Reflections on my visit to Founder University in San Francisco from a European perspective
Its just 12 hours after I finished with the two days at the Founder University with Jason Calacanis in San Francisco. Having slept a night over it and reflecting what has been new to me and what was helpful, I can already say that there are lots of things that you can start to do directly afterwards with all that input – and even more if you have your own company (OWNR) which is growing by the week.
But let’s start with some easy facts for those who are new to Founder University. Founder University is a two-day curriculum for founders who have launched their product but haven't raised Series A. That said it fitted really well into my meeting schedule with other potential investors for our Series A as I could learn a lot for driving OWNR – this being my own start-up to disrupt the residential real estate industry by introducing the car leasing principle to residential real estate.
In order to prepare a little for these days, I read Jason Calacanis’ (who is also doing the launch.co Events) book about investing into start-ups called “Angel” (in the evenings with brilliant weather). Very interesting but coming from
Germany it all looks a little bit weird and to easy to be true. I have seen many start-ups and the quality in Germany is ok, but I would not invest in most of them. That changed in some ways when we met in San Francisco to Founder University. 70 people, a great mixture of Founders (most of them) and some interesting investors and speakers that really have gone through all of the things every start-up is going through.
The first day started with a two-hour session with 2min pitches. Two things have been great, first of all the high quality of most of the start-ups doing their pitch in that short time (congrats to the team to get all of these on board for the two days) and secondly the way Jason was asking questions. I thought that two minutes and then a little time to go through would not be enough feedback, but I was wrong. Jason and Zach (who joined him on the first day) had a great way of drilling down to the core challenges of the company and at the same time trying to completely understand the business model behind it.
The great thing was that he did also ask the 'stupid' questions most people would probably not have asked (best questions was asking the Aquaai "Fish-as-a-Service" CEO Liane why their water-drone had the shape of a fish – and immediately got her answer) and by this drilled deeper into understanding the model and where there is a twist in the right direction – or even the one missing.
I think that we have seen about 20 short pitches with the massive feedback and the quality was amazing. Which leads me to the point that he mentions that “if you are a great start-up, you have to be in San Francisco.”. I can totally understand his point when you are based in the US. Having everybody near San Francisco cuts down the way to get feedback and to meet to a minimum and investors time is valuable. And it’s a big difference if you have to fly longer times (not as in Germany where you are from north to south in an hour) that you concentrate on everything that is close by so that you can do much more things (or invest more).
I have to say that when I would have a pure software start-up it would make sense to move (even from Germany) to San Francisco and build everything up there. As OWNR has a little bit more to do with residential brick-and-mortar, this is not as easy. But I thought about joining the launch.co program which is once a week for some month – just to get all this valuable training and insights.
Of course the two days also had valuable insights from founders that have already sold their companies or are in a much later stage and telling about their learning curve.
Summarizing it was a great idea of my co-founder not only to have talks with several potential investors but also to get new input and insights at Founder University and meet lots of motivated and fantastic people. I can recommend applying for these two days for every start-up that has a good idea with great traction, e.g. for one of my investments Tonepedia. Also I really love to meet all this amazing entrepreneurs with their great ideas and mindset to really change something in their areas of expertise.