Meet the Graduates of Founder Gym’s Cohort 9 [Pre-Seed]

Mandela SH Dixon
Jun 13, 2019 · 19 min read
Image for post
Image for post

“I loved Founder Gym because I felt seen and heard. I also felt like I got the information that friends would give one another. It was a refreshing break from the typically​ competitive nature of business and be surrounded by people that want to grow and want you to grow as well.”

~ Brooke Shareé Patterson, Founder of The HGHLT

“Before the cohort, I knew that there were gaps in my knowledge base, but I had no clue as to how to fill them. After graduating, my base has been solidified. While I don’t think you can’t replicate going through actual investor meetings, I won’t feel as nervous when I finally do.”

~ Jullian Giles, Founder of Kwolya

“Before, I was afraid because I did not know this space. I felt I had to have the next Uber idea and look a certain way. Now, I know that there are investors out there who want to fund ideas like mine and investors that look like me. I belong here. Entrepreneurship is in my blood.”

~ Arlene Perez, Founder of CoCo: My College Counselor

It is time for another FG Cohort Graduation! From April 22nd to May 31st, we trained 39 founders from 4 continents, 4 countries, and 31 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 launching 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.

They are developing startups that build new hiring platforms to make it easy for companies to hire without the hassle of resumés, help professionals in the building and design world find the right manufacturers, guide authors through a simple process of writing and publishing a book, connect Black women to health care services, 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

Another report revealed that women received only 2.2% of venture capital.

Cue Founder Gym.

Image for post
Image for post

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 9 [Pre-Seed]. But before you meet the founders…

Take a look at the numbers.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Meet the FG Cohort 9 [Pre-Seed] Graduates!

Image for post
Image for post

Aaron Williams

“Put in the work, and stay on top of all the assignments.”

  • Company: Gettable Groceries
Image for post
Image for post

Afoke Bakpa

“Because of Founder Gym, I am more knowledgeable about VC financing, the required strategies to fundraise. Now, I can confidently approach investors about my business.”

  • Company: Insegna
Image for post
Image for post

Ange Goueti

“Because of Founder Gym, I am now apart of a family of founders.”

Image for post
Image for post

Arlene Perez

“You have already exceeded so many expectations that society may have of you. This is just one more thing you WILL overcome because you were born for this.”

  • Company: CoCo: My College Counselor
Image for post
Image for post

Ashlee Wisdom

“The collective brilliance of the cohort members is inspiring. It was great to be connected to so many courageous and driven people who are doing their part to make the world better with their ideas.”

  • Company: Health In Her HUE
Image for post
Image for post

Brittany Bass

“Because of Founder Gym, I have the insights, resources, and relationships to take my company to the next level on our journey.”

  • Company: Wine & Bowties
Image for post
Image for post

Brooke Shareé Patterson

“Be coachable. You don't know it all yet. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here. Come into the program with an open heart and mind, ​and the possibilities become endless.”

  • Company: The HGHLT
Image for post
Image for post

Charles Johnson

“One piece of advice I would give future Gymmates would be to attend every session because one comment from any of the sessions can be the missing key to opening the door to you getting offered a term sheet.”

  • Company: Pop Up Commercials
Image for post
Image for post

Chasma Smith

“Because of Founder Gym, I am supported by a cohort of founders that hold invaluable insights, shared experiences and keep me accountable. They encourage me to keep doing good work on bad days.”

  • Company: She Tried It
Image for post
Image for post

Damien McDuffie

“I have a clear vision on the important pieces needed to build our business.”

  • Company: Wine & Bowties
Image for post
Image for post

Dana Barsbai

“I was too scared to approach any investor before FG and now I am more confident in my capabilities. It forced me to work on my pitch and practice.”

  • Company: C.me
Image for post
Image for post

Eranya Sargent

“I have a clearer picture of what I am building and the path to bring it to life.”

  • Company: Hooky
Image for post
Image for post

Evan Carr

“Tell them the problem, the solution, and why YOU ARE THE PERFECT person to solve it.”

  • Company: DesignAsBuilt
Image for post
Image for post

James Meeks

“The best advice I received during the cohort was to do the proper research on VC’s you’re considering partnering with to make sure it’s the right fit for both parties.“

  • Company: CRE8
Image for post
Image for post

Jared McClain

“My accountability partner was phenomenal about checking in and keeping me sane, up to date, and encouraged.”

  • Company: Black By The Numbers
Image for post
Image for post

Jarrod Knight

“You belong here. So do the work to prove it.”

  • Company: Wugi
Image for post
Image for post

Jason Caston

“The best thing about the FG Cohort is the moment you realize you are part of a community of like-minded founders. They are all going through the same trials and tribulations and want to help each other grow, build and win. “

  • Company: Composio
Image for post
Image for post

Jeremy Evans-Smith

“Really get down to why you’re different. You should be able to get 3-layers deep into your product’s differentiation. This is especially important for non-technical founders.”

  • Company: Emproov
Image for post
Image for post

John Lewis

“Because of Founder Gym, I will raise our seed round in 3 months.”

  • Company: PayWhit
Image for post
Image for post

Jullian Giles

“Founder Gym will give you a solid base from which to build from. Use the experience to perfect your investor materials, then practice what you learn by going to pitch competitions.”

  • Company: Kwolya
Image for post
Image for post

KaDeadra McNealy

“Because of Founder Gym, I have the tools to approach investors without feeling insecure.”

  • Company: Millennial Nail Bar
Image for post
Image for post

Keara Kindelynn

“The best thing about the FG Cohort was the collective brain power. FG became a shared experience even though each founder was on their own personal journey.”

  • Company: Foreverly
Image for post
Image for post

Khalida Ali

“Before the FG Cohort, I had so many questions about the groundwork that is necessary to launch a company. I now have a much better understanding and feel equipped with the right tools, knowledge and insight.”

  • Company: RHINO
Image for post
Image for post

Kistein Monkhouse

“Because of Founder Gym, I am re-energized for the next phase in building my business.”

  • Company: Patient Orator
Image for post
Image for post

Kristine Campbell

“Attend every session, show up 100% of the time, purposely block time out for the homework, and be ready to take a lot of notes!”

  • Company: Hailio
Image for post
Image for post

Majella Edwards

“Because of Founder Gym, I am more confident about approaching international investors and I have a better understanding of what I need to do to have fundraising conversations.”

  • Company: Sortal
Image for post
Image for post

Michelle DalPont

“Do all the work because it will pay off and give you more clarity than you know.”

  • Company: FitSciety
Image for post
Image for post

Olivia Cueva

“FG provided us all of the materials needed to go out and pitch to investors. It also provided us with an amazing community of support while we went through the process.”

  • Company: David E. Glover Emerging Technology Center
Image for post
Image for post

Om Suthar

“No one became rich or successful because they dreamed about it and wanted it bad enough. It’s because they persevered, put in the work consistently and listened to people that matter.”

  • Company: SQRL
Image for post
Image for post

Orlando Watson

“Find a mentor in the cohort and be a mentor to someone in the cohort.”

  • Company: Honeycomb
Image for post
Image for post

Perla Humphrey

“The relationships with the founders were great! It kept me motivated and involved.”

  • Company: Edifius
Image for post
Image for post

Rafael Richardson

“Over the six weeks, I’ve changed the brand design, developed a clear fundraising path, and created all of the support materials to share with potential investors. It’s truly a mindset shift.”

  • Company: Subzz
Image for post
Image for post

Raja Afrika

“Before the FG Cohort, I was confused and frustrated about my fundraising journey. Now, I feel armed with the tools and know-how to go forward and complete my fundraising goals.”

  • Company: Marijuana Software
Image for post
Image for post

Rocky Gray

“The best part of FG was meeting the other founders and becoming a family.”

  • Company: HeyWilla
Image for post
Image for post

Sabrina Mutukishna

“Fundraising is not a reflection of your self worth and it’s definitely something you can study! Listen to FG advice and don’t take it personally when you hear a ‘no.’”

  • Company: Workologie
Image for post
Image for post

Saleem Summour

“Because of Founder Gym, I am ready to meet investors.”

  • Company: Lvendr
Image for post
Image for post

Sheri Kurdakul

“The best thing about the FG Cohort was the cohort. There are so many driven people that also drive me. We are all willing to give of our time and resources to ensure the success of the group. We’re supportive when we crash and celebrate when we win. Being part of that is the best thing.”

  • Company: VictimsVoice
Image for post
Image for post

Tamika Joseph

“Because of Founder Gym, I am more confident and prepared to being a founder!”

  • Company: Take A Loan Off [TALO]
Image for post
Image for post

Trellis Usher

“For me, it all starts with knowledge. The more I have, the more prepared and confident I feel about the task at hand. Founder Gym has given me a great foundation to move forward and it only took 6 weeks!”

  • Company: The Cancer Blueprint

Congratulations to the FG Cohort 9 [Pre-Seed] Graduation Day Winners.

Image for post
Image for post

After pitching at Graduation Day, the FG Cohort Members voted for their top three pitches based on the effectiveness of their pitch and the strength of their deck. James Meeks, Majella Edwards, and Jason Caston were selected as the winners.

Meet the FG Cohort 9 [Pre-Seed] Trainers

Image for post
Image for post

Brian C. Patterson’s business law practice is focused on representing emerging growth companies (startups) throughout their life cycles. He is also one of the few attorneys who represent venture capital and private equity investment funds. Brian is broadly experienced across many sectors and industries in business and corporate formation and governance, deal structuring, equity and debt financing, public offerings, a variety of M&A transactions, strategic, partnering and commercial transactions, and fundamental IP, employment, and stock and option matters.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn

Image for post
Image for post

Tim Brady is a Partner at Y Combinator, a Silicon-Valley based accelerator that provides seed funding for startups. YC was founded in 2005 and has invested in over 1600 startups, including Airbnb, Dropbox, Stripe, and Instacart. Prior to joining YC, Tim was the Co-Founder of Imagine K12, an edtech accelerator that merged with YC in 2016. Tim was Yahoo’s first employee in 1995 and wrote the business plan that attracted Yahoo’s first venture capital. Tim spent eight years as Yahoo’s Chief Product Officer. He holds a BS in electrical engineering from Stanford and MBA from Harvard.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: LinkedIn

Image for post
Image for post

Cat Lee is the newest partner at Maveron Ventures, an early-stage consumer-tech venture firm. Founded in 1998, Maveron has invested in over 200 startups, including Ebay, Groupon, Pinkberry, Zulily, Shutterfly, All birds, and Zume Pizza. Prior to joining Maveron, Cat completed First Round Capital’s Angel Track program and was a Scout for Sequoia Capital. Before that, Cat spent six years at Pinterest as Head of Culture and Global Partner of Marketing and Growth. Cat also worked at Facebook across various roles on their developer platform team. She has an MBA from the University of Michigan and a BS in Computer Science from Stanford.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

Image for post
Image for post

Venky Karnam leads deal-flow at Afore Capital, leveraging a one-of-a-kind data science platform that is skilled at identifying interesting early stage companies. Afore is based in San Francisco and is one of the few pre-seed venture capital firms in existence. Prior to joining Afore, Venky was an angel investor, and previously worked at Google, AdMob, and Yahoo. Venky holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology and an MS in Computer Engineering from Northwestern University.

Location: Palo Alto, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

Image for post
Image for post

Mandela SH Dixon has helped hundreds of founders raise startup capital and build successful businesses. She was the founding Portfolio Services Director at Kapor Capital, the Global Director of Startup Weekend Education, and a tech startup founder backed by Kapor Capital, 500 Startups, and Imagine K12 (acq. by Y Combinator). Mandela is a member of First Round Capital’s prestigious Angel Track program. She is a sought-after speaker and has shared her frameworks on over 80 stages. Mandela has also 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: Twitter and LinkedIn

Image for post
Image for post

Jomayra Herrera works as an investor at Emerson Collective, an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity for everyone. She has been at the firm for 3 years and specializes in its education and future of work investments. Before joining Emerson Collective, she worked at an ed tech startup focused on transforming professional development opportunities for teachers. In 2018, Jomayra was a Forbes 30 under 30 winner in education.

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

Image for post
Image for post

Brittany Davis leads Deal Flow on the investment team at Backstage identifying and investing in pre-seed and seed stage companies for the fund and Accelerator. Previously, she was a Manager at Village Capital where she analyzed opportunities and created investment recommendations in the fintech, education, health, food/agriculture, and energy sectors. Before that, she founded an ecommerce startup, Runway Technologies, while completing an MBA at Harvard Business School. She gained experience supporting entrepreneurs as an Associate at Techstars and as a Mentor at Startup Jamaica, built a solid foundation in finance working at Bank of America Merrill Lynch for 5 years, and received her BS in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Location: San Francisco, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

MEET THE FG COHORT LEADERSHIP TEAM

Image for post
Image for post

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.”

Image for post
Image for post

Cristal Harris, Digital Engagement Associate

Location: Oakland, CA

Get Connected: Twitter and LinkedIn

“I am so proud of Cohort 9 for all of their hard work. It’s no small feat that they are building businesses and raising money for their ideas. I loved supporting the cohorts. I am passionate about serving founders because it means serving the future of tech. I am so glad to be an integral part of diversifying tech, one entrepreneur at a time.”

Image for post
Image for post

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.”

Image for post
Image for post

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!”

Image for post
Image for post

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

Image for post
Image for post

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

SUBMIT YOUR APPLICATION HERE

Image for post
Image for post

Clap it up!

Enjoy what you read? Consider giving us a few claps by clicking the clap icon.

Share This Opportunity

Tweet this article or share this on Facebook

Get Plugged In

Did you like the gems dropped by our founders? There is more where that came from! We share special announcements and advice on fundraising every Tuesday at 9:00 am via the FG newsletter — subscribe here!

Follow us on Social Media

Twitter | Instagram

Keep Reading

Meet the Graduating Class of Founder Gym Cohort 7 [Seed]

Meet the Graduating Class of Founder Gym Cohort 8 [Pre-Seed]

FounderGym

Stories that highlight the next generation of successful…

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store