Stop thinking, start acting: ‘Entrepreneur bootcamp’ in Stockholm

Turn your idea into a business in just 14 weeks with the Founder Institute, an entrepreneur bootcamp coming to Stockholm this November. The Local caught up with mentors and graduates of the startup launch program that has helped entrepreneurs turn their business dreams into reality.

Stop thinking, start acting: ‘Entrepreneur bootcamp’ in Stockholm
Photo: The Founder Institute

The Founder Institute (FI) has been around for almost a decade after being established in the start-up capital of Silicon Valley. Since then, the business incubator has helped launch more than 3,000 companies, raising $700m (€609m) by graduates in the process. 

With a presence in over 180 cities around the world, FI ran its first program in Sweden in 2017. Naturally, it chose to launch in the ‘unicorn’ capital of Stockholm, which is home to the likes of startups such as music giant Spotify and fintech company iZettle. 

The demanding 14-week program offers in-depth workshops on all aspects of business planning whether you are in the idea, prototype or early company stage. Key to FI’s success is access to mentors who are active entrepreneurs in getting companies off the ground. 

Click here to get your spot on the Founder Institute bootcamp

Mentors such as Michael Lantz, CEO of video experience company Accedo, whose customers include Netflix and HBO. 

“The startup ecosystem in Stockholm is fantastic and I really feel that what the Founder Institute is doing is filling a hole for entrepreneurs. There was certainly nothing like this out there when I started my own company 14 years ago,” Lantz tells The Local. 

Photo: The Founder Institute

Lantz is one of FI’s 50+ mentors who are serial entrepreneurs, savvy to the needs and demands of the startup scene. Advice from mentors can help build your network and lead to investment opportunities, he says. 

“You can have a great idea but not have the right training and tools. Entrepreneurs need mentors and this program provides that. It can be a bit like a ‘Dragons Den’ type format where the mentors provide feedback and, when it is needed, tough advice,” says Lantz. 

The program, which begins on November 21st, has two group meetings every week in Stockholm. Students are expected to commit between 20-30 hours a week to cover the course syllabus from business idea to product to launch. 

The FI program is much like starting a business; you get out of it what you put in, says Lantz. 

“The best bit of business advice that I was given was never to underestimate the amount of work that you need to put in. This FI program is particularly useful for those who are starting their first company.” 

A recent graduate is Hrishikesh Rajan, who completed the FI program in Stockholm last year. Rajan was in the process of setting up his company, TrusTrace, which builds Blockchain technology solutions to help the fashion industry become more transparent.

“We were in the early stages with TrusTrace when we did the program. It was particularly useful on the networking side with the other participants,” Rajan tells The Local.

Among the modules covered are developing your business idea by focusing on research and customer development, startup legal advice and IP concerning your product, and branding and marketing for your launch.

“The course is a big time commitment and my advice to prospective program participants would be to research which FI mentors are suitable for your business. We got a lot of advice on the legal side and found the workshops to be very useful,” says Rajan.

Another recent graduate is Christian Wibom. The Swede is currently flat-out developing his first business – Figuratic – a virtual fitting room experience for the fashion industry. 

Click here to get your spot on the Founder Institute program

“One of the best things about the program is that you can do it part-time. You are expected to put in 30 hours a week so it is intense! But you can manage to work and do the program,” Wibom tells The Local. 

As a new entrepreneur, Wibom was particularly attracted to gaining access to mentors who are experts in online shopping as well as those who are adept at product development and pitching; some of the mentors become investors themselves. Together, the mentors on the Stockholm FI program have founded more than 100 companies. 

“What I took away from the program is that there are so many things to think of; it’s not just about having an innovative product. Doing the company building assignment was very interesting. You need to start validating your business idea,” says Wibom. 

He adds: “The mentors give you good insights and feedback. And they can also open doors for you. Most entrepreneurs are passionate about their product but you also need to know if there is a use for it. Honest feedback is vital and you shouldn’t take it personally.” 

‘A winning formula’

Depending on what stage you are at in your startup, FI can provide tailored advice and support. For example, those at the idea stage can be helped to find co-founders; those at the prototype stage can get support on hitting the right market while those in the early company stage can get support on launching a sustainable business with a global network. 

Photo: The Founder Institute

Mentor Randy Cottin has a worldwide outlook after previously running companies in Venezuela and Costa Rica as Rocket Internet's venture country and regional manager for Central America. Since moving to Umeå in 2016, Cottin has created Loogup – a service engine platform for home buyers that aims to democratize the real estate sector and help homeowners make smarter, more informed decisions. 

“FI is an accelerator that focuses on the founder instead of the idea. And this is a belief that I share with FI. Ideas will come and go, some are unique and some not much, most will pivot some will mutate, but the founder is the key element of success. And when you combine a great idea, a great founder and the world’s largest network of entrepreneurs and mentors, you have a winning formula,” Cottin tells The Local. 

The company behind FI in Stockholm is Desifer; an organization that supports startups at every stage of development and provides access to the corporate world through their network. Desifer will provide funding for the top three graduates – 100,000 SEK (€9,573) for the first and 75,000 SEK (€7,179) for the second and third – as well as weekly mentoring for the top graduate from Adeo Rossi, CEO of the Founder Institute. 

Randy Cottin will join the mentor team this year as entrepreneur in residence to share his vast array of startup experience and is excited about what is on offer for the latest batch of students. 

“In FI, the founders ‘learn by doing’ and launch a company through structured training courses, practical business-building assignments, and expert feedback. It is designed to be challenging and to bring out the best out of each founder.”

And for those unsure whether to commit to the 14-week program, the serial entrepreneur says the following:

“It is improbable that at any given time in your life all the variables will come together to make the decision that right now is right moment to become an entrepreneur, there will always be excuses. But if you see yourself launching a company in the next 6 to 12 months, then this is the first step towards making things happen. We usually don’t regret the things we did but instead the thing we didn’t do, not joining Founder Institute now might be the biggest of all.”

The Founder Institute program begins on November 21st in Stockholm. Click here to find our more and enrol.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by The Founder Institute.




Is Malmö’s pogo stick e-mobility startup for real?

Cangaroo, the Malmö-based startup offering to hire pogo sticks through an app won viral coverage. But is it for real? The Local tracked down Adam Mikkelsen, founder of ODD Company, the "super-creative PR company" behind it, to find out.

Is Malmö's pogo stick e-mobility startup for real?
Adam Mikkelsen (centre) with the rest of the Cangaroo team. Photo: ODD Company
The Malmö company's innovative addition to the last mile e-mobility sector has been covered by the The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Huffpost, CNN, and our sister site The Local France, although from the start sceptical voices were raised. 
At the height of its viral coverage in May, the company put out a public statement insisting that the company was not a PR stunt.  
“With a lot of initial questions along the line of 'is this for real?', we feel the need to underline that Cangaroo is 100% real,” it said in a statement.  
But when The Local spoke to him, Mikkelsen admitted that the initial idea had been to make a stir and get a point across. 
“It definitely started as some statement, I wouldn't say against, but in the micro mobility movement,” he said. “And a lot of things we do tend to divide the crowd, with 50 percent saying 'is this real?' and the other half wanting to try them out.” 
He said that articles talking about the company dumping tens of thousands pogo sticks in cities across the world as e-scooter companies like Lime and Voi have done, are “delusional”. 
“With the Cangaroo, I would definitely see it as a success even if we only managed to put out ten pogo sticks in two cities and then we're out of money,” he admitted. 
“But we're not about making a statement by just making something up and not doing it, because then we might as well announce that we're doing flying cars or whatever.” 
Adam Mikkelsen (right) with a prototype Cangaroo. Photo: ODD company
If the handful of pogo sticks the company hopes to release in Malmö in August are well received (and that is quite a big 'if'), Mikkelsen claimed he and the PR bureau aim to stick with the company. 
“If everything is running smoothly and the demand and feedback is great, then we would absolutely continue to scale and expand like any startup would do,” he said. 
The company, like its 2017 'Pause Pod' relaxation tent, have been developed by the company's ODD lab, which it uses for experimental projects that are not for real clients. 
The Pause Pod relaxation tent the company released in 2017 raised 960,244 Swedish kronor on Kickstarter and then sold about 2,500 tents before ODD wound the company up. But it got massive media coverage. 
In the past the company has created similar viral 'product ideas' for commercial clients, such as the Somersby grass slippers for Carlsberg, or the Hug Trench for the fashion brand Monki. 
Mikkelsen said that even though both the Pause Pod and Cangaroo were part of the company's ODD Lab, and not for any particular client, the company aimed to use the buzz around Cangaroo to raise the profile of gay, lesbian and transgender charities. 
“We are currently in talks with different Pride festivals, so we aims to use the product in the public space to allow people to take stand on something,” he said. “During Pride week our ambition is that if you jump on a pogo stick, you jump for free love.” 
“So we're not going to use it as a campaign for a commercial company,” he concluded. “But if you look at charity organizations, they sometimes struggle to get their message out.”
So it it for real? It depends what 'real' means.