Running a startup is stressful. Even if you have a great team, being responsible for so many moving parts, not knowing exactly what to focus your energy into at this very moment, constantly networking and not knowing if the connections you’re making are going to lead to something productive — it can be exhausting. We recently talked with two members of the latest Fueled Collective cohort, and they explained how the experience has eased their minds and given them more confidence in their business.
“Don and Kyle [of Fueled Collective] do a great job bringing in speakers. They brought in venture capital groups that gave us really helpful information.” This was one of the main highlights of the cohort for Simon Okiror, Chief Marketing Officer of Suprabook. “With all of the guests they brought in, I gained insight that I never would have gotten until I was actually in front of them, pitching our product.” Being well prepared for such a stressful scenario is a huge advantage for new founders.
Some of the additional benefits for Okiror were having an office space to work in, and space to have meetings with clients that felt more professional than a coffee shop. This all combined with not having to do a bunch of legwork to make connections, which can be some of the most stressful work for any startup. “[Don and Kyle] dedicate a ton of time to making things good for the people in the cohort. They have a huge network from their years in coworking, and they make them all accessible.”
“One thing about Minnesota — the leaders here are very accessible and willing to share… even their mistakes” said Aneela Idnani of HabitAware. Idnani has had experience with a number of other accelerators, but Fueled Collective holds a very special place in her heart. In 2015, she was working part time in the then “CoCo” offices when she met her other cofounders and their journey began. Now, as a part of the Fueled Collective cohort, she has found a tribe of founders to collaborate with and lean on. The experience with Fueled Collective was one that felt very customized to Idnani. “We would all work together once a week to build rapport. It was a nice break from the ‘crazy’ of running your business.” The team would have certain focus days, where each group would get the help they needed from the rest of the cohort. “Sometimes it was reviewing websites, sometimes it was giving user feedback from a walkthrough of an app.”
According to Idnani, the customization also came in the form of a very special guest speaker, brought in at her request. “I asked if Connie Wilder could come in to help me prepare for a TedX talk I was preparing for in Fargo. The team agreed and everyone was able to get feedback from her and general tips on public speaking.” This freedom to shape how they used their own time was a huge benefit to Idnani and she now feels ready for her business to go to the next level. “We have our vision, mission, an informal advisory board, and now we can go to people we know for help.”
So what does Fueled Collective get out of organizing these cohorts? “Inspiration. It’s simply inspiring to meet and work with people who are taking such huge personal risks to build something they believe in.” According to Don Ball of Fueled Collective, it’s also, “wonderful to see how the founders bond and create meaningful friendships because they’re all going through a similar struggle.” Ball has been running Fueled Collective with partner Kyle Coolbroth for the last 10 years. Fueled Collective cohorts are powered by Google for Startups, and until now, each one has been a group of five founders. For their next iteration, they will be expanding to 10. Ball said of the expansion, “This is a great opportunity to fulfill on the idea of diversity by having a good mix of founders and business types. We’ll have tech startups, food businesses, manufacturers, NGOs, nonprofits and service businesses. In our experience, we know that everybody will have something unique to offer and everyone will have much to learn.”
When asked for some words of advice for founders who were considering applying for the next Fueled Collective cohort, all three gave the exact same answer… Just apply! Idnani added, “You will have some life changing experiences. These cohorts are all about building relationships, and finding collaborative ways to help each other.” And if that’s not convincing enough, take it from Ball, “It takes no time and we’re open to all kinds of startups. You don’t need to have everything figured out. We really want to say ‘Yes, you’re in!’”
More information and an application portal can be found on the Fueled Collective Diverse Founders Fellowship page.