The Founder Institute is the world’s largest pre-seed accelerator; with an aim to help founders get traction and funding with a support network of startup experts, and a global network, it’s only fitting that our region has its own chapter. We’ve spoken to one of the local leaders, Richard Godfrey, to get the low down on the FI and how it can help pre-seed businesses here.

1. Hi Richard, can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

I’m the CEO of Rocketmakers… we’ve been working with founders and very early startups for over a decade, often “sweat investing” in them and helping them to grow into scalable businesses. These days we also focus on helping scaleups and bigger companies who want to innovate quickly.

On the early stage front, I’ve recently started to work with Chris Thomas and Sandeep Roy as the local leaders of the Founder Institute – starting a chapter which welcomes founders from anywhere but focuses on West England and Wales.

2. And, What is the Founder Institute? 

The Founder Institute was established in 2009 in Silicon Valley in a small unused classroom at Stanford University. It is now the world’s largest pre-seed accelerator and runs in over 180 cities around the world. Across the world, Founder Institute has helped over 4300 companies to launch and the estimated portfolio value is $20bn including some great companies such as Udemy.

We decided to set up this chapter because there is so much entrepreneurial potential outside of London that needs to be supported. West England and Wales, in particular, have some fantastic companies, incubators and universities and we want to help them to flourish by providing an accelerator that focuses on helping people take those difficult first steps of getting started.  We’re also working with some great supporters on-board, such as Stephenson Law who are supporting the legal needs founders may have in creating a new business.

3. Sounds great, who’s it designed to help?

Pre-seed means that the focus is on those people who have an idea and haven’t really got started yet – they may not have incorporated a company for example and may still be employed.

We want to support entrepreneurs who plan to create a real impact on society. We believe that tech has an important role to play in achieving this so it is tech-based startups that are our main focus.

Like most things worth doing, the Founder Institute is hard work, so we recommend considering it fully before enrolling and making sure you’re ready to go all the way; by the end of the course you will have a business incorporated and operating!

4. So how do people get involved? 

All the information is online at and you can apply there too. There is an admissions test to get started – this isn’t about intelligence it’s more of an assessment about what sort of entrepreneurial style you demonstrate in order to help shape your time on the course.

If you want to get a feel for the topics we cover why not join us at our next event:

Additionally, we’re always looking for top class founders who have lived through the successes and failures of running a startup who can coach/mentor our participants.

Finally, we are keen to find organisations that are able to provide sponsorship and help us to cover the participation fee for participants that will make a difference to society. Please do get in touch if you think that could be you – we’d love to talk.

5. What does the mentoring element look like?

Our mentors are top class founders who have trodden the journey that our participants are just about to embark on. You can see the sorts of mentors we have online. Some examples of those we are working with this semester are: Nick Davies from Neighbourly, Silas Adekunle from Reach Robotics, Amy Hedrick from CleanBox and Andrew Mulvenna from BrightPearl. The mentors will be contributing to all the sessions throughout the course so that the insights that we’re sharing are drawn from real life experiences.

6. If someone isn’t quite ready now, will there be more opportunities in the future?

Absolutely, we’re hoping there will be 2 semesters run every year.

7. How can people find out more about it? 

Visit to find out about the Founder Institute closest to you or join us for our next event: to find out more.