Kevin Holmes, Founders NetworkBy Kevin Holmes, Founders Network co-founder and CEO

ELEVATOR PITCH

No one is better qualified to advise founders than fellow founders, and at FN we believe that authentic relationships are the foundation of success. By facilitating relationships between vetted tech startup founders, FN members look to gain an unparalleled level of information and expertise to drive their startups forward.

PRODUCT/SERVICE DESCRIPTION

Founders Network offers lifelong peer mentorship to over 500 tech startup founders. Members solve tactical problems through an online mentorship platform and address strategic issues through confidential Peer Advisory Boards. A professional staff facilitates member success through warm introductions to fellow members, affiliated Angel investors and Venture Capitalists, and partners offering over $200,000 in discounts. Founders Network members are located in Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and other tech hubs.

FOUNDER’S STORY

Before FN, I advised hundreds of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs while re-launching Santa Clara University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Prior to CIE, I helped launch AllDorm.com, an Angel funded advertising startup that connected national brands with the college market. After 15 years in Silicon Valley, I realized the startup ecosystem was missing a much needed service and I set out to build an organization dedicated to founders.

Founders Network mobileI always believed in the advice given to me by Richard White, the founder of UserVoice.com: “Don’t go it alone. Find others who are walking the same path as you.” Even though I’m the founder of Founders Network, it is very easy as an entrepreneur to be heads-down and not de-risk and accelerate your decisions with advice and encouragement from your network. I started Founders Network because the best entrepreneurs leverage their network.

MARKETING/PROMOTION STRATEGY

We focus on making our members successful through peer mentorship. As a result, 99 percent of our members come from nominations.

MARKET OPPORTUNITY

I know people who would argue that the market for entrepreneurs is vast. In my opinion, when you are focused on building a high-quality community of tech founders with full-time startup experience, the market size is actually quite small. After 15 years in Silicon Valley, I realized the startup ecosystem was missing a much needed service and I set out to build an organization dedicated to founders.

I realized that no one is better qualified to advise founders than fellow founders, and at FN we believe that long-term relationships are the foundation of success. FN’s high touch facilitation enables its members to focus on building and developing their startups and not use their time on building networks.

We are really taking a long-term approach to building our community, and although we are over 500 members strong, our membership committee only admits a small number of members each month.

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DIFFERENTIATORS VS. THE COMPETITION

FN is uniquely focused on lifelong success through peer mentorship and has proven complementary to service providers, founder matchmaking platforms, startup accelerators and the investment community. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest from graduates of accelerators who are looking for a longer-term, proactive support network.

Our achievements are made every day through the success stories we create for our members. These range from achieving product-market fit, recruiting co-founders and numbered employees, to customer acquisition and growth. This year, our community of over 500 members collectively hit the $100 million milestone in funds raised. This milestone underscores both the operational expertise and investor relationships within our community and the benefits of peer mentorship.

We realize that every entrepreneur has a vision, and until you turn that vision into a reality, there is the risk that your vision is just a hallucination. We’ve been able to double our membership every year since inception, proving the need for the service we provide.

BUSINESS MODEL

Unlike accelerators, who take equity, we don’t ask our members to give up ownership. Instead, our members pay annual dues which fund the development of our programs, platform, and service. What’s nice is that we let members pay monthly, which helps them manage their cash flow constraints. We have also bootstrapped the business 100 percent since day one, and we don’t plan on raising funding.

CURRENT NEEDS

Every business has an imperative to grow. For us, that means full-time tech founders and partners, which include service providers, investors, and really anyone who is looking to support startup founders. We also have some open positions on the team.

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Founders Network logoHEADQUARTERS: San Francisco

WEBSITE: www.foundersnetwork.com

FOUNDER: Kevin Holmes

INVESTORS: Bootstrapped

YEAR FOUNDED: 2011

ANGELLIST: angel.co/founders-network

TWITTER: @foundersnetwork

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/foundersnetwork

CRUNCHBASE: crunchbase.com/organization/founders-network