Creating Something From Nothing Is Hard

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According to, 99.6% of startups who apply to Y-Combinator fail. Even among those who are accepted, 93% fail. Considering Y-Combinator is the leading startup accelerator, these are not good odds for any entrepreneur.

The #1 Cause Of Startup Failure Is Lack Of Customers

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Startups don't fail because they didn't execute their business plans. They fail because their plan didn't survive first contact with their customers.

Creating Something From Nothing Takes An Emotional Toll On The Creator

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Creating and building a startup is an emotional roller coaster. Spending an extended period of time on the edge has it's price. Fear of failure, fear of being ostracized and fear of unrecoverable disasters can immobilize entrepreneurs, lead to self-destructive behavior or depression.


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Lean Startup - Lean Startup Methodology is a breakthrough process that can make the prospect of a startup less risky. It favors experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition, and iterative design over traditional “big design up front” development. Although the methodology is just a few years old, its concepts—such as “minimum viable product” and “pivoting”—have quickly taken root in the start-up world, and have been embraced by the most successful startups in Silicon Valley and around the world. We have developed a modified version of lean startup called Insight-Driven Iteration. This method is at the core of everything we do to help entrepreneurs succeed.

Resilience Psychology - Startup founders are on an emotional roller coaster. Every startup is always inches away from glory and inches away from complete disaster, at the same time. The fear of failure, never-ending uncertainty and fear of being ostracized can wreak havoc on your psychological and emotional state often leading to poor decisions or depression. We have developed tools, techniques and exercises for keeping your mind right when surrounded by chaos.

Mastermind Group - There is nothing more powerful than a Mastermind Group of committed and sincere entrepreneurs working together to achieve their goals. In the FounderSensei Class, groups of up to 10 startup teams meet weekly to discuss experiments, key insights and pivotal decisions for their businesses. This group learning model goes way beyond lectures and gets into the real-world applications of how to make a startup successful. 


Sensei means "person born before another."


A Mentor is someone you meet for coffee to get an opinion.

A Sensei is an startup practitioner who guides you through the process of iteratively running customer experiments and interpreting data until you get traction and draw data-driven conclusions about your startup idea.

We believe only an experienced entrepreneur can be a true Sensei for another entrepreneur. Because entrepreneurship can only be learned by doing, only one who has lived entrepreneurship can be a trusted guide on an entrepreneurial journey. While lawyers, corporate executives, business people and government officials can be helpful, they cannot be a Sensei to an entrepreneur. They just don't have the right experience. They don't know what it's like to live on the edge of creating something from nothing without a net. 

The standard to be a Sensei at FounderSensei is extremely high. All Senseis must meet the following criteria and there are no exceptions.

  • Sensei must have created at least two profitable businesses from scratch
  • Sensei must have had at least one startup failure
  • Sensei must be a master practitioner of lean startup principles
  • Sensei must be an exceptional teacher
  • Sensei must have a sincere passion for helping other entrepreneurs without expectation of anything in return

FounderSensei Basic Training Is The Best Way To Improve Your Ability To Create A Successful Startup

We help you find a scalable, repeatable business model because in the end, it's all that matters.

The power of the FounderSensei program lies in our Insight-Driven Iteration methodology taught by an experienced startup practitioner in a unique Group Learning Model. Groups of Founders who are actively working on a startup are paired with an experienced, dedicated Sensei. The Sensei takes each startup team through an intense 12-week curriculum of discovery and learning. The Sensei facilitates the lessons, discussions and individual team exercises. The result is a dynamic, personalized, supportive and real-world support system that leads to startup success.

Highly Interactive Group Learning Model

  • Sensei, plus 5 to 10 Founders
  • Learn proven methodology for running customer experiments, interpreting results, and validating your business model
  • Learn how to maintain the correct entrepreneurial mindset and build a resilient psychology while experiencing the ups and downs of building a startup
  • Present real-world examples from Sensei's first-hand experience
  • Design experiments based on well-defined hypotheses
  • Execute homework assignments and present key lessons learned
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Benefits Of Basic Training Class

  • Transform yourself from a beginner to an experienced entrepreneur
  • Discover the truth about your business idea and what it will take to make it successful
  • Learn a powerful methodology used by the most successful startups in Silicon Valley
  • Learn how to validate your core customer problem, with rigor and certainty
  • Learn how to validate your solution and pricing model, with rigor and certainty
  • Find and validated your path-to-customers to show how your business will scale and be profitable
  • Create valuable market and business model data to better attract interest from investors
  • Learn new skills in how to apply the process to create disruptive innovations in your startup or in your corporate job 
  • Develop a valuable instinct for your target customers over time
  • Strengthen your inner self to thrive on the startup roller coaster ride
  • Connect with other committed entrepreneurs some of whom will become lifelong colleagues and friends



Your Sensei For Basic Training Class

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Dave Linhardt


  • Serial entrepreneur and innovative business leader with 22 years of marketing, technology, general management and startup experience.
  • Lean startup practitioner as full-time entrepreneur for past 14 years 
  • Created six new businesses. Five out of six have achieved profitability without outside investor capital.
  • LegitLead, big data SaaS (software-as-a-service) business in lead generation market
  • Life Phase Media &, life event data company and leading provider of multi-channel consumer data
  •, consumer e-commerce company and manufacturer in fashion accessories and home furnishing category
  • Maverick Direct Marketing, email marketing and the first predictive-analytics platform for delivering personalized email marketing offers
  • e360data, a behavioral consumer data company for offline catalog and online e-commerce companies
  • Brandango, data integration platform for multi-channel direct marketing companies
  • P&G, AT&T Wireless, Experian in product development, marketing and general management
  • MBA Harvard Business School & BS Engineering Purdue University

Three Locations For Basic Training Class

You can live anywhere in the world and participate in the FounderSensei program!

We will be running the program primarily in San Francisco, CA and occasionally in Chicago, IL. You can attend the sessions in person if it's convenient or you can attend virtually through live video conference. Wherever you are, FounderSensei is there!

The January 2015 program will be held in three locations.

1. San Francisco, CA

Group Learning Sessions are held at Runway, a co-working space in San Francisco. Runway is located at 1355 Market St., Suite #488, San Francisco, CA 94103

2. Chicago, IL

Group Learning Sessions will also be held at Grind in Chicago. Sessions will be held at 2 North LaSalle Street, 14th Floor, Chicago, IL 60602 

3. Virtual

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Participating founders can join the group via web conference. We use FuzeBox to host online sessions with up to 12 simultaneous, high-definition video streams for each team. 


What Founders Are Saying About

The FounderSensei Basic Training Class

I owe 100% of my success to the FounderSensei program. I came to FounderSensei with nothing more than an app. Now, I have over 50 paying small business customers!

Whatever else you are thinking about doing, like raising money or building a product, stop what you’re doing and take FounderSensei. It will save you six years of your life.
— Jamie Johnson, Founder & CEO, Verde
FounderSensei helps you block out the noise. It helps you focus on what really matters to make your startup successful.

I think at the end of the day, what you are teaching people through the FounderSensei program is a discipline. It’s not something you are born with. It’s not something you can learn in school. It’s something you have to practice. It’s a step forward in learning the discipline of being an entrepreneur.
— Valentin Saportas, Founder & CEO, Hippoteq
I learned more from 12 weeks in the FounderSensei program than from two years at business school.
— Founder & Graduate Of A Big 10 Business School
Before I took the class, I used to think about what I wanted our product to be. Now, I listen to customers more. FounderSensei taught me how to get insight out of my customers.
— Sheila Guo, Founder & CEO, Peckish
FounderSensei gave me a different way to approach this whole startup thing. It taught me what to do so I can be ready to accelerate without wasting time and money.
— Rill Hodari, Founder & CEO, A Little Bit Of Happiness
After 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, I still got a tremendous amount of value from the program.
— Ron Niemaszyk, Serial Entrepreneur
FounderSensei changed my mindset. I started with a little idea and FounderSensei helped me turn it into a huge idea.
— Ronny Sage, Founder & CEO, Niche Interactive Media
FounderSensei helped me be more aggressive in selling and talking to customers.
— Joseph Sheahan, Founder & CEO, SAVVO
FounderSensei helped me see the parts of my business model that didn’t really fit. I learned my business wasn’t as flawless as I thought it was.
— Muhammed Fazeel, Founder & CEO, Benecure

We help entrepreneurs master their craft

Next Class Starts March 26, 2015.

Application Deadline Is March 20, 2015.

Signup Today & Start Your Journey To Startup Success


The Basic Training Class costs $8,000 per student, payable in three payments. The first payment of $3,000 is due upon registration for the 12-week class. Two subsequent payments of $2,500 each are required 30 and 60 days respectively after the start of the class. To register for the Basic Training Class, please compete the signup form below and follow the instructions on the next page to process your initial payment.  

We also offer an opportunity for select startup teams to take the class in exchange for equity in their startup. In addition, we offer a scholarship option that allows a limited number of selected entrepreneurs to take the class for free as an Apprentice working as a Founder on an existing startup that we are already working on.

Please select the program option that you are applying for at the end of the form.

  1. FounderSensei Basic Training Class - $8,000 (3 payments). This option is for most entrepreneurs and newbie entrepreneurs who have some resources to invest in themselves and in developing proven entrepreneurial skills.
  2. FounderSensei Basic Training Class - 5% equity in your startup. This option is only for high-potential teams that would qualify for an established accelerator or pre-accelerator program.
  3. FounderSensei Basic Training Class As An Apprentice In One Of Our Startups - Free. This options is for newbie entrepreneurs who want to work on an existing startup.
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