Announcement: Founders Programme April 2020

We’re thrilled to be opening up applications for the third cohort of our ambitious Founders Programme. Our highly curated 5-week course equips first-class founders with the tools they need to turn their back-of-a-napkin concepts into venture-ready startups. And at the end of the programme, we’re prepared to make a pre-seed investment of £300k-£500k into the best of the bunch.

COVID-19 Update: Founders Programme will still be kicking off on April 6th, however we are currently putting in place a plan for all of the workshops to be run virtually. Keep the applications coming in, and we’ll be in touch with all applicants shortly to share full details of the virtual schedule!

Starting a company requires a unique skill set that isn’t taught in academia or traditional work. As such, the majority of now-successful founders have been through the experience of stewing over an idea on evenings and weekends, unsure of whether they’re onto something or not. Unsure of whether they’re thinking about their business in a defensible way. Unsure of whether the advice they got from a well-meaning friend - who has never themselves built a VC-backed company - is worth listening to or not.

There’s a gap between having an idea and validating it as a venture-scale business, and more often than not founders are left to their own devices when trying to cross it. Founders Programme is changing this. Over 5 weeks, we equip hungry idea-stage founders who are yet to launch their product, or perhaps even still in full-time work, with the tools they need to get venture-ready.

Our alumni have gone onto make exceptional progress, with Rich Serunjogi landing a place at world-class accelerator Y Combinator and Sam Murphy of Earthscope joining Insurtech Gateway.

Could you be next?

What the programme looks like

There are 5 deep-dive workshops over the course of 5 weeks, and each workshop is led by an expert from the Forward Partners’ team. These sessions will be supplemented with two 30-minute mentorship sessions with a member of the investment team, as well as tasks to complete between each session.

Workshop 1: Customer Development (April 6th)

Get an introduction to the programme, and dive into the fundamentals of venture capital, how to research your idea, how to talk to customers and how to validate your solution.

Workshop 2: Lean Canvas (April 15th)

Construct a lean canvas for the solution you have identified, and understand the key assumptions in your business.

Workshop 3: Growth Marketing (April 20th)

Learn about growth marketing and how to implement growth marketing processes with real-life examples, find your first 10 customers and reach your wider customer base.

Workshop 4: Fundraising (April 27th)

Get clued up about how to craft and refine a great pitch deck, and how investors evaluate entrepreneurs.

Workshop 5: Pitches (May 4th)

It’s show-time. Put what you’ve learned into practice and pitch your idea to the Forward Partners investment team.

Who we're looking for

  • We’re looking for talented builders and operators that are passionate, skilled, and willing to put the work in. Startups are hard work and we need people who are up for the challenge.

  • An idea/area or two that you’d like to work on - we’ll help you refine these so don’t worry if they aren’t fully formed.

  • Domain expertise is preferred - or at least a good answer to the question of why you are a good person to solve this problem.

  • Ability to commit to the programme - the ‘when and where’ of the sessions will be done as thoughtfully as possible (considering the commitments of those participating), but you’d be expected to give a lot to get the most out of the programme.

  • Technical ability is not necessary. Being technical is a bonus, but it will not give you an advantage in your application.

Hear from our second cohort founders

“I attended the course to learn what seed investors were looking for today and to understand the state of the art in startup founding approaches. I found the course an excellent guide in what to do, what to prioritise, and what not to do, and will certainly use the approach with my next tech venture. There were lots of insights about how startup creation has changed even since 5 years ago, that for me were totally invaluable. I would recommend it to any founder.”

Will Taylor of Rota, 2nd Cohort

"I joined the programme with no prior experience of speaking to investors and after 4 weeks felt the world of Venture Capital wasn't as mysterious and intimidating anymore. During that period, FP were basically co-founders in my business and helped me think through all of my hypotheses. They helped me test customer acquisition channels and current demand for the product. The results of the test forced me to spend more of my time on distribution vs only product. This eventually led to us identifying a reliable route to market and an expert in customer acquisition join our advisory board."

Karan Mehta of Bluezone Insurance, 2nd Cohort

So how do you apply?

Applications are now open and we will be accepting them until the 1st of April.

Please apply via this typeform which should take you no longer than 10 minutes.


Can I participate in the Founder Programme if I’m still working full time?

Yes. We hope to make the sessions as accessible to the people selected for the programme as we can, and the commitment will be 1.5 hours per week plus some homework for 5 weeks.

Where will the sessions be run?

The sessions will be held in our office in Hoxton.

What will be the format of the sessions?

Each session will be highly interactive, combining instruction, conversation and activity.

Can I still apply if I live outside the UK?

Yes, however, you will be required to commit to the in-person sessions at our office in London.

What happens if I can’t make all of the sessions?

If there is a session you can’t make, please detail this in your application and we will try and accommodate.

Is there any cost involved?

The Founders Programme is completely free for participants.

Do you take equity?

No, we don’t take any equity for participation in the programme, although our goal is to make pre-seed investments in successful participants.

I don’t live near London - how can I be accommodated?

If joining the programme requires significant travel and associated cost from elsewhere in the UK, we're happy to offer financial support, but they will be discussed on a case by case basis with successful applicants to the programme.

I have young children - how can I be accommodated?

We will happily provide a bursary to any parents for childcare. This bursary can cover your usual childcare arrangements at home, or alternatively if you’d rather bring your children along to the session, we can arrange someone to be on site too.

I have a disability which means I am unable to use public transport to travel - how can I be accommodated?

If you require special travel arrangements, we will provide a bursary to support covering these costs - discussed on a case by case basis. We default to programme participants in arranging the transport most relevant to their needs.

Can I apply for the Founders Programme and Office Hours?

You can apply to both the Founders Programme and Office Hours, however, if you are accepted onto the Founders Programme we won’t accept your Office Hours application.

Who will be my mentor?

Each founder will be entitled to two 30-minute mentorships sessions with a member from the FP investment team.

I’m a seed-stage company, can I still apply?

The purpose of the Founders Programme is to help founders formulate and then refine a business idea therefore isn’t suitable for seed stage businesses. Seed stage companies should apply for investment via this link.

Can my co-founder/s attend too?

Unfortunately, we can only host one founder per company due to space limitations.

How does the programme complete?

Our ambition is to invest in as many of the companies we believe are ready. If this isn’t the case, we will advise on what aspect of the business still needs some work and rediscuss later down the line. We are also more than happy to make introductions to other VCs if we don’t think FP is a good fit for the company.

I’ve already started working on an idea/have built some product can I still apply?

Yes, but the programme is aimed at very early-stage businesses.

When will I hear whether I’ve been successful?

We will get back to every applicant within 2 weeks on the success of their application.

Shope is a marketer, writer and headshot photographer. As Brand and Content Manager at Forward Partners, Shope executes on our content strategy and works to build our awareness with early-stage founders. Prior to joining Forward Partners she worked at e-commerce and marketplace startups, initially as a content creator at ASOS, before moving onto support Drover and Common Objective with their communications and content. She has a strong interest in consumer brands and sustainability.

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