Top 4 Things I Learned at Founder Institute

I am happy to announce that I’ve graduated from the Founder Institute program in Toronto. Basically within a span of 4 months, they show you all the stages necessary to create a startup and grow it to become a successful company. It has been a crazy experience, both humbling and exciting. I present to you the top 4 things I’ve learned going through FI.

1. You will never learn as much as you will when building your own company

There are many moving parts to building a tech company — the most obvious one is product development. But there’s so much more, including customer research, legal considerations, marketing, revenue models, even deep self-refection about who you are and what you want to achieve. In the Founder Institute, every week, you are compelled to produce something that you’ve never done before and present it or at least submit it for review. For perfectionists — that is horrific. For experimenters — it’s exciting. Most of us fall somewhere in between those two categories and may swing back and forth between feeling horrified or excited. But one thing is certain — each time you are called to produce — you are learning something new that will contribute to your thinking as an entrepreneur. And that’s invaluable.

2. You will never work as hard

I know that they advertise it as a part-time program, but arguably I found that half the people who survived actually were working on their company full-time. Lucky them. For me, I had to fit in work on FI and my company while working my full-time job. I am the daughter of immigrant parents who at one point worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week. So technically, I had been exposed to hard work. That being said, it was quite an adjustment to go from a life of 40–50 hours of work a week to what felt like 70–80 hours a week.

I was also set on keeping my social life (pro tip — happiness experts say that if you are working twice as hard, you should actually be twice as social in order to offset the stress!) So while I was travelling with friends, while they got to enjoy down time or explore awesome food festivals, I’d have to set aside time to work on my assignments. Of course, it wasn’t easy juggling this and sometimes I’d have to cancel plans and spend whole weekends working. That said, there’s something satisfying about the process of creation — where in most cases, time flew and it didn’t feel like ‘work’.

3. Everyone has an opinion

You might be optimizing existing processes or maybe you are even creating your own category, but as someone building a company — you’re introducing something new. That means one thing — you will be getting feedback.

Founder Institute has ensured that we get weekly feedback from 3 local Tech CEOs on our company. You will have people who love your idea. And you will have people who hate your idea. And even amongst those who love your idea — feedback may sometimes oppose each other/be contradictory.

Founder Institute actually screens for people who are moderate in disagreeability. This means they look for someone who can collaborate with others, but essentially can argue for their own way if they truly feel it is right. This is the mark of an entrepreneur, because if you are swayed strongly with each individual feedback you receive— you’d be dizzy going around in circles. Sometimes you have to put your foot down and take the consequences. As Malcolm Gladwell states “crucially, innovators need to be disagreeable … They are people willing to take social risks — to do things that others might disapprove of.”

And with my history as a recruiter, I realized that predicting companies is like predicting good hires — it’s mostly an art, rather than a science (though Google is aiming to improve upon this). There are many guidelines that suggest a ‘hire’ will do well, and as a best practice you may do well to follow these guidelines. But there will be those who completely upset ‘best practices’. My favourite example is Airbnb. 10 years ago, the idea that you’d allow a complete stranger to rent your home would have been ridiculous. Really only time (and stellar execution) will bear your idea out. You may hold an insight that no one else does. Peter Thiel often asks ‘what is the one thing you know that others don’t’. Hold on to that and capitalize on it. But of course, remember to take feedback into consideration so you know the landscape.

4. People are awesome

If I had to sum up what Founder Institute has helped me with most is exposure to great people. In fact, they write “Great People + Expert Training + Collaboration = Exponentially Better Chance of Success”. Founder Institute has introduced me to great mentors and great peer group.

I am not entirely sure whether it’s the entrepreneurial gene or the fact that entrepreneurs are empathizing because they remember how hard it was — but entrepreneurs generally are among some of the most helpful and intelligent people that I’ve met.

My peer group has been awesome. It is really satisfying to be in the company of others who are going through the growing pains of starting a company with little experience.

Finally, as Founder Institute encourages us to develop a mailing list and get feedback — I have found that so many people want to see me succeed and that means the world to me. I am SO grateful for that. Always will be =)

You can learn more about my company Uplifter Labs here: www.uplifter.io

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