the Seattle area. The Founder Institute was started by Adeo Ressi, the founder of the venture capitalist rating site TheFunded. The incubator recently completed its first session in Silicon Valley, graduating 54 companies (three of which have since rustled up outside funding), and has also announced expansions to San Diego and Washington DC.

Chris Early is leading the Seattle program. He’s a game industry veteran who was most recently general manager of Windows Gaming Technology at Microsoft. He left the company earlier this year, and caught up with Ressi around a month ago over drinks. (The two had known each other for years from the game industry.) Early suggested that Ressi should expand his program to Seattle, and it sounds like it didn’t take much convincing. “It’s been a whirlwind month putting it together here,” Early says.

As he explains, the concept behind the Founder Institute arose from what Ressi was seeing with TheFunded. “A large number of people were coming through at a pre-company stage,” and they were looking for mentorship and money to get started, Early says. So the Founder Institute provides classes on every step of the startup process, led by experienced mentors, including Derrick Morton, the CEO of FlowPlay, and Bryan Starbuck, the CEO of TalentSpring. About a third of the mentors will come from out of town, including David Kidder of Clickable.com and Bryan Thatcher of Empressr (both from New York). The ideal students are entrepreneurs with new companies—less than two years old—or just promising ideas. The goal is for every student to have a business plan and a polished pitch for their company by the end of four months.

OK, so everyone knows entrepreneurs, especially first-timers, need a lot of mentorship. But what’s different about the Founder Institute compared with incubators like Y Combinator … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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