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 Offers Three Opportunities For Entrepreneurs To Improve Themselves

1. FounderSensei Basic Training Class. 

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 unique Group Learning Model. Groups of Founders who are actively practicing lean startup principles are paired with a dedicated, seasoned lean startup practitioner. The Sensei takes each startup team through an intense 12-week curriculum of discovery and learning. As a true Sensei, the group leader 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
  • Discuss lean startup and resilience psychology principles
  • 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

  • Discover the truth about your business idea and what it will take to make it successful
  • Learn a powerful process 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


  • The Basic Training Class costs $4,999 per startup team
  • Teams are not required to give up any equity to take the class
  • Application and interview required for admission
  • Signup below to schedule your interview

2. FounderSensei Personalized Startup Coaching.

A personalized Sensei is your trusted guide for startup success.

Lean startup is kind of like IKEA: it looks good in the store, but then you get it home & have to put it together.
— Steve Blank, Lean Startup Conference
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Reading a lean startup book is one thing. Putting the principles into practice in your startup is an entirely different animal. That's where the experience of a proven Sensei comes in.

For the first time this year, we are offering personalized coaching sessions from a certified FounderSensei Sensei. These sessions are typically held over video conference with additional work done before and after the session. All coaching is one-on-one between entrepreneur or startup team and Sensei. 

Entrepreneurs set the pace and direct the Sensei to focus on areas of highest impact and of most interest depending on the entrepreneur's and startup's stage of development. A good Sensei is sensitive to the needs of each student.


  • Personalized Startup Coaching packages start at $2499 for 10 hours of 1-on-1 sessions with the founding team.
  • The first hour is free with no obligation.
  • Application and interview is required for admission.
  • Sign up below to receive your first hour of free coaching.

3. FounderSensei Lean Startup Challenge.

A hands-on crash course in how to build a startup. 

The FounderSensei Lean Startup Challenge is a 12-week contest with a crowd funded cash prize. Participation includes a one-day lean startup bootcamp and personalized coaching throughout the contest for qualifying teams.

Crowdfunded Cash Prize

To participate in the Challenge, we charge a $199 participation fee. 30% of fee covers the operational costs of executing the contest. 70% of the fee goes into the cash prize that will be awarded to the winning team.

If at least 20 teams register, FounderSensei will guarantee at least a $10,000 cash prize. However, our goal is to get hundreds of startup teams to register so we can grow the prize even more. Not only will this make the contest more fun, it will also provide much need seed money for the best Lean Startup team!

Cash prize will be awarded to the winning team based on a panel of Lean Startup Practitioners. There are no strings attached to the cash prize. The winning team will receive a check from FounderSensei and there is no equity required to participate in the FounderSensei Lean Startup Challenge.

There is no limit to how many startup teams may register for the Challenge. To make the prize bigger, help us promote the Challenge and watch the money pot grow.

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Startup Anywhere

Startup teams may be located anywhere in the world. The One-Day Bootcamp will be held in Palo Alto, CA. The session will be recorded and will be made available to teams who cannot attend in person.

All documentation for the Challenge will be provided by the teams using Trello, a collaborative organization tool. To qualify for consideration, teams must assign their Trello board to their designated FounderSensei representative so we may view your progress. 


  • Participation in the Lean Startup Challenge with Crowdfunded Cash Prize costs $199 per startup team of up to 5 Founders. (Plus Eventbrite transaction fee.)
  • Participation includes an intense, one-day lean startup bootcamp where startup teams will learn the fundamental principles of how to build a successful startup.
  • Payment will be collected by Eventbrite.
  • Signup below to enter the Lean Startup Challenge. 

Your Sensei For Basic Training Class

Spring 2014

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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

Founders can participate at any of our three locations.

1. Palo Alto, CA

Group Learning Sessions are held at Enerspace, the best co-working space in the world. They are located at 2225 East Bayshore Road, Suite 100, Palo Alto, CA 94303.

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2. Chicago

Chicago - Enerspace Chicago, for those who like a cold winter. Sessions will be held at 1046 West Kinzie, Street Suite 301, Chicago,  IL 60642.

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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


Lean Startup Challenge - Applications Due April 15, 2014

Personalized Startup Coaching - Enrollment Open Now

Basic Training Class - Applications Due April 4, 2014


Signup Today & Start Your Journey To Startup Success

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