FI co-founder Jonathan Greechan described this as an attempt to bring more “alignment” to the startup ecosystem.”
“The thinking here is that if we can better align the startup and funding ecosystems towards impact, then we can create companies that are truly positive for humanity,” Greechan said.
In fact, FI has already held two sessions of the VC Lab, one in the spring of last year (which Greechan compared to a minimum viable product) and one in the summer-fall (which he compared to a beta test). Now the deadline to apply for the next cohort is coming up on February 14.
Greechan said that 48 funds have emerged from its most recent cohort and they’re on track to raise a total of $100 million in the first quarter of this year.
While many of those funds are still in the fundraising process and cannot be disclosed publicly yet, he noted that one-third of those funds are being created by partners from underrepresented backgrounds and that more than half of them are focused on impact. And he pointed to Pacer Ventures — a $3 million fund targeting startups in sub-Saharan African — as an example of the kind of firm VC Lab is meant to support.
“What we found was that a lot of the issues that these new fund managers have are pretty similar to the issues that new entrepreneurs have,” Greechan said. “They don’t understand the sequence of steps to actually get them off the ground.”
VC Lab is meant to help them understand those steps, with a curriculum that includes webinars, virtual office hours and conversations on Slack. Participants are also required to take The Mensarius Oath, which commits them to a number of values, including endeavoring “to help create positive outcomes for all of humanity” and opposing “any abuse of power that leads to unfair advantage, seduction, corruption or mistreatment.”
The program is free, although participants can also pay $500 a month for access to “premium office hours.” Founders Institute/VC Lab isn’t participating in the funds financially.
When I asked about the business model, Greechan said, “We’re not looking at this necessarily as the next phase of our business. We’ve been fostering this community of people building interesting and impactful companies, and now we’re making sure that we build a correlated community of people funding impactful companies. It’s not for charity, but there’s long-term benefits that we see for all of our grads.”