Founders of Bandwagon and tForm pitch at FounderX Advisory Program in Silicon Valley
Two Greenville startup founders headed to Silicon Valley for a “VC Roadshow” this month after making an elite list of the most promising Founder Institute graduates from around the world. Founder Institute is an international startup launch accelerator with chapters across 60 countries and 110 cities, including the recently established Upstate chapter.
Founder Institute invited 500 startups out of its global pool of graduates to apply for the inaugural FounderX Advisory Program, which is designed to help startups “on the cusp of significant growth.” Greenville’s Bandwagon and tForm were among 50 startups selected for the program, which connected founders to mentors such as Adeo Ressi (CEO and founder of Founder Institute) to help refine their pitch decks and presentations.
The program culminated with FounderX, a three-day private networking event in San Francisco. The 50 selected founders participated additionally in a “VC Roadshow,” placing them in front of some of the country’s top venture capitalist firms to pitch.
“Pretty much right off,” Ressi was highly critical of his pitch, said tForm founder Benjamin Moore, part of Greenville’s first cohort. “I didn’t cry, but it was bad.”
Bandwagon founder Harold Hughes pitched to 500 Startups, a global venture capital seed fund that has invested in more than 1,300 startups and manages $200 million in assets. The experience, said Hughes, was more than just a valuable networking experience.
“It’s given me the confidence that this [Bandwagon] is a venture capital-backable business … I know I have something here,” said Hughes. “When you think about the level that they were at, it just de-risked Greenville in a big way.”
Bandwagon and tForm both graduated as part of Greenville’s first Founder Institute cohort in late 2015, along with seven other companies for a total of 12 entrepreneurs. Bandwagon is an online fan community marketplace for game tickets. tForm is a quick-responding custom thermoformed packaging company.
Upstate Business Journal publisher Ryan Johnston serves as a co-director of Greenville’s Founder Institute Program. Founder Institute chapter directors and program graduates hold small shares of equity in each graduate company.