The Founder Institute, claiming the title for the world’s largest startup accelerator, is arriving to Finland this fall. The for-profit accelerator was started in 2009 by Adeo Ressi, also the founder of a website for entrepreneurs to understand how investors compare between each other. Compared to other accelerators, Founders Institute has more of an educational approach to entrepreneurship than a 2-month intensive with hands on coding or business development.

To graduate, you must go through the curriculum that includes numerous lectures on different areas to successfully start a business. Classes are run by the chapter leader, which in Finland is Toni Perämäki. He is the founding member of Boost Turku and has built the Boost Startup Farm co-working space as well as the person in charge of Boost Turku Startup Journey – accelerator. The chapter begins operations in Finland on August 14th with a public event taking place in Turku on selling. Participants are expected to graduate in early February 2013.

Where as other accelerators usually require full attention from you, Founders Institute is able to attract people from other walks of life as well. Sessions are held after work and thus people working in day jobs are able to participate as well.

The program is for profit and comes at a marginal cost. Applicants must pay €50 for a predictive admission test. Those accepted to the program must pay €750 course fee to cover location fees, dinners, and other running costs of organising the program. This pays for the 16-week program. Furthermore, those receiving funding in excess of $50 000 are expected to pay a one time tuition fee of $4500 to The Founder Institute.

Once, and if, the participants graduate – each must contribute a 3,5% stake of their company to a shared equity pool that will expire in 10 years. If a company is sold or merged during those 10 years, 30% goes back to the mentors, 30% back to graduating class, 25% to the local chapter leadership and 15% to The Founder Institute.

It’s an interesting model that does bring a more market oriented approach to the accelerator environment in Finland. Startup Sauna, being the most successful accelerator in Finland so far, takes no equity nor does it pay their mentors. Then again, the program is paid for by Tekes and other organisations that have an interest in creating new entrepreneurs into Finland.

The Finnish curriculum has 15 sessions ranging from fundraising to product development and everything else in between, including finding your co-founders. The list of mentors for the Finnish chapter on the website is still a little short with just a few people listed as running the sessions. However, Petri Lehmuskoski, also affiliated with the program has told us that they are finding the best people to mentor on each of the classes, and therefore the mentor list isn’t finalised yet.

While the concept and program do sound interesting, time will tell how prone people in Finland are to paying for such a course when education in general is considered free. We applaud the market oriented approach, as it is the only way to tell if people are willing to cough up the money for the value the program is providing.

The application period is now open and the deadline for them is September 30th. Classes will commence on October 16th. You can apply on The Founder Institute website.

Update (3.8.2012 10:46 CET): Corrections made to the chapter leader in Finland who was misquoted to be Petri Lehmuskoski. The correct chapter leader in Finland is Toni Perämäki.

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