Founder Institute considering Ottawa chapter

A Silicon Valley-based organization is exploring options to come to Ottawa in order to help would-be entrepreneurs get started while keeping their day job.

By Stephen Karmazyn

Dubbed by co-director Stefan Celeski as an organization for “part-time entrepreneurs,” the Founder Institute will decide in the coming weeks whether or not to bring its startup launch program to the capital.

The institute, with chapters in 100 cities in 58 countries around the world,  is focused on potential entrepreneurs who are currently employed, providing them with night courses to help them learn more about getting into the startup market.

“They’re looking for people who have an idea but are still employed to go prove out their thesis,” says L-SPARK director of business operations Patrick White, “to go through a course to see if there actually is . . .  a customer for their product and then validate it.”

Mr. White expects at best 25 per cent of Founder Institute – which caters to all tech startups – graduates to be a fit for L-SPARK, which only incubates and accelerates enterprise software companies.

The Founder Institute program can be grueling, demanding those in the course to dedicate 25-30 hours a week on top of their day job.

“It’s a massive commitment for the individual,” Mr. White says. “But anybody who starts their own business should probably be putting in 80-100 hours a week into that business.”

Mr. Celeski sees the straining schedule as a good primer to what it’s like to live the life of a startup co-founder. Since the program started in 2008, he said that about 50 per cent of those enrolled finish the program. The average student is often 35 years old with an upper management position.

The Founder Institute will hold several more events in the next three weeks to gauge interest in the Ottawa tech community. It will then make a decision whether to open an Ottawa chapter.

“I would be really surprised if [it doesn’t run],” says Mr. Celeski, adding the organization is currently looking for a co-director to work with him.

While reluctant to give an exact date for a possible Ottawa opening, Mr. Celeski said it would likely be some time in September.