Starting a company can be difficult, lonely work. Founders often don’t have a lot of resources when it comes to mentorship or financing. And scheduling meetings and calls with a seemingly endless stream of investors can be time-consuming, to say the least.
“It tends to be a very isolating process. Your head’s down, you’re working on your thing, and you kind of lose track of what’s going on around you,” said Dave Parker, the founder of several startups and the Seattle Venture Partner of Seven Peaks Ventures.
The lack of resources available to first-time founders is one of the reasons that Parker joined the Washington Technology Industry Association’s recently formed Startup Club, and one of the reasons he decided to serve as the chair of the Startup Club’s Founder Cohort mentorship program committee that launches this fall.
Through the end of August, WTIA is accepting applications to join a year-long cohort of 24 seed-stage startups, all of which will receive access to networking opportunities; connections with experienced founders, law firms, accounting firms, HR firms, and recruiting firms; and other mentorship and support.
Qualified companies will have a co-founder or team, a product at the “minimum viable product” stage, revenue of less than $1 million annually, and be based in Washington state.
The startups will be chosen next month, and the cohort will kick off with a two-day boot camp event in October. According to Parker, more than 35 applications have been received so far.
Admission to both the cohort, for the lucky 24, and to the Startup Club, which is open to all startup companies, is free. “There’s no equity. There’s no cost. The only expectation is that they continue to pay it forward and support the ecosystem,” Parker said. “We invest in (founders) when they can’t afford to pay us anything. … We know in five years it’s going to pay off in a huge way. It’s not a quick hit. But honestly that’s one of the things that Seattle needs.”
One major aim of the program, aside from helping individual companies, is to push the Seattle-area startup community into becoming more global.
“The goal of the program is really to help Seattle play bigger,” Parker said. “We have a chip on our shoulder that we’re not Silicon Valley.”
Following its reputation of advocating for inclusion and diversity, WTIA is encouraging applications from companies outside what many might think of as the typical startup world.
“We come from a history of bro culture, regretfully,” Parker said. “White dudes named Dave get more venture capital than women.” By partnering with groups like the Seattle-based Female Founders Alliance, WTIA hopes to continue to rectify that disheartening fact, and reach companies who might not otherwise apply.
Find out more information about WTIA’s Startup Club, and submit an application to join the Founder Cohort here.