How attending the Startup Leadership Program helped me stay in the game as a founder

Being an entrepreneur was always my inner calling and that’s what made me start my media technology startup a few years ago. But things didn’t go as planned: after a very strong beginning, clients were getting harder to attract, funding was becoming more difficult and the infamous product/market fit wasn’t what it should be.

That’s when a good friend referred me to the Startup Leadership Program (SLP) which operates as an accelerator for founders who are looking to answer their early stage questions and understand the challenges.

So, come September 2016, I am accepted to the program for the 2016/17 cohort and excited to start.

But challenges kept coming my way: two days before the program start, my 2nd daughter was born, and one week after the start of classes it became obvious that my startup wouldn’t be able to raise the necessary funding round. In other words, I was facing more responsibility and expenses on the family front, with zero income and low upside on the startup front. A normal human being, i.e. not me, would have call it quits and would have gone for the well paying job that I would normally be able to get.

But irrational me -and kudos to my also irrational/amazing wife-, I couldn’t picture myself not traveling the journey.. idea generation, team building, MVP, fundraising, scaling; and SLP was the tipping point re-affirming that.

Every 2nd Tuesday I was feeling at home, I was feeling the same startup goosebumps in my stomach and I was sharing all these with 30 other crazy founders with similar challenges and hopes. Every class was another step towards starting a new company and every speaker I met was another inspiration to not-let-go. In the 3rd class we had a Fellow telling us his story about how it felt when he shut down his company and how he regrets not having either insisted more or starting a new one, since getting a job had turned out super-boring for him. In this other class, I met with another speaker who had been previously rejected by more than 100 investors but she kept pivoting and iterating until she got it right. And lastly, the class that made me click personally, “Persist or Pivot”: the topic was whether you should insist on your startup strategy or pivot to new verticals or new business models. But for me that topic applied to my overall professional “persist or pivot” my startup journey.

10 months later, my daughter is 10 months old, I didn’t accept the job opportunities that came my way and I am back in the startup fight with a new venture.

But let me also give you some deeper background on the Startup Leadership Program. SLP started in 2006 as a highly-selective accelerator for founders run by founders. It has since grown to 27 cities in 12 countries and its Alumni has collectively raised more than $500m in funding for their startups. If you haven’t heard about it, don’t feel puzzled: more than 50% of accepted Fellows are referred by former graduates so if you want to be part of the journey, your best bet is to find a previous Fellow and ask for a referral. By the way, this is also the best way to get introduced to a VC or to your desired media outlet so SLP is helping you formulate strategies even before you apply :) The New York chapter is one of the leading chapters that accepts around 30 Fellows each year with a rate of circa 10% of all applications. The accepted founders come from very diverse startup worlds e.g. tech, real estate, marketing, non-profit, etc. and normally they either are just starting or are thinking to turn their ideas into a company. In other words, if you have negotiated a couple of Series A term sheets with VCs and have been featured on TechCrunch a couple of times, you are probably ahead of what you would learn at SLP.

Lastly, SLP has a very strong give-back culture so after having received such a great influence in my life, I decided to apply for and eventually got nominated as the SLP Alumni Lead so I am always available to answer any question or connect you with SLP past and future Fellows.

SLP I owe you a big one!