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Operating in 170 cities, 60 countries, and 6 continents the Founder Institute’s graduate companies estimated portfolio value is in excess of $15 billion dollars, with graduate companies receiving over $600 million dollars in funding. This is the first in a series of interviews with some of the major Business Incubators / Accelerators in Ghana. The 1st interview is with Dr. Belinda Gail Quarterman- Noah, the local Director of the world renowned Founder Institute (FI). Please see below to better understand how FI is positioned in reference to other similar programmes.
Spiros: Belinda, can you tell me more about your incubator / accelerator activities?
Belinda: The Founder Institute is the world’s premier idea-stage accelerator and startup launch program. Globally, continentally, and in Ghana, through a challenging and rigorous curriculum, the Founder Institute provides early-stage and aspiring entrepreneurs with the structure, training, mentor feedback, global network, and lifetime of support needed to start an enduring company.
Spiros: Is there a formal learning programme?
Belinda: Through a part-time four month practical program, Founders launch their dream company with expert training, feedback, and support from experienced startup mentor CEOs – while not being required to quit their day job. The mentors lead our once a week training sessions and their mandate is to help our participants by sharing their experience, outlining the latest tactics, and providing critical feedback. Ghanaian Entrepreneurs can join our Accra-based programme by applying at fi.co/join
Spiros: What are your USPs as incubator / accelerator ?
Belinda: The Founder Institute operates within outstanding Universities on a global scale.
Spiros: What are the plus and minus points of your incubator/ accelerator programme?
Belinda: A plus for the Founder Institute is that one of our core values is to not shy away from big challenges. Our challenge, and our mission over the next half decade in Ghana is to continue to “Globalize Silicon Valley” and empower talented and motivated Ghanaians and others to build and successfully operate impactful global companies that create thousands of jobs. A minus point is that not all Ghanaians are aware that the Founder Institute is now operating in Ghana. Increased awareness about the Founder Institute will enable more Ghanaians to enroll and benefit from our program.
Spiros: I understand there are many successful companies to come out of your programme during the last 3 years.
Belinda: As the Director of the Founder Institute, I believe that our reach should always exceed our grasp, because this is how we achieve the impossible. Since we first launched in 2009, this philosophy has extended to our Graduates who have gone on to reach quite impressive milestones year after year in every corner of the globe. Some of our global success stories include Udemy, RealtyMogul, TravelCar, Peerby, and many more. And our success has continued. Over the past year, we’ve seen companies that started out as mere ideas becoming machines of change, fuelled by the creativity, innovation, and dedication of their Founders.
Our first class graduated from the Founder Institute on January 16, 2018, and we expect that they will join their fellow Founder Institute Graduates by becoming very impactful and successful global companies. The Ghana cohort includes the following companies:
Cinetpay (Graduate of the Abidjan Founder Institute). Cinetpay is a mobile money payment platform that helps e-commerce companies, restaurant, stores, and mobile apps to receive mobile money payment. They recently won Seedstars Abidjan 2017, and will compete at Seedstars World.
Ovamba (Graduate of the Johannesburg Founder Institute). Ovamba is a P2P platform that matches investors who want to lend to African SMEs.
Spiros: Can you comment on the network of your mentors and other specialists and how they have proven beneficial for your startups?
Belinda: The Founder Institute’s network of mentors and supporters understand the best practices needed to operate a successful and enduring global company, and they impart that knowledge to the enrolled Founders during our semester sessions and after graduation. Once the Founders graduate from the Founder Institute they have permanent access to our global network of over 9,000 mentors, partners, investors, and supporters. Our mentors and supporters include Co-Founders Adeo Ressi and Jonathan Greechan, Elon Musk, Eric Ries, Phil Libin, Jason Calacanis, and over 9,000 more.
Spiros: What are your graduates’ venture funding and equity valuation.
Belinda: We operate in 170 cities, 60 countries, and 6 continents. Our graduate companies estimated portfolio value is in excess of $15 billion dollars, and our graduate companies have received over $600 million dollars in funding. Moreover, 72% of our Graduate companies are still operating after 2 years, whereas over 90% of startups fail that have not graduated from the Founder Institute. Here are some samples of recent funding data from our startups:
Appota in Vietnam, a mobile content distribution platform raised a successful Series C round at a $50 million valuation, marking their total funding at $10 million.
Hoayeuthuong, a Vietnamese website that provides flower services and professional gifts for every occasion, they recently received $500K in funding from international flower distributor Greenwings.
Intelocate in Toronto, a powerful and collaborative way to plan, launch, communicate and connect all layers of multi-location business operations and projects, won a $100K investment from ResolveTO’s pitch competition – before they even officially launched.
Lean Systems in Montreal, a schedule optimizer to help fleet managers reduce their operations costs, they have a total funding -currently- of $100K.
Beonprice in Madrid, a real-time dynamic pricing system, raised over $1.5 million, as they expand to the UK, Germany, and the US, and now currently have 1500 clients and are opening three new offices.
TravelCar in Paris is a P2P platform that allows travelers to not only save money on airport parking, but also makes them earn money while they are traveling by renting their car to other travelers, They raised over $15 million (bringing their total funding to over $22 million) as they expanded into the US, and currently has over 400 agencies in more than 30 countries around the world.
Watsan in India makes affordable, maintenance free, electricity-free water purifiers and turnkey solutions to make toilets faster using green technology. Watsan received a grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE), London for the company’s water research.
Contraktor in Brazil helps SMEs handle their legal documents, reached the milestone of R$100M in contracts under management, and also raised $450K this year.
Better Weekdays in Chicago, is a career management platform that helps universities improve the job placement outcomes of its graduates. In 2017, they received $200K in funding (bringing their total funding to $1.5 million) from St. Louis County’s Helix Fund.
SimpleReach in NewYork provides content creators with universal measurement and optimized distribution for all their content campaigns. Thy have recently raised $9 million this year, bringing their total funding to $24 million.
Kangarootime in Los Angeles, helps child care professionals with a cloud-based mobile application that collects payments, automates check-in and check-out, and streamlines communication. They were named a top 8 finalist at 43North and won $500K, bringing their total funding to over a million dollars.
Realty Mogul in Los Angeles, is an online marketplace for accredited investors to pool money and buy shares of pre-vetted investment properties. To date, RealtyMogul has raised more than $46 million.
It is good to see an organization like the Founder Institute is now present in Ghana. Since their 1st cohort graduated this year and the 2nd is about to start, it is too early to evaluate the impact that FI would have in Ghana but the signs are positive. Once again, interested Entrepreneurs can apply at fi.co/join and potential partners and investors should contact Belinda directly.
Finally, I am once again thankful to Belinda for taking the time for this interview.
About Dr. Belinda Gail Quarterman- Noah
A visiting international environmental law professor at GIMPA during 2015-16, , Dr. Belinda Gail Quarterman- Noah is currently serving as the Executive Director of the Accra Founder Institute. She can be reached at [email protected]
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