Meet the Graduates of Founder Gym Cohort 5

Mandela SH Dixon
Feb 26, 2019 · 14 min read

“Because of Founder Gym, I now have the resources to think big, ask big, and change the world in really big ways.” — Rebecca Channer, Founder of ProsperCity, Cohort 5

For six weeks, from January 9th to February 16th, 2019, we trained another 22 founders in Founder Gym Cohort 5, teaching them how to create the essentials of a fundraising toolkit and hone their two-minute pitch. These founders live in four countries (Lebanon, the United States, Egypt and the United Kingdom), and their homes span 15 cities. This brings the total number of Founder Gym Graduates to 253.

Founder Gym’s membership has grown by 954% since launching FG Cohort 1 on January 1, 2018.

Prior to being admitted into Founder Gym Cohort 5, many of the founders were already in the process of creating incredible solutions. They ranged from an app that delivers feminine products to consumers in under one hour, to a token-based social network that safely connects friends, family and those with similar interests, to an on-demand mobile app that connects customers to professional line sitters allowing customer to bypass long lines, and even a platform making it easy for talented people to volunteer away their student loan debt..

Our founders are building products and services that are making the world a better place for their customers, users, and communities.

But fundraising as an underrepresented founder comes with its own unique set of challenges.

…and that’s where Founder Gym stepped in.

For six weeks, we provided an intense virtual training experience for those selected, led by some of the most experienced venture capitalists in Silicon Valley and New York.

Now, after completing the rigorous requirements to graduate, we are excited to officially introduce the graduating class of Founder Gym Cohort 5, along with their Peer and Expert Trainers!

But first, let’s look at the numbers.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Cohort 5 membership:

  • Female: 76%
  • Male: 19%
  • Genderqueer: 5%
  • African American / Black: 14%
  • East Asian: 5%
  • Latinx: 4%
  • Middle Eastern: 24%
  • Multiethnic: 10%
  • South Asian: 5%
  • White: 38%
  • Twenties: 14%
  • Thirties: 43%
  • Forties: 43%
  • With children: 58%
  • Without children: 42%
  • Bay Area: 14%
  • NY Area: 5%
  • Washington, DC Area: 5%
  • International: 14%
  • Pacific Northwest: 19%
  • Southern California: 24%
  • Houston Area: 10%
  • Other US locations: 10%
  • Native to the country they reside in: 76%
  • Immigrated to the country they reside in: 24%
  • Full-time founder: 71%
  • Part-time founder and full-time employee: 19%
  • Part-time founder and part-time employee: 10%
  • Product in the market: 48%
  • Product in private beta: 24%
  • Product in development: 29%
  • Engineer: 5%
  • Engineering & Business: 5%
  • Engineering & Technical: 5%
  • Designer: 10%
  • Business: 10%
  • Non-technical: 62%
  • No previous fundraising experience: 33%
  • Friends & Family: 33%
  • Incubator and/or accelerator: 4%
  • Venture capitalists: 4%
  • Angel investors: 15%
  • Pitch competition: 8%

Meet the Graduates of FG Cohort 5

NanaEfua Afoh-Manin

“Because of Founder Gym, I have my fundraising paperwork in order and a new community of amazing founders that I look forward to supporting and elevating along the journey.”

  • Company: Shared Harvest Fund makes it easy for talented people to volunteer away their student loan debt while serving nonprofits and improving their employer’s social brand.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Dale Wilkinson

“All VCs are different. Take the time to know your audience, and how they like to be pitched to.”

  • Company: goodgigs is a marketplace where companies can hire creative freelancers, then support the freelancer’s work with nonprofits via a tax-deductible donation.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Elissa Kuykendall Unton

“Finish a version of your executive summary and pitch deck before you start fundraising.”

  • Company: ArcVida, a technology-enabled, personalized career guidance service.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Cole Harmonson

“You think you know but you don’t know. Founder Gym helps you figure out what you don’t know.”

  • Company: Shoosh feminine products delivered in under 1 hour. Period.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Shahrzad Vossoughi

“When fundraising, you are in the position of power. Don’t act desperate.”

  • Company: Saf, an on-demand mobile app connecting customers to line sitters, allowing them to bypass long lines.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Dav Singh

“Utilize your network during the experience”

  • Company: Vapu aims to gauge the true marginal cost of getting vaping products to vaping shops
  • Location: London, United Kingdom
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Britney Schielack

“Find your dream investor and reach out to them. Instead of asking them to invest right away, ask if they would consider mentoring or advising — it is rare that they will decline, if you have built a true rapport. You could not only gain a mentor, but a relationship with someone who may ultimately invest in your company or become a team member. Once someone like that is on board, other investors come easier.”

  • Company: The PlatForum is an online marketplace for students, high-school age and older, to connect to internship and volunteer opportunities in their community.
  • Location: Le Grange, TX
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Lisi Whitworth

“Because of Founder Gym, I feel both investor-ready AND founder-ready. Wahoo!”

  • Company: Eventida, Inc. provides software and support services to event hosts and vendors whose goal is to create and promote an accessible and inclusive experience at events.
  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Molly Beck

“Because of Founder Gym, I know how to raise a million dollars.”

  • Company: is the easiest way to create a podcast.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Alex Eremia

“You need to connect with VCs on the human level first. Everything else comes later.”

  • Company: BingeWith creates high quality audio content from articles, and blogs which helps publishers serve an increasingly audio hungry audience.
  • Location: Mountain View, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Maylin Siler

“Get involved and get to know everyone in the cohort as much as you can. Sometimes, the aha moments can come from unexpected places.”

  • Company: CrewCollar is a hiring platform solution for the deskless workforce in the blue & green collar sectors.
  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Diana Seyouri

“Because of Founder Gym, I was able to see my organization from the outside in, and I liked what I saw.”

  • Company: SelfStir develops organizational development tools for organizational development practitioners.
  • Location: Woking, United Kingdom
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Brooke Markevicius

“Assume success! We have to believe we can raise the money, or no one will believe in us.”

Ali Zewail

“Do 100% of the assignments — so you can use them. Give 100% to the rest of the cohort — you’re family to each other.”

  • Company: Chaino is a token-based social network where you can safely connect with friends, family and interests.
  • Location: Cairo, Egypt
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Yalda Moshiri

“Because of Founder Gym, I feel so much more confident in my own skin, knowing that my differences are truly my strengths.”

  • Company: Saf, Inc. is an on-demand mobile app that connects customers to professional line sitters who will wait in line on their behalf at restaurants, the DMV, product releases, tourist attractions and much more.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Hamid Bundu

“Start early, build relationships.”

  • Company: PlanzApp is a platform that enables users to make smart plans with friends and family.
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Therese Clark

“It’s ok to feel intimidated!”

  • Company: Lady Suite, Inc. provides rejuvenating intimate skincare + wellness for the modern woman.
  • Location: Hermosa Beach, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Rebecca Channer

“Allow yourself to un-frame and then reframe what fundraising really means to you and your company. What is the opportunity cost of not allowing yourself to think big and ask big?”

  • Company: ProsperCity is an online job marketplace created to end salary discrimination, close the gender wage gap, and diversify workplace teams.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Mandana Salehi

“There is an investor out there who is looking for you as much as you’re looking for them.”

  • Company: ZibaHub is a professional networking platform and peer-to-peer marketplace for the beauty and wellness industry.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Abby Chao

“Think of something you can do to give back to the cohort, and do it.”

  • Company: CollegeBacker is the easiest way to save for college with family and friends.
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Tanisha Davis

“KNOW your metrics.”

  • Company: Kovered is a marketplace for lawyers to find and provide legal services.
  • Location: Detroit, MI
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Tabitha Salomon

“Take the assignments seriously. You have to do it anyways; why not do it with coaching and guidance.”

  • Company: Party Dash empowers parents to decorate kid parties without the stress.
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Get connected: LinkedIn

Shoutout to the FG Cohort 5 Peer Trainers

There was so much talent in Cohort 5 that Founder Gym hosted Peer Training sessions. Select cohort members stepped up to share best practices, resources, and tips to train their peers on popular startup topics. Thank you to these amazing founders:

Meet our FG Cohort 5 Expert Trainers

During the cohort, two venture capitalists and four founders-turned-venture capitalists trained FG Cohort 5 members on the nuances of raising venture capital. We would like to thank them for their kindness, insight, candor and commitment in helping us bridge the knowledge, network, and capital gap for underrepresented founders.

Kanyi Maqubela

Kanyi is co-founder of Kindred Ventures, a new venture capital fund focused on the earliest stages of company formation. He was previously an investment partner at Collaborative Fund. He has taught Entrepreneurship at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and has worked at venture-backed startups throughout his career.

Hayley Barna

Hayley Barna is a Partner at First Round Capital based in New York. Prior to joining First Round she co-founded Birchbox, the leading beauty and grooming retailer seed funded by First Round in 2010.

She served as Co-CEO at Birchbox for five years from conception and launch to growing the business to over a million monthly subscribers. She raised over $70M in venture capital, expanded the business internationally and launched new businesses and channels like men’s and retail stores. Hayley oversaw key functions including marketing, operations, strategy and technology.

Hayley has been recognized as Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Fortune 40 Under 40, and Ad Age’s Women to Watch among other honors. Hayley is a board member at Birchbox, RAB Lighting and Madison Reed.

Holly Liu, Visiting Partner Y Combinator

In 2008, Holly and her co-founders were awaiting a wire from their Series B financing. The day the money was supposed to arrive was the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. With no investment money coming in, and ad revenues declining, they built Kabam a mobile gaming company. Nine years later, they sold it for a $1Billion dollars. Holly was in charge of design and has contributed to record revenue growth for Kabam year over year from $0 to $400MM annually. She led the design for Kabam’s award-winning “Kingdoms of Camelot” franchise, which has grossed over $250 million in less than four years. She was also the founding mobile designer for extension Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, which was the top grossing app on iOS in 2012.

Holly received her Master’s in Information Management & Systems from UC Berkeley and her B.A. in Mass Communications from UCLA. She was named to Forbes’ “Top 10 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch” in 2013 and one of Fortune’s “10 Most Powerful Women in Gaming.”

Maria Salamanca, Principal, Unshackled Ventures

Maria Salamanca is a venture capitalist at Unshackled Ventures, activist leader and advisor at Swing Left, fellow at Higher Ground Labs and founder at Making a Techie newsletter. Unshackled Ventures, a fund that fills a unique space in the entrepreneurial ecosystem — funding teams with immigrant founders at the earliest stage of pre-seed. Maria joined the fund three years ago, has been involved in all 22 investments and has evaluated more than 2,500 deals.

In 2018, she was the first Latina named in Forbes 30 Under 30 for Venture Capital and Business Insider’s Under 30 Rising Stars. She is deeply involved in supporting the Latino entrepreneurship ecosystem, including being on the committee for the first ever Startup Weekend: Latinx Tech Edition and creating the first list and group of Latinas in Venture Capital. It is this strong support and investment in her community that won her the 2017 California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Shark of the Year.

Prior to joining Unshackled, Maria worked at, an immigration lobbying group founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Ron Conway, Reid Hoffman and other tech leaders.

Ash Rust

Ash is an entrepreneur turned investor. He is the Managing Partner of Sterling Road, a venture fund focused on seed stage B2B companies. He is currently an advisor to Bullpen Capital and previously worked at Trinity Ventures. Ash has mentored hundreds of startups through accelerator programs including Y-Combinator, Techstars, Alchemist, and universities such as Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UCLA.

Before investing, Ash was Co Founder and CEO of SendHub (acquired: Cameo Global, Y-Combinator W12) and Director of Ranking at Klout (acquired: Lithium). Ash earned a Masters in Computer Science from Oxford, served as an Officer in the British Army, and currently resides in San Francisco.

Meet the FG Cohort 5 Leadership Team

Sometimes in order to hold things together you need a little glue, and to help things run smoothly you need some oil. These amazing Founder Gym team members were both glue and oil, giving it their all to support the Cohort 5 founders in their 6-week journey to complete the rigorous training program and come out the other side better prepared to raise capital and scale their startups!

Paige Hendrix Buckner, FG Program Director

“When I started my company, I had a million and one things to learn. It was a daily uphill battle, but it was made so much easier by spectacular mentors and peers. I’m honored to support FG Cohort members because I want to see each of their companies successfully raise, grow and solve the problems that they are each uniquely positioned to solve. I know how hard it is, so I want to make every day just a little bit clearer by helping them prepare to fundraise.”

Tia Goodson, FG Operations Fellow

“I know what it’s like to go through an accelerator and how it feels to believe that your dream is ‘too big.’ As a FG Fellow, I enjoyed providing constant votes of confidence and support to founders throughout this process. The startup journey can be a lonely one filled with self doubt, questioning your sanity, and sleepless nights. It helps a lot to have someone in your corner who believes that you can do anything, reminds you to take care of yourself, and tells you to just take it one small goal at a time. I hope I was that for my founders in Cohort 5.”

Barbara Dos Santos, FG Data Fellow

“I loved studying and addressing the feedback provided by the founders throughout the program. I hope it helped to make the program the best experience for each one of them”

Jonathan Hackworth, FG Data Fellow

“Plugging into the vibrant Founder Gym community was the most rewarding part of this experience. The founders are hungry, the trainers are experts, and the Founder Gym team is first-class.

Applications for our Pre-Seed and Seed Cohorts are now open!

For the first time ever, we are offering different program experiences specifically based on whether or not the founder is at the pre-seed fundraising stage or the seed fundraising stage.

All FG Cohorts are 100% virtual, so you can participate from anywhere in the world! Here are the upcoming cohorts that will operate from April 22 to May 31, 2019:

  • FG Pre-Seed Cohort 1 offers live training — between 9am-5pm PST.
  • FG Pre-Seed Cohort 2 offers live training — between 5–8pm PST.
  • FG Seed Cohort 7 offers live training — between 9am-5pm PST.

The deadline to apply is Sunday, March 31, 2019 at 11:59 pm PST.

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