Founder Labs (continued)

Roughly three months ago, I wrote a post noting that Founder Labs was coming to NYC. Last night the first Founder Labs program in NYC wrapped up wtih the final presentations in USV's event space.

Founder labs

I have liked the idea of Founder Labs from the moment I heard about it. It sits between things like Pair Up and Startup Weekend and Y Combinator and TechStars. Founder Labs helps pair up three and four person teams, coaches them through ideation, all the way to a prototype. And they do this in a five week intensive class that meets on nights and weekends so you don't have to quit your job to do it.

The Gotham Gal and I were active mentors in the Founder Labs program, meeting with the teams once a week at space hosted by Google NYC, and also provided support for the NYC program along with a few other awesome people and companies.

Founder Labs creator Shaherose Charania is a force of nature. She handpicks the participants in the program and helps to form the teams. I told the assembled group last night that the teams that are formed at Founder Labs are terrific. They are diverse, well balanced, and highly compatible. Each one has engineers, designers, and product talent on them. I have never seen a program create teams as well as Founder Labs does it.

If you want to do a startup but are having a hard time finding a team to do one with, you should really consider Founder Labs. The next program is in SF from Aug 11 to Sept 22. But I am certain Shaherose and her team will be back in NYC before the end of the year.

The first NYC program was so strong and there were are least two teams, maybe three that will come out of it with real traction. The winner last night was Smarketplaces, a project to put ebay/etsy style marketplaces on blogs like Disqus has done with comments. It has great promise. Authy was also quite strong with a user side solution for simple and easy two factor authentication. There were two interesting projects around alternative medicine services and helping people with food allergies navigate the world of food. We also saw new ideas in social music and daily deals.

Regardless of whether all of these teams turn into startups and businesses (I think several will), all the participants will come away with an appreciation for how to get a startup off the ground, what makes a great team, and how to quickly find out if your idea is a good one. And because of that, Founder Labs is a winning formula.

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. tyronerubin

    My word I dream of attending a five week intensive class like this. That would be a dream. look great, will await an invite and check it out, sounds very exciting. If you have any video of these events / workshops / classes it would be great to check out. Thanks as always for the info. Enjoy the day! 

    1. Robert Thuston

      At min 4:00 in this video, Fred starts to ask a line of questioning to an entrepreneur at a roundtable. At 7:05 Fred starts to sum up his recommendation for him.”In action” videos are wonderful, because you get to see people’s judgements.  I would enjoy watching some “in action” footage at Founder Labs, such as of Shaherose Charania “in action” hand picking participants, questioning, etc.  All this to say, I’d enjoy watching a video also.  I’m glad Fred included the real life picture above as well, because it gives a starting feel for the environment.*The entrepreneur in the video is pitching a better way to match doctors and patients, which is all you need to know to start at min 4:00 or 7:05.{…}

      1. tyronerubin

        wow thanks!

      2. Tom Labus

        Do you know what happened to this company?

        1. Robert Thuston

          Not sure

  2. Tim Huntley

    Agreed that this a great idea.  I participated (as a company advisor) in Launchbox 2010 in Durham, NC with Spring Metrics –  A big benefit was the funding/demo day that put the Launchbox companies in front of a ton of VC’s and angels (after they had gotten to a prototype)….Tim

  3. Mark Essel

    I was thinking about distributed client side auth this morning, oauth feels like a hack. I wonder how Authy approaches the problem.



  4. Josh Hanson

    In 1971, Ivan Illich, wrote…”A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known…the operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity….If the networks I have described could emerge, the educational path of each student would be his own to follow, and only in retrospect would it take on the features of a recognizable program. The wise student would periodically seek professional advice: assistance to set a new goal, insight into difficulties encountered, choice between possible methods.”

    1. fredwilson

      That sort of sums up founder labs

    2. ShanaC

      I love that quote – but where is it from?

  5. markslater

    thats great – i wish they had one in boston

    1. paramendra

      Create one. 

  6. Carl J. Mistlebauer

     Cities and municipalities all over the country are trying to find ways to create jobs through incubating innovation and technology.  Locally, I had three visitors last night who came to discuss the matter.  Its really hard to explain that while you think something is a great idea that “the” idea is a bad one. Yes, I would love to think that the next Google was developed in my town but the reality is we are neither a center of innovation or capital….besides we do not have the expertise…We want innovation but we also want jobs…..I told them that we need to develop a way to move downstream and find a way to develop an “incubation lab” that finds ways to bridge the gap between innovation and our existing business mix….I am painfully aware that I have no idea of what I am talking about so does anyone here have any ideas and or could suggest any examples of what other smaller communities are doing to diversify and grow the economic base through innovation and incubating start ups? 

    1. Dave W Baldwin

      Patience Carl.Often the community leaders influence what happens.  This will often have an affect on what is considered, say a more rural area than medium city and metropolitan.There are two ways to go about it… 1) fight like hell to wake them up or 2) be ahead with your business working with those offering the newest in marketing/delivery/customer service.  You can then talk with those in control. In your case, you can probably get somewhere since your business is successful and those you speak to are interested in getting money from you.In my case, I’m involved with the schools and have been asked to address career minded students about the future of tech (Bio/Nano/Robotic/AGI/Longevity).  You’d be impressed with some of the questions regarding Artificial General Intelligence.You may need to start small, but it is a way to gain an audience. 

    2. Dave Pinsen

      The clustering effect probably means that there will remain relatively few high-tech/start-up hubs in the U.S. Considering how long NYC has taken to become the start-up hub it is now, this route doesn’t seem a promising one for cities and municipalities across the country. And in any case, relatively few American jobs are created by even the largest tech start-ups, so this tack may not be the best one for job creation anyway.Worth reading Louis Uchitelle’s recent column, “Once Made in America”, for how the lack of a common sense national industrial policy has lead to the outsourcing of the manufacturing jobs that had been the backbone of many American communities.

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        Thanks to Dave B, Shana, and Dave P!I keep forgetting that as soon as I get myself “disentangled” from a business partnership (got the label, got the employees, just haven’t got my share of the money) I am relocating (I do like the word ‘clustering’ because that is exactly what I want to do…cluster with other more innovative and collaborative business people) and thus leaving 20th century business models behind and adapting 21st century ones….Tired of spending time listening to people complain about the internet, about change, (i.e. most of my retailers) and spend my time in an environment where people embrace the future rather than fight it….It is what it is…..Learned a long time ago that I cannot change the world, but have to work at it one person at a time. Besides I quit the Chamber of Commerce in 1996…. 

    3. ShanaC

      A) Introduce more people to small business ownersB) Find out what needs to be innovated in your communityC) Ignore naysayers about clustering effects (even if they are true).  Try to encourage telecommuting to jobs in your area and spaces for people who want to telecommute, but socially!



  7. Dave W Baldwin

    Congratulations Fred on a successful Founder’s Lab.Enjoyed the video @Bertrood:disqus linked.  Is it okay if I send you a quick different look at the issue addressed at minute 4 regarding the way to do this that serves someone in New York, St. Louis and Cape Girardeau at the same time avoiding the stiff bureaucracies related to the large institutions of Insurance and so on? 

    1. fredwilson

      i’m happy to look at it. but this is not an area we are likely to invest in

      1. Dave W Baldwin

        I understand.  Somewhere I’m going to need some advice.

  8. ShanaC

    Hey Fred,Do you have any links about the food based startups, particularly the ones associated with speciality diets.  I know a lot of people who have issues with food (at least one child diabetic, a number of people with gluten sensitivities, people trying to lose weight, and at least one vegetarian)What are they looking at in terms of building out services for this group (and can I share with various people)

    1. awaldstein

      Hey ShanaDo copy me if you discover anything on this.New York, especially LES and EV has lots of food innovation especially in the raw and green segments. But no overriding resource to connect them all…as yet.BTW…Pala on Allen is the best for vegan, gluten free and just super regular pizza.

      1. Prendio

        Hi Arnold,My name is Mimi Hui, I’m one of the founders of, my co-founder Billy and I are the ones who are developing a system to help people with food allergies.  I’d love to follow up with you on this.  our twitter handle is  and our emails are hello ( at ) .Looking forward to catching up!Mimi

    2. Prendio

      Hi Shana,My name is Mimi Hui, I’m one of the founders of, my co-founder Billy and I are the ones who are developing a system to help people with food allergies.  I’d love to follow up with you on this.  our twitter handle is @prendious:twitter and our emails are hello ( at ) .Looking forward to catching up!Mimi



    4. fredwilson

      none of them have launched yet

    5. Dave W Baldwin

      As the comments say below, this is a hard one… and a shame.If we take the onset of Type II Diabetes, so many just throw their hands up and go for the insulin so they can stay on the bad diet.  Problem is they are just accelerating the many bad things to come.A support group regarding exercise and low carb would be beneficial.  Doing so without the self serving medicine men who would confuse the issue moving it to physical trainers and the diabetics having somewhere to go to share frustration would be good.I’d say as per above and just over eating in general dictates something more focused on burning (calories) and eating.@fredwilson:disqus @FakeGrimlock:disqus @awaldstein:disqus 

  9. paramendra


  10. Ryan Weber

    As a member of the inaugural NYC Founder Labs class, I can truly say that Founder Labs is an amazing program and feel very fortunate to have been a part of it. I want to reiterate Fred’s point about applying to the SF program  – if any of you are interested in getting involved in the startup scene, while meeting other highly motivated, smart, entrepreneurial people as well as learning from really sharp and accomplished entrepreneurs, investors etc., then this program is definitely for you.  Thanks Fred to you, the Gotham Gal, and the other fantastic mentors and advisors, who, along with Shaherose, really made it a phenomenal experience. 

    1. Authy

      Same here, the experience was fantastic. The program is only 5 weeks, which scared me at first, but when you finish it feels like 5 months !.The best part about the program is the people, both the mentors and the team, I feel really fortunate to have spent a full month working alongside all this great teams.Also the amount of value you derive from the mentors is invaluable. Our product is way beyond what we envisioned, if it weren’t for them, we would have taken a completely different direction, thanks to Shaherose, Fred and all the other invaluable mentors. 

  11. Steve Poland

    This is first time I heard of USV’s event space- did you guys get a new office? What else is going on in your event space?

    1. fredwilson

      we moved upstairs. we use the space for our events and our portfolio companies use it for theirs. occasionally we will make it available for an outside group like founder labs

  12. awaldstein

    Really great stuff…My time is tight but if there are needs for marketing mentors on the next go round, glad to discuss.

  13. Eunice Apia

    I think I would like to try this when it comes back to NYC. I love the fact that it doesn’t require 24 hours of your time. I’m not big on commitment. Maybe, I shouldn’t say that out loud. It came out wrong. What I meant is, I like “Me Time”.

  14. Roy Nallapeta

    @fredwilson:disqus Isn’t this forced pairing of group an arranged marriage situation, not that it won’t workjust that it’s arranged. You should also check out Founders Institute (FI) and they are doing a good job at taking people from ideation to business research to founding. About the team pairing, it’s both a boon and a curse based on your view pointFull disclosure: I was a part of FI program and came out of it successfully

  15. RooseveltIslander

    Would love to learn more about Smarkeplaces and how it would work for a neighborhood blog like my own which covers the NYC neighborhood of Roosevelt Island. I’ve been thinking about adding such a local community marketplace service for a while now  but don’t have the tech skills to create it and am very glad that it will soon be available. I signed up at the Smarketplaces site and am looking forward to seeing it in action.

  16. Cheap android tablet

    Founder Labs is a very good idea. Everyone can exchange his/her ideas with others. It’s also a good way of learning .

  17. BuyGiftsItems

    we moved upstairs. we use the space for our events and our portfolio companies use it for theirs. occasionally we will make it available for an outside group like founder labs  a deal a day