When I look at someone like Mark Zuckerberg, I don’t wonder how he got the idea for Facebook. What I want to know is, how did he know how to turn the idea he had into an actual company? I wouldn’t even know where to start that process.
There are, of course, incubator websites, such as YouWeb and Y Combinator, that can help people with idea develop them into something worthwhile, but what about the people who are not able to get that kind of help? Where can they turn for advice?
CrowdStar CEO Peter Relan, founder of YouWeb, has started a new website that will address this very issue, it was announced on Friday.
The site, called Founder Quorum, will serve as a forum for hackers and developers. Relan will put up weekly blog posts, giving advice to budding entrepreneurs, as well as answering their specific questions that they submit to him on the website.
In an interview with VatorNews, Relan called Founder Quorum “a combination of a blog and Q&A site,” where he can mentor people beyond the few he gives special attention to on YouWeb.
YouWeb, he told me, gets hundreds of requests, but only around 1% are chosen, as these developers are given special attention. Unlike other incubator sites, which may last only months, the process on YouWeb may last a year.
Since being founded in 2007, only 12 founders have been picked on YouWeb.
“It is very hands on,” Relan said. “I take them from cradle to exit.”
Founder Quorum is Relan’s way of providing that advice and mentorship to those he cannot work with one on one.
So far, the website has two posts: an introduction from Relan, in which he explains his background, and a post called The Evolution of an Idea, in which he goes through the seven steps for turning an idea into a company.
Upcoming posts will include The Evolution of a Startup, which will describe what do once a company is founded, giving advice on how to handle financing rounds; a post about the key qualities to be an entrepreneur, in which readers will be given books to read about other founders; and a post about knowing the right time for a company to exit.
What sets Founder Quorum apart from other website giving the same advice, says Relan, is his experience at YouWeb.
“Very few people have run an incubator for five years,” he said. “I think you can count the number on one hand.”
The philosophy behind YouWeb
There are three different types of models for incubators, Relan says.
There is idea incubation, which is used by IdeaLab. There is team acceleration, used by Y Combinator. And then there is the method used by YouWeb: hacker incubation, where it is the individual, not the idea or the team, that is funded.
The reason that Menlo Park, California-based YouWeb takes this approach, says Relan, is that ideas and teams change, “but the one constant it the person.”
He points to Facebook as an example. This is a website, he says, that started basically as a Harvard dating service, but look at what it has become. And the only person still there is Zuckerberg. The ideas and the team changed. Zuckerberg is the constant.
So much special attention is paid to each founder because of how much time it takes to develop an idea into something that works.
“It is unusual for an idea to work right away,” Relan told me. OpenFeint co-founder Jason Citron had to go through four different ideas before he found one that worked.
One of the things that founders are taught is that it is ok to fail, as long as those mistakes are learned from the next time out.
The idea seems to be working, as some of companies to come out of YouWeb have been extremely successful.
They include social gaming network OpenFeint, which was sold to GREE for $104 million last year; cross platform app development framework Spaceport.io, which is backed by the BBC; and mobile social gaming company CrowdStar, which is backed by Time Warner Investments and Intel Capital.
In 2011, CrowdStar and YouWeb jointly launched a $10 million venture fund dedicated to investing in social mobile game developer.
YouWeb raised $2 million in August 2011 from Dave Roux (co-founder and chairman of Silver Lake Partners), Dave whorton (founder of Tugboat Ventures), Praful Shah (founding VP of marketing at WebEx), Brett Wander (chief investment officer at Charles Schwab), ex-Sun Microsystems employee Winston Cho and Peter Relan.
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