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Founder Gym is an online training center for underrepresented founders who want to build successful tech startups. Incorporating best practices from entrepreneurship, education, and sports psychology, Founder Gym offers an innovative approach to develop the world's next great entrepreneurs. During the span of 6 weeks, founders complete structured exercises to increase their strength in a core area of startup success, and receive expert training from investors and experienced founders.

Founder Gym is 100% virtual, so founders can participate from anywhere in the world.

Cohort 5 :

Raising Venture Capital

for Underrepresented Founders

January 7 - February 15, 2019

    Venture capital is a tool that helps tech startup founders have a competitive advantage over their competition. It provides founders with money they can use to scale their startup faster than they otherwise could.

    Unfortunately, most underrepresented founders are not getting access to venture capital. Less than 10% of VC-backed founders are women, less than 2% of VC-backed founders are Black, and less than 1% of VC-backed founders are Latinx. Founder Gym is here to change that.

    In our 6-week virtual cohort, founders are trained by leading venture capitalists and founders in Silicon Valley and beyond, to ensure founders have the network, knowledge, and know-how they need to secure funding.

    This cohort is open to all underrepresented founders, but you must apply to be admitted. The program requires 100% participation in order to graduate, so only serious founders need apply.

Apply to Cohort 5

Cohort 6 :

Raising Venture Capital

for Black Founders

January 7 - February 15, 2019

    There is incredible diversity amongst underrepresented founders across a variety of spectrums, including race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, age, etc. that we aim to more strategically service. Going forward, we will be experimenting with affinity-based cohorts, providing underrepresented founders with an additional option to experience our programming.

    We are starting with Black founders for two reasons: the need is great (less than 2% of VC-backed founders are Black), and the demand is high (62% of Founder Gym graduates to-date identify as Black). This 6-week virtual cohort will have the same structure as Cohort 5, but is designed with the unique experiences and commonalities of Black founders in mind.

    Irrespective of which cohort founders participate in, they all come together as members of Founder Gym’s global community, building relationships, working together, and supporting each others’ success.

Apply to Cohort 6

As Seen In

Million Dollar Club

These Founder Gym graduates have all raised more than $1 million in capital for their startups.

Amy Nelson

CEO of The Riveter

Amy raised $5.5 million for The Riveter, a membership workspace and community platform for women and allies.

Sevetri Wilson

CEO of ExemptMeNow

Sevetri raised $2 million, becoming the first Black woman in New Orleans to raise more than $1 million.

Susan Sierota

CEO of Waggit

Susan raised $3.3 million for Waggit, a health and well-being monitor for dogs to improve and extend their lives.

November 25th is the Deadline

The application for both cohorts closes at 11:59pm PST on November 25, 2018
Apply Now

Learn How to Fundraise in 6 Weeks

Week 1


The Gym is officially open, and it’s time to get to know your fellow Gymmates from around the world! FG veterans will help you get a clear understanding of what you need to do, in order to succeed in the cohort, and you’ll feel empowered and inspired to hit the ground running.

Week 2

Inside the Mind of a VC

Who are venture capitalists? How are they different from angels, accelerators, syndicates, and loan officers? What do they care about when making investment decisions? Learn who these VCs really are and what makes them tick, so you can better position your startup to be an attractive investment opportunity.

Week 3

The Metrics That Matter

What makes VCs invest in some companies and not others? Is it the number of users, the amount of revenue, the size of the market, the founders on the team, the story behind the vision, or something else entirely? Uncover what metrics really matter, so you can stop wasting your time on the ones that don’t.

Week 4

Communication Counts

You only get one chance to make a great first impression and you don’t want to blow it. What you say, how you say it, and who co-signs what you have to say are incredibly important when it comes to fundraising. Whether it’s a tweet, DM, email, or in-person pitch, it’s essential that you learn the communication etiquette investors prefer.

Week 5

Founder Advice

Learn from an experienced underrepresented founder who’s already done what you’re trying to do: secure the bag! There is a very high chance you will be pitching investors who don’t share your identity, background, or lived experiences, so it’s important that you learn how to navigate the nuances of fundraising from someone who’s walked in your shoes.

Week 6


You’ve learned A LOT in a short amount of time. Now, it’s time to "walk the talk" and show everyone what you’re made of. For graduation, you will present a 2-minute pitch of your startup in front of your FG Cohort peers and invited alumni. You will also get to step in the shoes of an investor and decide which of your peers is most deserving of investor capital.

Cohort 5: Expert Trainers

These seasoned investors and venture capital-backed founders will train underrepresented founders admitted into Cohort 5.

Ash Rust

Managing Partner at Sterling Road

Ash participated in Y Combinator as the Co-Founder of SendHub, which later sold to Cameo Global. Ash is now the Managing Partner of Sterling Road, a venture fund focused on seed stage B2B companies. Ash has mentored hundreds of startups at YC, Techstars, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and UCLA.

Holly Liu

Visiting Partner at Y Combinator

In 2017, Holly’s startup, Kabam, sold for $1 billion! Holly led design for the award-winning "Kingdoms of Camelot" franchise, which grossed over $250 million, and she helped grow Kabam’s staff 500% in just three years. Holly is now a visiting partner at Y Combinator, investing in the next set of game-changing tech startups.

Kanyi Maqubela

Frm. Partner at Collaborative Fund

Born in Soweto, a township outside of Johannesburgh, South Africa, during apartheid, Kanyi worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 election campaign, was a professor at NYU and Stanford, and most recently was a Partner at Collaborative Fund, which has invested in Lyft, Quora, Kickstarter, Reddit, and Blue Bottle.

Hayley Barna

Partner at First Round Capital

Hayley served as Co-CEO at Birchbox for five years from conception and launch, raising $70MM in venture capital and growing the business to over a million monthly subscribers. Hayley is now a Partner at First Round Capital, which has invested in Birchbox, Blue Apron, Mint, Uber, and Warby Parker.

Cohort 6: Expert Trainers

These seasoned investors and venture capital-backed founders will train Black Founders admitted into Cohort 6.

Adeyemi Ajao

Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Base10

Adeyemi is originally from Spain and half Nigerian. He was the Co-Founder of Tuenti (The “Spanish Facebook” acquired by Telefonica in 2010 for $100M), Co-Founder of Identified (“AI for HR” acquired by Workday in 2014) and a founding investor of Cabify (the largest ride-sharing company in Latin America currently valued at over $1B). He recently raised $137MM for Base10, the largest debut for a Black-led venture capital firm.

Morgan Debaun

Co-Founder & CEO of Blavity, Inc.

Morgan is at the helm of Blavity, Inc., the largest network of platforms and lifestyle brands serving the multifaceted lives of black millennials, including Blavity, 21Ninety, Afrotech, Travel Noire, and Shadow and Act. Morgan is one of the youngest Black female founders to ever raise a Series A, having successfully secured $9.4MM from investors like Google Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Cross Culture Ventures, Harlem Capital, and others.

Troy Carter

Atom Factory and Cross Culture Ventures

Troy rose to prominence in the music industry, as the manager of Lady Gaga, John Legend, and Meghan Trainor. His foray into the tech world resulted in the formation of Atom Factory's angel fund and VC fund Cross Culture Ventures. Troy’s early-stage investments include Uber, Lyft, Dropbox, Spotify, Warby Parker, theSkimm, Gimlet Media, and ATTN, and he was recently a guest shark on Season 7 of ABC's hit primetime show Shark Tank.

Uriridiakoghene Onovakpuri

Partner at Kapor Capital

Uriridiakoghene “Ulili” is one of the only Black female partners in the entire venture capital industry! Her firm, Kapor Capital, does seed stage investments, and they have over 120 portfolio companies, including Twilio, Uber, Genius Plaza, AngelList, and Clever. Ulili’s primary focus is on digital health and medical technology industries. Previously, Ulili served as Director of Global Programs at Village Capital, an accelerator program and VC firm.

Previous Expert Trainers

38 venture capitalists and VC-backed founders in Silicon Valley and beyond have joined Founder Gym to train the next generation of successful tech startup founders. The FG Cohort curriculum and structure has been influenced by these trainers, especially the experts listed below.

Mitch Kapor

Partner at Kapor Capital

Mitch Kapor is the Co-Founder and General Partner at Kapor Capital. His investments include Twilio, Uber, Clever, and Class Dojo.

Charles Hudson

Partner at Precursor Ventures

Charles is the Co-Founder and General Partner at Precursor Ventures, with over 70 pre-seed investments. He was previously a Partner at SoftTech VC.

Ellen Pao

Venture Capitalist

Ellen was a Partner at Kapor Capital and Kleiner Perkins. She was also the interim CEO at Reddit and served on the boards of Flipboard, Datameer, and Lehigh.

Suzy Ryoo

Partner at Cross Culture Ventures

Suzy Ryoo is a Partner at Atom Factory & Cross Culture Ventures, whose investments include Warby Parker, Lyft, and Dropbox.

Parker Thompson

Partner at AngelList

Parker Thompson is a Partner at AngelList, a former Partner at 500 Startups, and he has made over 70 investments to-date.

Monique Woodard

Venture Capitalist

Monique Woodard was a Partner at 500 Startups, Co-Founder of Black Founders, and her investments include Blavity and O.School.

Phin Barnes

Partner at First Round Capital

Phin Barnes is a Managing Partner at First Round Capital. Formerly an early employee at AND 1, Phin is a self-proclaimed sneakerhead. He's made over 50 investments, including Birchbox and Blue Apron.

Erik Moore

Partner at Base Ventures

Erik Moore is a Managing Partner of Base Ventures. Originally an angel investor in Zappos, Erik has since made over 70 investments in tech companies, including Olly, StyleSeat, Mayvenn, and Blavity.

Freada Kapor Klein

Partner at Kapor Capital

Freada Kapor Klein is a Founding Partner of Kapor Capital and diversity & inclusion expert. Freada has made over 100 investments, including Twilio, LendUp, and Genius Plaza, and has pioneered gap-closing social impact investing.

Arlan Hamilton

Partner at Backstage Capital

Starting in 2015, Arlan built a venture capital firm from scratch, while homeless. Her firm, Backstage Capital, is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are of color, women, and/or LGBT. Arlan has now invested in over 100 startup companies led by underestimated founders.

Michael Seibel

CEO and Partner at Y Combinator

At age 23, Michael co-founded Justin.tv which became Twitch and sold to Amazon for $970 million. At age 33, Michael became the CEO of Y Combinator, arguably the most successful startup accelerator in the world. He has invested in over 50 companies, including Reddit, Jopwell, and Walker and Company.

Kathryn Minshew

Co-Founder & CEO of The Muse

Kathryn overcame 148 investor rejections, bias, and sexual harrassment to go on and raise $28 million for her company, The Muse, a career platform serving millions of people all around the world. Kathryn is also an Operating Partner at X Factor Ventures that invests in pre-seed and seed stage startups that have at least one female founder.

David J. Phillips

Angel & Co-Founder of Bloomjoy

David is a serial entrepreneur and angel investor. He is currently the co-founder of BloomJoy, the Associated Press for lifestyle content. Previously, he co-founded Hackbright Academy, the leading software engineering bootcamp for women, which sold for $18MM. Prior to that David co-founded Banjo, which is backed by $120MM in funding.

Amit Patel

Managing Partner at Owl Ventures

Amit leads one of the largest edtech venture capital firms in the world. He has worked closely with all companies in the Owl Ventures portfolio and serves on the board of Kuali, Lingo Live, Panorama Education, Securly, Swing Education, Thinkful and Tinkergarten. Before joining Owl Ventures, Amit founded and sold Personal Academic Trainers.

Carolina Huaranca

Principal at Kapor Capital

Carolina is one of the few Latinx women in venture capital. She began her technology career at SchoolNet, which was sold to Pearson for $230MM and later founded Spriggle, a marketplace for parents to identify educational products for their children. At Kapor Capital, Carolina is focused on making investments in future of work, urban tech, and education.

See What Founders Are Saying

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Founder Gym was an immensely valuable experience for me as a founder that is new to institutional venture fundraising. The expert trainers and personal coaches demystified the process for us and showed us the blueprint for navigating the Silicon Valley fundraising dance. It was like getting an insider’s look at how the game works. Because of the cohort, we are much more prepared to fundraise and I would definitely recommend this program to others.

Tunji Williams

Co-Founder of dealWIP

Brooklyn, New York

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When I applied for Founder Gym, I was personally very exhausted and discouraged with my fundraising experience. However, being accepted into FG really changed that. Because of the program, I found renewed energy and motivation to continue on with fundraising and was successful in raising capital! I really appreciated getting to learn from experts that I never imagined I could interact with, as well as getting to know many amazing founders.

Sunny Washington

Co-Founder of Because Learning

Salt Lake City, Utah

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Because of Founder Gym, I was able to get clear about the fundraising needs of my business, and I am now much better prepared to go out and secure capital. This has truly been an awesome experience. Mandela and her team are pros and it shows in the quality of information and mentors they were able to bring to the table. I feel very fortunate to have been a part of the inaugural cohort.

Laura Wittig

Co-Founder of The Brightly

San Francisco, California

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Even after writing almost 100,000 lines of code over the summer, I can confidently say that participating in Founder Gym is the most important step I’ve taken as a CEO so far. With the techniques I’ve learned, I feel way more prepared to not only fundraise, but build a company that scales. I just wish I would have known about Founder Gym sooner; it would have saved me a lot of time and energy.

Al Nolan

Founder of Notearise

Dallas, Texas

Meet All the Founder Gym Graduates

Application and Selection Process

  • November 25, 2018

    Application Deadline

    Set aside 30 minutes to complete the application and give yourself a chance to get admitted. If you pass the application screen, you will be invited to participate in a video interview.

  • December 3, 2018

    Selections Announced

    You will receive an email notifying you whether or not you’ve been selected for the cohort. You have 48 hours to submit your down payment to reserve your spot.

  • December 5, 2018

    Cohort Finalized

    Congratulations! You’re officially a member of the cohort. You will be granted access to the orientation materials, and begin preparing for the start of the cohort.

  • January 7, 2019

    Cohort Begins

    The cohort kicks off with Orientation. You will get the chance to meet your Gymmates and get your life in order, so you can focus on going hard in the Gym for the next 5 weeks.

February 15, 2019

Cohort Ends

You did it! You survived one of the most intense startup training programs. Now it’s time to use your new skills, strengths, and network to catapult your startup to the next level.

Cost to Join the Cohort

We do not take equity in startups; we are an application and fee-based education program. Just like college, you must apply to be admitted, and if accepted, you must be able to pay the program fee. Payment plans are available, and a limited amount of scholarships are also offered. Within the application, you will find more details on how to qualify for these options.

Cohort Fee for One Founder


Cohort Fee for Two Co-Founders

$3400 total

Currently, we are focused on creating a high touch, high quality experience for a limited number of founders who are ready to invest in the growth of their business. In the future, Founder Gym will offer additional programs and products at different price points and some at no cost. Subscribe to our newsletter to find out when these launch.

Exclusive Cohort Benefits

Be valued for who you are

Founder Gym was specifically designed for underrepresented tech startup founders. We offer an inclusive and collaborative experience that values a diversity of identities, lived experiences, and viewpoints.

Participate from anywhere

100% of the program is virtual, meaning you can participate from anywhere.

Master the essentials

Six weeks are spent going deep on a core tenant of startup success vs. spending six weeks giving a surface level overview of various startup topics. Our training style is relatable, digestible, and engaging. Tech “buzzwords” and “startup lingo” are always defined and clarified, ensuring no one gets left behind.

Learn from the best

Live virtual trainings take place weekdays at 5:00pm PST, granting you direct access to the Expert Trainers. From seasoned investors to venture capital-backed founders, Founder Gym Trainers are some of the best in the game.

Stay accountable to your goals

Complete a strength and conditioning plan to develop your entrepreneurial muscles in between the weekly expert training sessions. Lock into your accountability group to stay focused and motivated to finish what you started.

Build your fundraising toolkit

Walk away with polished public profiles, a well-crafted executive summary, presentation deck, pitch scripts, investor email template, and a target list of investors.

Flex your muscles

Present your startup pitch at Graduation, showcasing your growth to FG Cohort peers and alumni, and receive real-time feedback.

Develop a network for life

Build relationships with high-quality founders from around the world, who are serious about being successful and who are willing to help you succeed too.

Apply Now

Who Should Apply

The Founder Gym cohort is specifically designed for underrepresented tech startup founders who are serious about raising venture capital to scale.


Your identity group (race, gender, etc.) receives dispropionately less startup funding than other groups.

Tech Startup

Your startup develops its own technology and aspires to grow as big and as fast as possible.


You have already built something (MVP counts) that people are using and/or buying.

Needs Help

You’re not sure if you’re doing the right things and need guidance from experienced people.


You want a well-curated community that understands the challenges founders like you face.

Meet Our Team

Mandela SH Dixon

Founder & CEO

An entrepreneur, educator, athlete, and well-connected Silicon Valley influencer, Mandela is uniquely positioned to lead this movement. Previously at Kapor Capital and Startup Weekend, Mandela is a recent graduate of First Round Capital’s Angel Track.

Paige H Buckner

Program Director

Paige has operated at the intersection of education, entrepreneurship, and social justice. She is a well-respected leader in the Portland startup scene and has helped cultivate their ecosystem, including co-founding the XXcelerate Fund for women entrepreneurs.

Cordelro Brown

Digital Engagement Associate

After studying Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of Alabama, Cordelro founded Rapid Dissent, an emerging platform for social activists. Cordelro currently supports Founder Gym’s growing digital presence and brand development.

Mallory Valenzuela

Business Operations Associate

Mallory leverages her experience in marketing and customer design from Singularity to inform the development of new FG products. She is the Co-Founder of Kubo, a media platform for Filipino millennials, and serves on the Board of Filipino Advocates for Justice.

Cristal Harris

Writing Associate

After graduating from Law School at the University of San Francisco, Cristal became a Justice Change Fellow at the Haywood Burns Institute. When writing for FG, Cristal draws inspiration from her commitment to social equity and her interest in entrepreneurship.

Jeremy Young

Visual Storyteller

After teaching for six years in schools like Khan Labs, Jeremy transitioned into sharing knowledge with a larger audience using multimedia. He specializes in photography and videography, and you may have seen his work featured on ATTN: or TechCrunch.

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