Founder Fellowship 4 applications are now closed. Make sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter for news of when the next cohort application opens!
A lot’s changed since we launched the first Founder Fellowship application back in December 2020. The startup funding environment and macroeconomic outlook are, shall we say, different. But at South Park Commons, our faith in founders remains the same. We believe now is a better moment than ever for founders to take advantage of the time, funding, and support offered by the fellowship and start a company.
With that, we are excited to open applications for Founder Fellowship 4.
Here are the top things to know about the cohort 4 application:
Founder Fellowship terms have not changed. Teams receive $400k for 7% equity, membership in the SPC community, and a proprietary curriculum we’ve refined to help you validate ideas, all in a small cohort with direct mentorship by SPC partners.
We will review applications on a rolling basis. This will help us maximize attention paid to each application and get decisions out quickly. We encourage you to apply as soon possible.
Founder Fellowship Cohort 4 is open to all company ideas. We are not restricting applications to a particular market or industry. However, we do have three emphasis areas that we are particularly interested in founders exploring: applied AI/ML, web3, and industries that fall into our New American Frontier (NAF) framework.
These three thematic emphases reflect the past, present, and future of SPC—and the member networks, domain expertise, and company-building experience that develop with the focused attention of our membership.
The early years of SPC were dominated by AI reading groups and machine learning engineers. For a time, the community served as the most significant top-of-funnel for several major AI research labs. Our AI/ML network is both broad and deep, and we plan on returning to our roots with an upcoming marquee learning forum on AI.
SPC developed a similar community emphasis on web3 over the last year, driven by member interest and cultivated with the web3 Founder Fellowship. The current SPC membership is one of the densest web3 talent networks in the world and our community remains one of the best places for founders to explore and launch web3 companies.
We most recently followed member interest with the launch of our New American Frontier speaker series. The series explores the critical intersection between government and technology in strategically important industries like space, energy, defense, climate, and more. We want to continue this motion by inviting founders interested in industries that fit within the NAF framework to apply for the fellowship.
If you’re not currently exploring any of the three areas above, that’s ok—we still want to hear from you! The fellowship was designed to support founders pre-idea, and some of the most successful companies to launch from past cohorts are SaaS businesses, which our fund has deep experience supporting. Because of the small cohort size, we customize the mentorship and help you receive for whatever you end up pursuing. Ultimately, we’re investing in founders, not markets or ideas.
What is the Founder Fellowship?
SPC’s Founder Fellowship is a different way for entrepreneurs to start a high growth, venture-backable startup. We give founders their first outside investment, help them ideate and iterate to a viable product, and assist them in raising from the best VCs in the world.
We take a boutique and customized approach to helping founders, recognizing that there is no one-size-fits-all way to start a company. Our cohort sizes are small, with one partner for every two companies. We do not have a demo day, and when the time is right for you to raise, we’ll make introductions to the best investors.
We offer $400,000 to founders to pursue an idea, in exchange for 7% equity via a SAFE. We can help identify the right market, support you as you build your first product, find first customers, and help raise a seed round.
How does the Founder Fellowship work?
- $400,000 for 7% equity via a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE)
SPC Startup Forum
- 10-week Curriculum — program put on by the SPC Community with other founders and domain experts, centered around a proprietary curriculum. We have collected time-tested articles, videos, and books on thinking about markets, ideas, and products the way the world’s best founders and investors do. This helps founders avoid common pitfalls and increase their chances of creating a successful high growth startup.
- Speaker Series— we invite tech luminaries to our weekly Forum and attend one-off events. Prior cohort guests have included Nathan Blecharczyk (Airbnb), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Mike Krieger (Instagram), Mathilde Collin (Front), Tope Awotona (Calendly), Anatoly Yakovenko (Solana), Nikil Viswanathan (Alchemy), Connie Chan (Andreessen Horowitz), and more.
- Milestone-based workshops — work with fund partners and peer fellows to hit milestones in the ideation, validation, and prototyping phases. These sessions help share goals, build momentum, and drive accountability.
- Labs focused on “doing” — partner-led building groups focused on technical instrumentation, prototyping, product metrics, PMF, best practices for continuous deployment, etc.
- Alumni Forum — an online forum to continue the conversation with other founders in your cohort and SPC alumni to ask for advice and help others in the community, even after the fellowship is over.
- Access to domain experts across a variety of fields in artificial intelligence, web3, fintech, social networks, energy, developer tools, defense, climate tech, and more.
- Access to a network of founders and executives from the seed stage to IPO at companies ranging from OpenAI, Google, and SpaceX to breakout companies such as Coinbase, Figma, Notion, Airtable, Pilot, Unit21, and more.
- Hands-on fundraising support to raise your next round of financing, including guidance crafting a pitch deck and introductions to top angel investors, seed firms, and VCs. Companies from our previous cohorts have gone on to raise from partners at Greylock, First Round Capital, Index Ventures, Bain Capital Ventures, Khosla, FTX, and more. We can also support you through non-traditional fundraising routes such as token offerings.
- $200K in credits from AWS, Google Cloud, Brex, Pulley, and other companies.
How is the Founder Fellowship different from other accelerators or incubators?
We help at the -1 to 0 phase, even before founders have an idea.
- More money and a higher valuation for your company. Most accelerators offer smaller checks for more equity. We offer $400K for less equity, in many cases more than doubling your valuation. We believe great ideas may take more than a few months to materialize and founders should avoid moving too quickly because they are cash-constrained.
- No idea necessary. We can help you find a great market and idea for which you are well suited.
- No fixed timelines. We’ll work on validating ideas and fundraising on a timeline that makes the most sense for your idea.
- Small cohorts with direct partner mentorship and a focus on mutual support.
Do I need an idea to apply?
You do not need an idea to apply.
That being said, a great idea is a critical component of long term success. If you do not have an idea, we will need to assess your ability to generate great ideas. Be prepared to discuss markets you find interesting, previous ideas you have considered and discarded, and the sorts of startup ideas and insights you find compelling and why.
Is Founder Fellowship Cohort 4 limited to specific industry domains like the previous web3 fellowship?
No. Our fourth cohort is open to founders exploring venture-scale opportunities. We are, however, particularly interested in hearing from founders exploring three thematic areas: applied AI/ML, web3, and ideas that fit within our New American Frontier framework.
Can I apply as a solo founder or do I need a cofounder?
It can be challenging to start a company solo, and we hear from our fellows that having a collaborator is extremely valuable on this journey. We do accept solo founders, but we have a preference for teams. If you’re a solo founder, we have a strong bias towards applicants who have the skills to build and prototype. If you are accepted as a solo founder you’ll likely benefit from a co-founder and we can help in the search process — previous fellows found co-founders in the SPC community.
What are the upcoming cohort application deadlines, program dates, & location logistics?
- Application deadline: 11:59pm PT on Friday, August 26th 2022
- Interviews: Scheduled on a rolling basis
- Program Start Date: All team members must be full-time available for the program start in mid-September 2022
- Location: We have no geographic preference for teams. The program will be hybrid, with both remote and in-person options. All events will include remote access, but teams in the Bay Area and New York City will have access to SPC community spaces. All programming will be based on Pacific Time Zone hours. You do not need to be in the Bay Area or United States to apply or participate.
Who is behind the Founder Fellowship?
The Founder Fellowship is organized by South Park Commons and run by SPC investors Ruchi Sanghvi, Aditya Agarwal, Mitra Lohrasbpour, Finn Meeks, and Bala Chandrasekaran. We are builders, entrepreneurs, technologists, and investors who love helping other entrepreneurs succeed.
South Park Commons is a member-run community of technologists and builders dedicated to helping each other get from -1 to 0. If you are not yet ready to start a venture-scale company but are interested in exploring what's next in a supportive community, consider applying for membership here.