Meet the Graduates of Founder Gym’s Cohort 7 [Seed]

Mandela SH Dixon
Published in
13 min readJun 13, 2019


“I have grown as a better leader, founder, and fundraiser as a result of FG. I have previously participated in accelerators with my former startup, and this has by far been the BEST education I’ve received in this sector.”

~ JM Eberhardt, Founder of Stroll

“I knew very little about fundraising before Founder Gym. I’m now much more prepared and I know what to expect as I walk through the doors of a VC firm.”

~ Lisa Love, Founder of Tanoshi

“Before the FG Cohort, I was a problem solver who had a great solution to a problem but was unsure about how to acquire the necessary funds to scale my platform. After the FG Cohort, I feel confident that I can go raise the funds to build and scale my company.”

~ Lincoln Daniel, Founder of Penname

It is time for another FG Cohort Graduation! For 6 weeks, from April 22nd to May 31st, we trained 17 founders from 3 continents, 6 countries, and 15 cities how to prepare their fundraising toolkit and deliver a strong two-minute pitch. It was the first time we hosted separate cohorts for founders at the pre-seed and seed fundraising stages, and the first time we trained three cohorts at once. With these graduating cohorts, the total number of Founder Gym Graduates is now 329.

Since graduating our first cohort in January 2018, Founder Gym’s alumni has grown by 1165%.

This growth is made possible with the support of our partners. In February 2019, we announced our flagship partnership with Google for Startups (GFS) and offered scholarships to founders across the global GFS Partner Network. Our partners at the Kapor Center provided several scholarships to founders who are part of the Oakland Startup Network and iLab Program. We sincerely appreciate their commitment to serving underrepresented founders and enjoyed training their community members.

FG Graduates are building world-class companies.

Founders in FG Cohort 7 [Seed] are developing startups that leverage deep learning to better inform recruitment and staffing, help plus-size people review public spaces on comfort and accessibility factors, provide educational devices to kids in underserved communities, connect people with all the places to work remotely around the world, make portable charging units that can charge an electric vehicle ultra-fast and so much more.

They face unique challenges as underrepresented founders.

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 2.2% of venture capital.

Cue Founder Gym.

For six weeks, we provided an intense virtual training experience for select founders, led by some of the most experienced investors, founders, and startup lawyers in Silicon Valley. Now, after completing the rigorous graduation requirements, we are excited to officially introduce the graduates of FG Cohort 7 [Seed]. But before you meet the founders…

Take a look at the numbers.

Meet the Graduates of FG Cohort 7 [Seed]

Andreea Wade

“I have gained an invaluable insight into United States venture capital.”

  • Company:
  • Description: is a deep learning powered recommender engine that provides intelligent talent data matching and data extraction technology for recruitment tech vendors, staffing agencies and direct employers.
  • Location: Dublin, Ireland
  • Get connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Brendan Medeiros

“Because of Founder Gym, I am confident that I will be able to approach VCs, raise a round and clearly justify what the investment will be used for.”

  • Company: Pickzen
  • Description: Pickzen allows eCommerce businesses to create a personalized shopping experience to engage and advise customers — without the need for a developer.
  • Location: Madrid, Spain
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Bruce Marable

“Know that you’re interviewing your investors just as much as they’re interviewing you.”

  • Company: Employee Cycle
  • Description: Employee Cycle transforms disconnected employee data into a user-friendly, centralized, and shareable real-time HR analytics dashboard.
  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Chuka Ikokwu

“Do your homework and put your hand up to ask questions in every session. It will pay off.”

  • Company: Divercity
  • Description: Divercity is a professional network that connects women and underrepresented minorities with diverse-minded companies looking to hire for diversity and inclusion.
  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Darren Buckner

“Because of Founder Gym, I am better at fundraising, and have a more valuable network than I did before.”

  • Company: Workfrom
  • Description: Workfrom is the future of how professionals and companies use local workspace.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Faranak Razavi

“Know your target audience before you start building and fundraising. It might slow you down in the beginning, but it will definitely be a powerful tool you can use for every step of your business’ development.”

  • Company: NapTime Studio
  • Description: NapTime Studio is an AR game studio for youth empowerment.
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Felipe Leñero

“I feel more confident and prepared to pitch our startup to investors outside of Mexico.”

  • Company: eFirma
  • Description: eFirma builds accessible anti-fraud solutions for KYC, ID verification, authentication, anti-money laundering, and eSignatures.
  • Location: Mexico City, Mexico
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

John Mark Eberhardt

“Stay engaged and stay open to change and feedback.”

  • Description: Stroll is a Smart City platform connecting cities to citizens and sparking economic development for local businesses.
  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Joshua Aviv

“I have definitely transformed. Before the program, I was a CEO fundraising without the proper tools. Now, I am fundraising with the right tools and mindset to get investment for my company.”

  • Company: SparkCharge
  • Description: SparkCharge makes a modular, portable charging unit that can charge an electric vehicle ultra-fast — 1 mile every 60 sec.
  • Location: Somerville, MA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Jumoke Dada

“Because of Founder Gym, I am more knowledgeable about fundraising.”

  • Company: Taeillo
  • Description: Taeillo is an innovative eCommerce furniture store that sells furniture as rugged as Africans using extended reality.
  • Location: Lagos, Nigeria
  • Get Connected: Linkedin

Lincoln Daniel

“The best thing about FG Cohort was having an accountability partner who was building a solution with a similar approach to a problem as myself. We were able to help one another figure out good ways to discuss our strategies with investors. This was invaluable to me.”

  • Company: Penname
  • Description: Penname is building the largest network connecting writers to their readers regardless of where they publish.
  • Location: San Francisco, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Lisa Love

“Not all investors are the same, so you have to do your research and know who you’re pitching to.”

  • Company: Tanoshi
  • Description: Tanoshi develops educational, age-appropriate, and fun devices for all kids between the ages of 6–12, especially targeting underserved communities.
  • Location: Oakland, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Nicole Hollis

“The best thing about the FG Cohort was meeting other hard-working and dedicated founders.”

  • Company: Emma Beauty
  • Description: Emma Beauty is the first AI-based personalization technology to deliver instant, personalized scores to consumers as they shop for personal care products.
  • Location: San Diego, CA
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Oladele Bakare

“Before the program, my only communication material for fundraising was the pitch deck. Now, I have so many fundraising materials to guide my communications with investors.”

  • Company: Findworka
  • Description: Findworka builds software products and supplies pre-vetted software talent.
  • Location: Lagos, Nigeria
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Paul Perkins

Because of Founder Gym, I am closer to making my vision a reality!”

  • Company: ORION Electronics Company
  • Description: Orion is progressing the way 5 billion people in emerging markets interact with their smartphones and the physical ecosystem that surrounds them.
  • Location: Cincinnati, OH
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Rebecca Alexander

“The best thing about FounderGym is its ability to connect founders. Because of our cohort, my founder network now includes hubs on two new continents!”

  • Company: AllGo
  • Description: AllGo is the first review platform for plus-size people to review public spaces on comfort and accessibility factors.
  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

Steny Sylvain Solitude

“No one should look at Founder Gym as a 6-week program. It’s a lifetime membership in such a great community.”

  • Company: Beacon & Eggs
  • Description: Beacon & Eggs first product is bewifi, a mobile platform connecting everyone and everything to the Internet through wifi.
  • Location: Valenton, Ile-de-France, France
  • Get connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

Congratulations to the FG Cohort 7 [Seed] Graduation Day Winners

After pitching at Graduation Day, the FG Cohort members voted for the top three pitches based on the effectiveness of their pitch and the strength of their deck. Josh Aviv, Rebecca Alexander, and Chuka Ikokwu were selected as the winners.

Meet the FG Cohort 7 [Seed] FG Trainers

Vanessa Larco is one of the only Latina venture capital Partners in the industry. She joined NEA in 2016 and focuses on Enterprise SaaS and Consumer Services investing. NEA is one of the world’s largest venture capital firms, with more than $20 billion in committed capital across 16 funds. Some of NEA’s companies include Salesforce, Groupon, Jet, and Workday. Prior to NEA, Vanessa was the Director of Product Management at Box, which IPO’d in 2015. Her passion for design and analytics stems from her experience in the gaming industry, which includes working at Xbox and Disney. Vanessa holds a BS in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Kirby Harris is Managing Partner and Co-founder of Base Ventures, a pioneering venture partnership in Silicon Valley. Base Ventures is an early-stage firm that has made more than 80 seed investments, including Rinse, Blavity, Olly Vitamins, Mayvenn, Plangrid (Acquired by Autodesk), and Baker Technologies (IPO as Tilt Holdings). Kirby started his investment career at an Oakland based boutique private equity firm where he was Vice President. In 2010, he joined Erik Moore to form Base Ventures where he enjoys helping entrepreneurs turn their dreams into massive companies. Kirby is a Kauffman Fellow, MBA graduate, and an alumnus of Morehouse College.

Location: Berkeley, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Jennifer Carolan is the Co-Founder and General Partner of Reach Capital, one of the leading edtech venture capital firms focused on investing in early childhood, K-12, and higher education, as well as lifelong learning. With over $135MM under management, Jennifer and her team have made early bets on several successful edtech companies, including Newsela and Class Dojo. Prior to launching Reach Capital, Jennifer co-founded NewSchools Seed Fund, was a classroom teacher in Elmwood Park, Illinois, and earned a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Teacher Education from Stanford University.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Mandela SH Dixon has trained hundreds of founders around the world on how to raise startup capital and build successful businesses. She 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 Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12 (acquired by Y Combinator). Mandela is an inaugural member of First Round Capital’s prestigious Angel Track program. She is a sought-after speaker and has shared her frameworks for success on over 90 stages, as well as in over 100 article publications. Mandela has received various recognitions, including being named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List and LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Venture Capital and Startups.

Location: Oakland, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Eduardo Laiter focuses on evaluating new investment prospects, assisting on due diligence, and is passionate about working with entrepreneurs to deploy solutions that remove gaps of access and opportunity amongst Latinx and African American communities. He joined Kapor Capital in 2018 after having previously participated in our Summer Fellowship program. Eduardo holds a Bachelors of Science in Business Management from Babson College with a concentration on Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Design.

Location: Oakland, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn

Vinit Sukhija is a Principal at Learn Capital. He previously led Teach For America’s Social Entrepreneurship & Innovation Initiative, where he supported and invested in over 200 early-stage education entrepreneurs, launched Teach For America’s first social entrepreneurship conference in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, and was named to Forbes’ 2015 30 Under 30 in Education. Vinit graduated summa cum laude from UC Berkeley and earned his MBA from MIT Sloan.

Location: San Mateo, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter

Megan Maloney is an investor at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm with approximately $5 billion in capital raised. General Catalyst’s investments include Airbnb, Snap, Warby Parker, and Stripe. At GC, Megan focuses on early-stage investments in B2B SaaS and deep tech. Before joining General Catalyst, she worked at Morgan Stanley in the firm’s Technology Investment Banking Group in Menlo Park and the Institutional Equities Group in New York. Megan graduated from Columbia University in New York where she studied Economics and Music.

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn and Twitter


Paige Hendrix Buckner, FG Program Director

Location: Portland, OR

Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“As a former founder, I know how hard it is to start, run and grow a company. I am passionate about connecting founders with the tools, skills, knowledge, and network they need to build strong, sustainable startups. It is exciting to think about how many dreams we are supporting with each new cohort. I’m incredibly proud of our graduates and can’t wait to see what they do next.”

Cord Brown, Digital Engagement Associate

Location: Tuscaloosa, AL

Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to support underrepresented founders from all walks of life. These founders will go on to build companies that will change the world, and I am proud to know that Founder Gym contributed to that journey.”

Karen Rodriquez-Ponciano, FG Cohort Operations Associate

Location: San Diego, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and Linkedin

“It’s a blessing to be able to work with the Founder Gym team and this brilliant group of founders. I’m so proud of every single one of them, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. These people are the disruptors and innovators who are changing their communities and entire industries. This community is exceptional, resilient and hungry for more. Watch out, world!”

Are you ready to join a global network of accomplished and inspiring founders? Great, because we are ready for you!

We are now accepting applications for FG Cohort 10.

This is a 6-week virtual 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 10 operates from July 22 — August 30, 2019.

Deadline to Apply: July 10, 2019


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Mandela SH Dixon

CEO of Founder Gym | Bringing Silicon Valley to the streets since 2011