Today, I’ll be graduating from the Founder Institute (FI), Los Angeles. I was told about FI in the winter of 2014 by my then-partner who absolutely raved about it. So I plunged in at a time when I didn’t think I needed the help. And Lord in Heaven was I wrong. An FI semester is comparable to a med school semester. It took as much creativity, time management and hard work as I’ve put in anywhere else — save working in a warehouse or selling knick-knacks on a subway.

Here are my top five lessons from FI:

1. The scientific method permeates everything

Hypothesis, experiment, analysis, re-formulation of hypothesis, and repetition. Repetition. More reps. This is described in the first chapter of every basic sciences textbook read by students in our century. I was literally floored when I listened to Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, describe this as the methodology to launch a successful company. And I loved it. The speed at which startups build, test and reiterate is a beautiful foil to the hulking bureaucracy I had come to believe businesses represented.

2. But then there is art

The art in business is innovation. The art is in creating something that people really need and that will make their lives better. The art is in explaining to them how this new, weird thing works and fits in their lives. I’ve been doing a lot to refine this art personally and with my company, but I also have had the benefit of continuously creating, pivoting and refining with my FI graduating class.

3. Jilliene Helman’s 3 Rules for a CEO

One, keep the culture. Two, hire and fire. Three, capitalize.

4. Jilliene Helman’s War on Emotions

It may be hard for others but I freely admit that sometimes #StartupLife sucks. If I imagine this experience to be a bit like the Odyssey, most of my time is spent peeling sunburnt skin from my arms as we sail the open, endless ocean. In real terms, it is lonely. But my company helps. Peers in FI help. And customer interviews help the most. They remind me to be mission-focused. They remind me to be hungry and Mike Tyson-angry. And, most importantly, they remind me to stay inspired.

5. Make time to workout and watch TV with Ma

I break this rule all the time. But it’s so important especially since I have picked paths that age me so quickly. Moving back to Los Angeles was a gift and I should always be trying to use it better.


Drew Park