Meet the Graduates of Founder Gym’s Cohort 12

Paige Hendrix Buckner
Mar 13 · 18 min read

“Being in Founder Gym was a completely transformative experience. After the first week, I said to my partner, “You could spend 36 hours Googling something or listen to an Founder Gym session and get everything you need in one hour.” I feel like I went to VC grad school. I have an intimate understanding of fundraising inside-out: the terminology, the culture, pitching, and my story. I’ve honed my strengths for where my company is now, and have a deep understanding of the traction I need to seek in order to build my company in meaningful, investable ways.”

  • Mandy Major, Founder of That’s Major!

“The community support I received helped me connect the dots. After this experience, I can integrate who I am and why I launched my product to determine how I am going to raise the money. This is powerful.”

  • Tanaya Vikrant, Founder of Parents’ Nook

“Before I started the training, I had learned how to seek outside funds for my business, but fear about what investors thought and how to present my pitch kept me in the dark. Founder Gym brought me out of the dark by providing me with confidence and knowledge.”

  • Emmanuel Danso, Founder of Borla Daakye

“Before Founder Gym, I was determined to start my company and raise money. But I see now, as a Founder Gym graduate, that I was on a founder journey without a map. I was trying to open locked doors when I didn’t have a key. Founder Gym has transformed me from someone who was aspiring to be a founder and raise money, to someone who is out there actually doing it — and with the right tools and resources to be successful.”

  • Theola DeBose, Founder of JSkills

We are excited to debut the graduates of Founder Gym Cohort 12. For six weeks, from January 21st to March 6th, we trained 19 founders, spanning 5 countries and 3 continents on how to successfully raise money to scale their tech startups. With this latest set of graduates in FG Cohort 12 and FG Cohort 13, the total number of Founder Gym Alumni is now 440.

Since graduating our first FG Cohort in January 2018, Founder Gym’s Alumni community has grown 1592%.

FG Graduates are building world-class companies.

Founders in FG Cohort 12 are developing a variety of solutions across a wide array of industries. Here are a few examples:

  • Software that empowers people to tap into the science of storytelling to find and grow high-impact education and work.
  • An on-demand beauty platform that delivers hair, makeup, and nail services.
  • Africa’s first lifestyle super-app that allows consumers to book restaurants, movie tickets, get discounts, and more.

But, as underrepresented founders, they face unique challenges.

In a recent study, it was reported that only:

  • 1% of venture-backed founders were Black
  • 1.8% of venture-backed founders were Latinx
  • 2.4% of venture-backed founders were Middle Easterners

Another report revealed that women received only 2.8% of venture capital.

This is why we built Founder Gym.

For six weeks, we provided 19 select founders with an intense virtual training experience led by industry leaders in Silicon Valley and beyond. Founders had access to a robust library of video content featuring Founder Gym’s robust network of investors, founders, lawyers, and financial experts. Now, after completing the rigorous graduation requirements, we are excited to officially introduce the graduates of FG Cohort 12.

But before you meet the founders, take a look at the numbers.

Meet the FG Cohort 12 Graduates!

“Being around a group of like-minded entrepreneurs who don’t fit the stereotypical Silicon Valley tech founder profile really helped boost my confidence and take more pride in my endeavor. This directly translates into me being more effective when it comes to reaching out to investors or customers.”

  • Founder: Andrew Parker
  • Company: Jayu
  • Description: Jayu is an innovative customer loyalty program that lets local businesses build a community of customers.
  • Location: Santee, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

“The best part of Founder Gym is the incredible network and the overflowing fountain of resources. There’s no possible way I could gather all the relevant information and connections that Founder Gym and our alumni community bring to the table.”

  • Founder: Bobbie Stewart
  • Company: Palette Stores
  • Description: Palette Stores is the online marketplace where you will find the best brands created by people of color.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I am able to bring all of my knowledge, experience, courage, and love to investor meetings for the first time. I am enjoying those meetings, and they are working in a way that is authentic and real. I feel very happy in those discussions.”

  • Founder: Carol Barash
  • Company: Story 2
  • Description: Through proprietary software and training methods, Story2 empowers people to tap into the science of storytelling to find and grow high-impact education and work.
  • Location: South Orange, NJ
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“The best thing about Founder Gym is that there are many entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds working on things that will positively impact the world. In a global landscape that is often filled with the latest in bad news, it’s refreshing to experience that at its core entrepreneurship is inextricably linked to human advancement and is shaped by a love for humanity.”

  • Founder: Christine Concepción
  • Company: xipi
  • Description: xipi is a financial literacy gaming and media engine for millennials and gen z.
  • Location: New York, NY
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“The FG program is intense, but it is the best gift you can give yourself as a founder. Make sure you commit 100% of your strength and time. Be the James Bond version of yourself throughout this program.”

  • Founder: Cynthia Aveh
  • Company: Trusteefarm
  • Description: Trusteefarm is building a digital marketplace called “Jom” to help consumers source and verify the safety of their fresh farm produce.
  • Location: Accra, Ghana
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“The best thing about the FG cohort is the community of people it brings together. I have never felt such a strong sense of belonging to any group like this before.”

  • Founder: Emmanuel Danso
  • Company: Borla Daakye
  • Description: Borla Daakye provides a platform that allows users to request waste pickup and recycling services.
  • Location: Accra, Ghana
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“I have become more confident in presenting my company to investors and am no longer worried about their biases, but more focused on a higher level of preparedness and clear dissemination of the products and services I offer. I am also more knowledgeable about key terms in the investment process.

  • Founder: Joy Hutton
  • Company: on the go GLAM
  • Description: on the go GLAM is an on-demand beauty platform that delivers hair, makeup, and nail services when and where you want them.
  • Location: Houston, TX
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I have a polished set of resources to go out and pitch my business, I know what I’m talking about, and I have the confidence I didn’t have 6 weeks ago.”

  • Founder: Kristen Gallagher
  • Company: Edify
  • Description: Edify is the frictionless way to onboard engineers.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“This was an exercise in up-skilling for fundraising as much as it was an exercise in up-skilling personally. I had an idea why I was doing the work I was doing, but have never been forced to articulate it, poke holes, and articulate it again. I’m a better founder but I’m also a better person after my time with Founder Gym.”

  • Founder: Kristina Flynn
  • Company: jiiWA
  • Description: jiiWA is a SaaS platform using multiple forms of digital communication to collect data that helps the public sector learn about itself and the people it serves.
  • Location: Toronto, ON
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“I used to be a very shy and reserved person, but this Founder Gym experience has made me realize the need to come out of my shell. Seeing how other founders and our instructors were very confident in their skin made me believe that I can do even better once I put my mind to it.”

  • Founder: Laila Abdul Rahman
  • Company: Sabary Tours
  • Description: An online booking platform for vacation and tourist destinations in Ghana.
  • Location: Accra, Ghana
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I have a network of incredibly thoughtful, successful founders who all want to rise up together. We would have never met otherwise, and I’m so grateful for them and the virtual tools to stay connected.”

  • Founder: Mandy Major
  • Company: That’s Major!
  • Description: That’s Major! is a digital platform connecting new parents with certified postpartum doulas for 100% remote care and support.
  • Location: New Haven, CT
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“The community and resources were worth it. Outside of the training and mentorship, the support you get from your cohort and alumni peers is so helpful and rewarding. I can happily say I can reach out to them anytime and get help as I need it.”

  • Founder: Saad Soroya
  • Company: Vityly Health
  • Description: Vityly health offers comprehensive virtual cardiac care and coaching to patients.
  • Location: Sacramento, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“The best part about the FG Cohort was the quality. Everything was well organized and professional.”

  • Founder: Sheldon Callahan
  • Company: iO Genesys
  • Description: Konnectid is a SAAS Software Integration Platform focused on helping Small Businesses leverage their system.
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“The support and camaraderie from Paige and my cohort mates. A founder’s journey can be very isolating (especially for solo-founders), and it is great to know other founders who can relate to the problems you are facing and provide suggestions on how you can tackle them.”

  • Founder: Sherlyn Chen
  • Company: Carer
  • Description: Carer is a mobile app that provides families a shared platform for tracking care, receiving personalized care tips and coaching, and having access to qualified nurses and caregivers for hire.
  • Location: Singapore
  • Get Connected: Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I learned the art of fundraising and how to manage fundraising while simultaneously running my company.”

  • Founder: Tanaya Vikrant
  • Company: Parents’ Nook
  • Description: The neighborhood community hubs where parents work and socialize while kids play.
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I walk confidently into meetings. I now realize how far I have come in life and how much more I have to learn. I know where I want to go and how to get there. I was given the right tools to guide my thoughts, build my confidence, and that now translates every day through my ability to walk in a room and make people admire me as a founder.”

  • Founder: Tav Denkey
  • Company: Sumo
  • Description: Sumo is the first lifestyle super-app in Africa that allows consumers to book restaurants, movie tickets, get deals, discounts, and cashback through its wallet.
  • Location: Nairobi, Kenya
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Being a founder can be so lonely and isolating. The best part about Founder Gym was going through it with everyone else in my program. We laughed together, we cried, we lifted each other up and we cheered each other on. Through our experience in the program together, I now know that I have founder friends for life all over the world.”

  • Founder: Theola DeBose
  • Company: JSkills
  • Description: JSkills is a career discovery solution that helps users discover their next career through its tech-enabled skills self-evaluation and immersive platform.
  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I’ve never felt more confident about my ability to engage others in my vision.”

  • Founder: Tracey Suppo
  • Company: Book+Main
  • Description: Book+Main is an online platform that uses machine learning to intelligently connect authors and readers in romance — the #1 grossing genre.
  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“Because of Founder Gym, I am more confident and motivated to fundraise and help our customers [small-medium businesses] accelerate sales and marketing transformations. Founder Gym has equipped me with the skills and best practices from successful founders and VCs who helped me understand what investors care about.”

  • Founder: Vivien Koh
  • Company: VK Transformation
  • Description: VK Transformation is a consulting-tech firm that enables data-driven decision making for small to medium businesses to improve sales and marketing performance using machine learning, AI and automation.
  • Location: Singapore
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Congratulations to the FG Cohort 12 Graduation Day Winners!

In order to be considered FG Cohort Graduates, founders deliver their 2-minute pitch at Graduation Day. The FG Cohort members voted for the top three founders based on the effectiveness of their pitch and the strength of their deck. Congratulations to our FG Cohort 12 Best in Cohort winners Christine Concepción, Mandy Major, and Tav Denky.

Meet the FG Cohort 12 Trainers

Josh Ephraim specializes in the representation of emerging growth companies throughout the corporate lifecycle, including incorporation and founder matters, strategic advisory, general corporate and securities law matters, venture capital financings, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, and public offerings. Additionally, Josh represents leading venture capital funds and other investors on investment transactions and portfolio company matters. He has been on the deal teams that worked with Ethertronics on their $142 million acquisition, supported Branch International on their $170 million Series C found of funding, and assisted Kenna Security with their $48 million Series D financing. He has served as an advisor to various startup accelerators and incubators including Berkeley SkyDeck, CalHacks, and the Berkeley-Haas Entrepreneurship Program. Before joining the firm, Josh served as managing partner at Dorm Room Fund, where he led seed investments in several early-stage companies. Josh also has prior experience working at a startup accelerator and as a management consultant.

Connect with Josh: Twitter and LinkedIn

Possip’s Founder and CEO, Shani Dowell, is a parent and educator at heart. A graduate of Howard University and Stanford Graduate School of Business, Shani started her career at Bain & Co. and helped launch The Posse Foundation’s Boston office. Shani has been a middle school math teacher in Houston and was the Founding Executive Director of Teach For America in Nashville. In 2017, Shani founded Possip, a technology company that helps schools, districts, and communities routinely hear from those at the front lines — starting with schools and parents. Possip has grown to over 100 schools across 16 states with 7 full-time team members. In December of 2019, Shani became the first Black woman in Tennessee to raise over $1 million in venture funding — and joined the first 50 Black women in the nation to meet this milestone. Shani is a member of Leadership Nashville and sits on the Board of Nashville Classical Charter School. She is an ex-officio member of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center Board where she is also an Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Shani lives in Nashville with her husband and their two kids.

Connect with Shani: Twitter and LinkedIn

Jeremy Liew joined Lightspeed Venture Partners in 2006 as the firm’s first consumer specialist, focusing on massive-scale social media, commerce, new media, and financial services. In addition to completing an MBA at Stanford, Jeremy spent the ’90s and early 2000s working for web pioneers such as Netscape, AOL, CitySearch, and Interactive Corp. He was the first venture capitalist to invest in Snap, Inc. Jeremy currently represents Lightspeed Affirm, Rothy’s, Giphy, The Honest Company, and Blockchain, among several other consumer-focused companies. Lightspeed has had a powerful track record — they have 350+ active investments, $7.9B in committed capital and 18 — $1B+ exits. They are currently investing out of Fund X11 and have a 33% female-founded consumer portfolio.

Connect with Jeremy: Twitter and LinkedIn

The passion and drive that Edrizio brings to Arcus were established early in his life. At the age of 11, he immigrated from the Dominican Republic to the South Bronx and packed grocery bags. After spending time in the US Air Force Reserves, he became an Aircraft Engineer at JFK Airport. In college, he discovered the world of finance and technology and was drawn to the opportunity it could provide. Edrizio kicked off his career on Wall Street and holds an MBA from The Wharton School. In May 2013, he co-founded Arcus and has raised $21.9M in capital from Y Combinator, Ignia, Initialized Capital, Maverick, Winklevoss, Andreessen Horowitz, and Kapor Capital and more. Under his leadership, Arcus has delivered increased access to the financial system, developing an API that enables companies to thrive in the digital economy and consumers to better manage their financial health.

Connect with Edrizio: Twitter and LinkedIn

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.

Connect with Ash: Twitter and LinkedIn

Mandela has trained hundreds of founders around the world on how to build successful businesses. Before launching Founder Gym, Mandela was the founding Portfolio Services Director at venture firm Kapor Capital, the Global Director of Startup Weekend Education, and a tech startup founder backed by some of the most prominent investors in Silicon Valley (e.g. Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12, which has since been acquired by Y Combinator). Mandela is an inaugural member of First Round Capital’s Angel Track program, a select network comprised of some of the most successful founders and operators in tech. A sought-after speaker and thought leader, Mandela has shared her frameworks for success on over 90 stages and in more than 100 publications.

Connect with Mandela: Twitter and LinkedIn

Anarghya Vardhana is a Partner at Maveron, a consumer-only venture capital firm. Anarghya has been a high-achiever from a young age: she published a math theorem at 17 years old, earned both a B.S. in Science, Technology, and Society as well as Math & Computer Science from Stanford University and was named a 2017 “30 under 30” in venture capital by Forbes. Anarghya joined Maveron in 2015 after working for several startups in product management and operations roles. She spends her time understanding consumer and cultural behavioral shifts, identifying the billion-dollar businesses that will emerge, and partnering with the right founders to help grow those startups into iconic consumer brands. Anarghya is passionate about diversity in tech and considers it a lifelong mission to get more women involved in technology and to increase diversity in both thought and practice in the field. In her spare time, Anarghya trains for marathons and performs as an Indian classical dancer.

Connect with Anarghya: Twitter and LinkedIn

Special thanks to the FG Alumni Guest Speakers

During the FG Cohort Orientation, three FG Alumni shared their best advice about how to maximize the benefits of the program. FG Cohort 12 appreciated the opportunity to ask Phil Aye-Darko, John Doan, and Margo Falls about their FG Cohort experience and hear about their progress after graduating.

Meet the FG Cohort Leadership Team

Paige Hendrix Buckner, FG Program Director

Location: Portland, OR

Connect with Paige: Twitter and LinkedIn

“FG Cohort 12 is filled with powerhouses! Their eagerness to learn paired with their brilliance and skillsets from a variety of backgrounds made each session dynamic. I know they will take all the gems from each session to be the most Barack Obama version of themselves and continue to support each other both personally and professionally well after the cohort experience.”

Cord Brown, Operations and Marketing

Location: Birmingham, AL

Connect with Cord: Twitter and LinkedIn

“This cohort is driven to be the best that they can be. I have been truly amazed at the bond that they have built and I very much look forward to seeing their continued success.”


Are you ready to level up your fundraising skills and join a global network of committed founders? Great, because we are ready for you!

The FG Cohort is a 6-week program designed for underrepresented founders who want to raise capital to scale their startup. The entire cohort experience is 100% virtual, so founders can participate from anywhere in the world.

FG Cohort 14 operates from May 18, 2020 — June 26, 2020. The FG Cohort is a 6-week virtual program designed for underrepresented founders who want to raise money to scale their startup. The entire cohort experience is 100% virtual, so founders can participate from anywhere in the world. Cohort Trainers are announced as they are confirmed.

Apply by the deadline on Friday, April 10, 2020, at 11:59 pm PST.

Structure to Succeed

If you already had everything you needed to succeed, you would not be here. The truth is, everyone needs help to get where they want to go, and Founder Gym is here to provide you with an inclusive community, rigorous accountability, and a clear roadmap that will get you the results you have been searching for. Founder Gym has custom-designed a virtual experience unlike anything out there, and our model continues to prove effective in accelerating founder success.

We’re Here to Help You and Your Company Succeed

You’ve heard from our founders. You’ve seen the results. Join one of the world’s fastest-growing communities of world-class underrepresented founders.

Set aside time to complete the FG Cohort application today. Applications will be reviewed as they are submitted. The sooner you apply, the sooner you will be notified and be able to secure one of the limited spots in the cohort. Once the cohort reaches capacity, it will be closed, so take action quickly. The last day to apply is Friday, April 10th at 11:59 pm PST. Late applications will not be accepted.

CLICK HERE to apply to FG Cohort 14

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Meet the Graduates of Founder Gym’s Cohort 13


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Thanks to Mandela SH Dixon

Paige Hendrix Buckner

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Program Director | Founder Gym | An educator and entrepreneur who loves helping people pursue their passions.


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