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

10/27/09Follow @gthuang

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and TechStars (see our complete list of incubators here)? Early says the program is non-residential, and classes are in the evening. That way, founders can stay in Seattle and keep their day jobs. And instead of giving up stock, entrepreneurs put in 3.5 percent of their company as warrants, which get shared by all the founders and mentors. Early argues the warrants give a fairer market price for the company. At the same time, Founder Institute is not funding these entrepreneurs; rather they pay $600 to enroll in the program, and if they receive external funding, they will pay a $4,500 course fee.

I asked Early about the increasing number of local resources for early-stage entrepreneurs—including the Seattle 2.0 website and events, nPost resources, NWEN, WTIA, MITEF, and Startup Weekend. “There’s a lot of hunger for that kind of information,” he says. “But you need a little bit more.”

As for the specific goals of the Seattle program, Early says, “I hope there are a number of very successful companies that get formed out of it. Some people question whether Seattle is as strong an entrepreneurial community [as Silicon Valley]. I don’t think that way.” He thinks Seattle definitely has what it takes, and says if the Founder Institute is successful here, he will look to do it again next winter.

Lastly, I wondered whether Early’s expertise might lead to a focus on gaming companies for the new program. “I think it will,” he says. “There’s a huge opportunity right now for social gaming startups. And to have it be successful without a large amount of funding.” It will be interesting to see whether the institute leads to new connections between the gaming community and other entrepreneurs and business people (which is something I don’t see a lot of here). Early admits that, culturally, “there’s some bravado in the gaming industry. ‘It’s the Wild West, we do it our way.’ It’s much more about how to make the game. They’re not business people.”

Next week, Early and the Founder Institute are holding an informational event at the Boeing Auditorium at the University of Washington, on the evening of Nov. 2, hosted by the UW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. You can register for the event here, and apply for the full program here.

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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