I met with an entrepreneur who asked me to spell out the benefits of Founder's Co-op and I told him that the fact he had to ask the question meant that our initial web site was lacking. In a nutshell, the benefits to entrepreneurs in Founder's Co-op are as follows:
- Community: When I asked the founders of the two companies (Cooler Planet and Orange Line Media) that we've already invested in what makes Founder's Co-op great (yes it was a leading question) their answer was the community. Now, I know this sounds like a sappy touchy feely answer -- but I think it actually may be true. There's a lot of emotional and business benefit that comes from being associated with and in the same space with others attempting to accomplish the same thing as you. It's why people trying to lose weight do better as a community and why those trying to run a marathon train together (who else would tell you to cover your nipples with Vaseline and band-aids).
The companies we work with currently choose to work in our offices (not a requirement) and also participate in the Founder's Co-op equity pool (a requirement). At Founder's Co-op, we believe the sum of the parts is greater than each of the individual parts. We also believe that Seattle lacks a center of technology start up culture and we want to work to foster that culture. Moreover, often advice and mentorship from people who have done it before (i.e. Chris and I and the other Founders Co-op mentors) is great but advice and shared experiences from other entrepreneurs in the process of trying to grow a company can really help tactically and emotionally. I'll tell you that I've heard my share of SEO, SEM, and .net secrets being shared over lunch more here than anywhere else! Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the community component of Founder's Co-op makes it a lot more fun for everyone involved.
- Advice and mentorship: Given that Founder's Co-op serves first time entrepreneurs, surrounding those entrepreneurs with other successful technology entrepreneurs is enormously valuable. As partners, Chris and I meet with each company each week. In addition, we assign at least one mentor besides us to each company as an advisor. This is the starting point of mentorship and counsel. These regular meetings and relationships form the backbone of advice that fundamentally serves to guide and support the young first time entrepreneur. The discussions range from high level strategy to the tactical. and include all areas of technology, technology platform, business model, recruiting, business development, marketing, customer acquisition, from entrepreneurs who have been there done and done that.
- Network: Our entrepreneurs get the benefit of the social networks of Chris and I, of our mentors, and of our investors. This is an easy sentence to write but the power of the extended network in Seattle, San Francisco can make raising capital, getting a business development deal or getting an answer to a market question much easier.
- Capital: Oh, yea, we also invest in our companies and try to support them as they outgrow the initial seed and early funding rounds.
That's all I'm going to say about the benefits of Founder's Co-op for now. I think the best way to understand the benefits is to talk to the enterpreneurs in the co-op. I need to figure out a way to get their voices heard because they'll be much better able to tell you about what's good and bad about Founder's Co-op. Stay tuned for that. Have a good weekend.