Frequently asked questions

TEAMS

What size should teams be?


Typically 2 to 5 members, but there are no restrictions. In addition, you'll choose 1 adult mentor, typically a trusted teacher or acquantaince with relevant industry experience, who will meet with you regularly during the application process.




Who should be in my team?


The company must be majority-owned by 1 or more founders who are aged 14-19 at the time of application. Otherwise, there are no restrictions. For example, a team can include 1 eligible teenager and 4 adults if the teenager owns 51+% of the company. You should only partner with people whom you trust, respect, and have a good rapport. However, teams composed of only close friends and/or family tend have a less productive dynamic. It is especially difficult to form a professional relationship with one's parents, so while we strongly encourage you to seek your parents' help and advice, we strongly discourage a formal partnership with them. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.




Can I register without a team?


No, you need to assemble a team to register. While there have been plenty of successful solo founders, it is so much harder to build a viable company by yourself. Moreover, convincing a co-founder to join you boosts your credibility, in terms of both the worthiness of your idea and your persuasion skills.




Can I register without an idea?


Yes. We will include plenty of guidance on how to brainstorm, explore, assess, choose, and validate startup ideas. And we recommend that you explore multiple ideas before choosing one; quantity yields quality.




Am I stuck with my team forever?


Not at all. Founding teams change all the time, especially within the first year. That's why we highly encourage all teams to adopt a standard Silicon Valley practice with equity: vesting. Founders and employees don't receive all of their company stock at once, but rather over several years, so as to both incentivize staying at the company and reduce ownership issues if somebody leaves early. A vesting structure is so useful that we would view a lack thereof as a major red flag.

Don't worry about figuring out specifics; if you get accepted into the program, we'll walk you through the decisions and legal language during the pre-program (Phase 5 on the timeline). Moreover, determining your co-founder equity percentage split before your idea is finalized doesn't make a lot of sense; we generally recommend postponing that discussion until at least the semi-finals (Phase 3).




Do you accept international teams?


We indeed do. You do not need to be U.S. citizens, as long as you can get here for at least 2 months. You will have to take the lead to get your visas, but we can point you in the right direction. All team members must be fluent English speakers, readers, and writers.




If my company already has funding, or otherwise just doesn't need the money, can I still apply?


Yes. Money is only a small part of what we provide. In fact, obtaining prior investments will likely boost your application. But don't worry if you can't do that; there are plenty of other ways to impress us.




Is my company too far along / not far enough along to apply?


We accept companies at (virtually) every stage. Most finalists will have at least a mockup of their product and some initial users and/or paying customers. But there indeed can be exceptions.




Can a non-technical team apply?


Yes, with the caveat that you'll have to be able to learn enough that you can have an intelligent conversation with developers.





IDEAS

Can a single team submit multiple ideas?


No. We hope that you explore multiple ideas, but you are recommended to choose one by the February 28th first submission deadline. However, you can indeed change your idea over time.




Can a non-profit team apply?


Yes. Most teams will be for-profit companies, but we are indeed open to non-profit ideas, so long as they fulfill the general guidelines.




Do you only fund apps / software / consumer products / ?


We'll consider startups in any field (so long as it's not dangerous, illegal, or stupid). Just make sure that you have an appropriate background. For example, trying to produce a new medicine with minimal biology experience is probably not a recipe for success.




How can I brainstorm ideas?





Once I've brainstormed a lot of ideas, how can I choose the best one?






APPLICATIONS

How can we apply?


To go through our application process, do 1 of the following:

(1) Participate in one of our regional events or partner conferences throughout the world.

(2) Register by January 31 at https://www.foundersbootcamp.org/apply, and then submit a 5-10 minute pitch video to contact@foundersbootcamp.org.
(3) Get a credible source (investor, influencer, etc.) to refer you to us.




Will somebody from Founders Bootcamp review my idea?


During Phases 1 and 2 of the application timeline, we'll try to be responsive but make no promises about discussing your idea. However, once you become a semi-finalist (Phase 3), your team will be assigned a Founders Bootcamp mentor who will electronically communicate with you on a regular basis. And, of course, during the program itself you'll be meeting with us often.




Do you accept late applications?


Yes. It may be a little harder to get in if you apply late, but much more important than timing is being a truly awesome team with elite progress. If so, we'll figure out a way to work you one way or another.




Do you give feedback on application results?


Unfortunately, we don't have time to give feedback to everyone.




Is there any advantage to registering early?


Yes. The earlier you register your team, the higher the priority you'll receive during semi-finalist selections. With that said, registering early won't matter if you have a sloppy, incomplete submission.




How will my performance on earlier submissions affect my chances?


Not at all. We care about last impressions, not first impressions. Don't worry if your initial submissions lack polish, progress, or prestige; it won't matter if your final submission is awesome. By the same token, don't hesistate to ask us "stupid questions" just because you think it would make you look bad.




What is the full rubric by which my pitch will be judged?





What are the most important questions to answer in my pitch?





What should my pitch video look like?


Most pitches will be centered on polished presentation slides. The videos can either consist of only the slides overlaid with a narrating voice, or alternate between slides and footage of the presenters themselves. Of course, you may indeed depart from this standard format if you have a compelling alternative. Here are some suggestions:





COSTS

How much does this program cost?


The fees for both the program itself and the application process are the very expensive price of $0.




Are there scholarships to cover travel and housing expenses?


Yes. We want the best teams, not the richest. So we can cover some to all of your travel, housing, and food expenses if you can't afford it yourself. The financial aid application is due at the same time as your final submission in April (at the end of Phase 3 on the timeline).




Will applying for scholarships affect my acceptance chances?


If, in our judgement, you have a particularly awesome company, we'll push hard to work with you whether or not you apply for scholarships. There is an exception: if you apply for scholarships and don't really need them and/or if you lie/exaggerate on your financial aid application, we'll view that as a breech of integrity that will likely disqualify you for the program.




Can I use my team's budget to cover personal expenses?


It depends: during the program, we'll have a case-by-case discussion about optimizing your budget to grow your company. And of course, after the end of the program, you can spend any remaining budget however you see fit.





FUNDING

How much money do you invest?


We invest up to $50,000 in each accepted company, equity-free and no strings attached.




Do you provide more funding after the program?


We sure do. If you are one of our top teams with incontrovertible traction and a compelling case, we can invest up to $500,000 in your next fundraising round (not equity free, with funding terms negotiated on a case by case basis). Last year, made such an offer to 2 of our teams. In rare cases, we may even make this commitment before the end of the program, so that you enter the final demo day with maximum leverage. Any such deals represent an independent negotiation with respect to the program, and you are under no obligation to accept them. It's worth noting: most teams will not receive a follow-on funding offer from us. But even if you don't, we'll still help prepare you for your next funding round.




Do you take anything for prizes?


We will give many cash prizes, ranging up to $1,000 each, during the application process. These prizes come with no strings attached. Enjoy!




If I apply, am I obligated to take your funding?


You make no commitments to us until your final submission in April (at the end of Phase 3 in the timeline). At that point, you will agree to participate in our program if selected at the finals, or you won't be invited to the finals.




Do I need to spend our full budget by the end of the program?


No. Quite the opposite: we recommend saving much if not most of your budget until after the program, so that you can continue growing your company until you raise your next fundraising round.




Am I restricted in how I spend my budget?


During the program itself, we will impart financial planning skills and work closely with you to ensure that you only spend your budget on high-ROI expenditures that benefit your company. Afterwards, you can spend the remainder of your funding however you see fit.




Who actually receives the funding?


You will form a full fledged corporate entity, typically a Delaware C Corporation. We can help you with the set up before the program. All funding will go directly into that entity.





GENERAL

What is Founders Bootcamp?


Founders Bootcamp is the world's largest startup program for teenagers. In short, we want to help you build real companies. Once your team is formally accepted, we will work with you for up to a full year to grow your startup. Most of our teams join us in person for a summer program in Los Angeles and work with us remotely for the rest of the year, but we have flexibility based on what's best for your team. Our accelerator program includes graduate-level content assembled in collaboration with successful entrepreneurs, startup investors, and professors from UCLA, MIT, and Stanford.




Am I good enough?


Do you think you're too young / inexperienced / untalented / shy / lazy / [insert self doubt here] to even apply to this program? If so, we get it. We've all been there. After all, starting a company is a scary, intimidating prospect for anybody. In fact, questioning yourself and your assumptions is healthy for any entrepreneur. But don't let that prevent you from even giving it a try. Where you're starting out doesn't really matter. We observed this empirically during the last 2 years: the best students at the end were very different than the best students at the beginning. Frankly, because virtually all teenagers are so inexperienced, the difference between the top and bottom of the class matters very little compared to what you need to learn as you build your company. Give it a shot. What do you have to lose?




Will you steal my idea?


The short answer is no. The long answer is: (1) Ideas are worth very little compared to execution and team. Search for worthy problems instead of solutions, given that you'll likely pivot your solution multiple times. Don't just take it from us; here's what Silicon Valley legend Paul Graham has to say on the subject: http://paulgraham.com/start.html (2) Your idea is probably not your idea. If your market is sufficiently large, somebody else has probably thought of your solution already. Incidently, having direct competitors is often a good sign, as it represents both validation of the need and proof that any barriers are overcomable.

(3) The expected risk of somebody else copying your idea is almost always exceeded by the expected value of acquiring users, connections, and partners, for which you need to spread the word.

(4) Sombody WILL copy your idea if it's good enough, once you launch. So any viable go to market strategy must incorporate sustainable competative advantages. If you are relying solely on being the first mover and have no protectable moat after that, you are probably the wrong team to be making your product. Therefore, to participate in our program, expect to share your core idea early and often. With that said, be smart about it: hard tech like source code, complex algorithms, and pharmaceutical formulae should probably remain trade secrets. Moreover, filing a provisional patent application is not particularly expensive.




Are you crazy?


Giving up to $50,000 to freaking teenagers both sounds too good to be true and seems clinically insane. Who in their right mind would pursue such a crazy idea? Well, perhaps we are a little bit crazy; you have to be bonkers to be an entrepreneur in the first place. But we find it even more crazy that nobody has done this yet. Not only do teenagers have the raw ability to go toe to toe with older entrepreneurs, but you actually have competitive advantages over them! You have better access, insight, and credibility in youth markets. You have longer runway and generally fewer responsibilties. And your freedom from the status quo yields bold ideas and fast pace. So, let's be crazy together.




What happens at Founders Bootcamp?


You will spend most of your time simply working on your company, on your own, with your team, and with your mentors. In addition, you will formally pitch your company and present your progress during regular milestones, culminating in a final demo day in front of investors and media. Beyond that, you will regularly meet with a wide mix of awesome guest speakers, including founders of multi-billion-dollar companies (like Rob Chess and Bahram Nour-Omid), venture capitalists (like Kobie Fuller and Super Bowl champion Ryan Nece), successful CEOs (like Bryan Thomas and Nick Lazaris), institutional investors (like U.S. Ambassador Frank Baxter and billionaire Michael Milken), and many more. You will also be invited to cool events. For example, our students mingled with celebrities and investors at the Milken Global Conference, got a taste of Silicon Valley at TechCrunch's Disrupt SF, and peeked behind the curtain of how investors assess startups at a Tech Coast Angels pitch event. Finally, we believe in working hard and playing hard. Taking a break every so often actually increases productivity. We will therefore take advantage of Disneyland, the beach, and many of Los Angeles's other world class attractions.




Is it worth it?


News flash: you're probably not going to win. Given how many applications we receive, the numbers just aren't on your side. So why even apply? There are many benefits even if you don't win: (1) We will award many cash prizes during the registration, submission, and semi-finals phases, each up to $1,000. (2) If you make concrete progress on your startup and produce a polished pitch, that would look VERY impressive on your resume, independantly of how you perform in the competition. Colleges, employers, and investors tend to highly value real world experience. (3) You will learn a lot. Many of our previous students have said they learned more in our program than the rest of high school combined. In addition to the raw content and core skills, you will learn how to take initiative and approach challanges, which will serve you for the rest of your life. (4) While we do have limited slots in our program, our network does not. If you leave a strong impression but don't make it into the program, you might still be able to receive funding and mentorship anyway.




Can I participate in the program without spending the summer in Los Angeles?


Yes. We want to cater your experience to what makes the most sense for your company.




Do I have to start a company in the U.S. to apply?


No. Although if you plan on eventually locating in Silicon Valley, we can help you convert your company into a U.S. entity.




What's your ultimate goal?


In order to fundamentally transform modern education, grow the economy, and inspire a generation, we have a simple goal: generate aspirational success stories. To be more precise, we want to produce teenager-founded startups worth more than $1,000,000,000 (called a "unicorn" in Silicon Valley). The top priority behind every piece of advice we give you is to maximize your probability of achieving unicorn status.




For what reasons can I be removed from the program?


We reserve the right to remove a team from any stage of our program for any reason, especially if a team demonstrates insufficient maturity, dedication, and/or integrity.





RESOURCES

Where can I find online startup resources?


Here are our favorite lists of resources for every part of the startup process:

(1) http://startupresources.io
(2) https://startupstash.com (3) https://steveblank.com/tools-and-blogs-for-entrepreneurs/




What startup books should I read?


What's better: a founder with 1 year of experience or 10 years of experience? The answer: 1,000 years of experience. So many successful founders are prolific readers because there's no faster way to accrue decades of wisdom. Although there are many, many valuable books related to startups, here are the 5 we recommend starting with:

(1) The Lean Startup

(2) Zero To One

(3) The Third Door

(4) Influence

(5) Venture Deals




What are some tips for the mindset I should have as a founder?





What are some tips for communicating?






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