Founder Accelerator

Sign up here if you’re interested in being a founder and/or investor in this program.

Idea:

Invest $100,000 in the best founders before they start their next startup.

  • Think: Thiel Fellowship for 23+ year olds.
    • Give founders 1+ years of freedom to work full-time on their next startup idea.
  • Deal: $100K now in exchange for 10% equity in your next startup.
    • Goal: Be the world’s earliest angel investor.
      • I aim to invest pre-startup and ideally pre-idea.
        • Founder Rounds are the new Pre-Seed Rounds.
Mission:

Be the first investor and Shadow Co-Founder to the most promising founders.

  • Coach founders through their idea mazes.
  • Build rapid prototypes with founders.
  • Help founders apply to accelerators and raise seed funding.
Why:

Support founders with money, feedback, and friends when they need it the most.

  • Funding: Founders often stay too long at their last startup and/or rush into their next startup because they need money.
  • Coaching: Founders rarely have an external voice in their corner who’s aligned with their interests.
    • Investors often pressure founders to fundraise and scale prematurely.
    • Advisors usually don’t provide much value because they don’t have much equity.
  • Community: Founders get energy from connecting and commiserating with other founders.
    • Group founders into 6-8 person crews that meet weekly to share highs, lows, challenges, and opportunities.
    • Create a buddy system where every founder always has at least one other founder they can text or call whenever they need.
Experience:

I have co-founded three startups, including the last two as creator and founding CEO:

  • Air to All (2020) is a nonprofit medical device startup designing low-cost respirators and ventilators for COVID-19 and beyond. We recruited 700+ volunteers to design open-source nonprofit medical devices, and raised donations from angels and fundraisers.
  • Labdoor (2012-2020) a consumer watchdog that independently tests and ranks supplements and other health products for its 20M+ users. We raised a 2013 Seed led by Mark Cuban, joined Y Combinator in Winter 2015, raised a 2016 Series A led by Floodgate, and are now operating profitably.
  • Avomeen (2010-2012) is a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016.
  • I also write essays, share my notes, go on podcasts, and post on Twitter to help other founders learn the inside strategies of running startups in both good and bad times.
Investments:
  • I made six angel investments from 2013-2016, all in founders I knew before investing:
    • Paystack (2016 Seed) – Acquired by Stripe for $200M+ in 2020.
    • Beek (2016 Seed) – Unrealized gains.
    • Sano (2015 Seed) – Raised 2018 Series A from Fitbit, Acquired by One Drop in 2020.
    • MatterFab (2014 Seed) – Raised 2015 Series A from GE Ventures, Shut down.
    • Experiment (2013 Seed) – Shut down.
    • 10 Storks (2013 Seed) – Shut down.
  • I invested $45K total and have returned $200K (4.4X, 32% IRR) so far.
    • My anti-portfolio of founders who I knew and/or advised over the years and then never asked to get an allocation in their seed round would probably increase my IRR over 100%.
  • I invested exclusively in cryptocurrency from 2017-2020.
    • My two kids were born in 2017 and 2019, so liquidity became a key factor in my investing strategy.
Vision:

Create the The Next Y Combinator.

  • Invest at the earliest stage in the most promising founders and help them build their best startups.
    • Goal: Invest even earlier stage than Paul Graham in 2005.
  • Build a huge Founder Tree and support hundreds of great founders.
    • I’ve informally coached founders for the last decade, and have been growing my own Founder Tree through former Labdoor employees starting their own startups.
Timing:

There’s a big opportunity now to build a brand investing in founders pre-YC (even pre-startup).

  • Founders are increasingly looking to stay independent (off the VC track).
    • We help founders keep their optionality as long as possible.
  • Rolling Funds now make it possible to raise money publicly to fund these founders directly.
    • We intend to raise this fund from the world’s best Seed and Series A investors, to whom we’ll operate as a full-service scout program.
Funding:
  • Start With a Rolling Fund to fund Founder Rounds.
    • 10 founders/year = $1M/year fund.
    • 100 founders/year = $10M/year fund.
  • Raise a Seed Fund to lead first rounds for our startups.
    • Only LPs in our Rolling Fund are eligible to invest in our Seed Fund.
    • We get diluted with founders so our incentives are aligned to only fundraise when needed.
Strategy:
  • Be First: Be the first believer + investor in the next generation of great founders.
    • Founders always remember their first backer.
  • Think Global: Expand the pool of potential founders by increasing access to funding and support.
    • “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” — Anton Ego – Ratatouille
  • Be Free: Minimize the downside risk of starting a startup.
    • Funding Pool: Rolling Fund allows us to invest in founders before they start a startup.
    • Founder Pool: Founders that pool equity get access to a concentrated portfolio of startup bets.
      • This also incentivizes our founders to help each other and help us recruit, select, and mentor future classes of founders.
  • Think Bigger: Inspire founders to push themselves to their best possible work now.
    • Help founders Zoom Out and see all their possible opportunities.
Values:
  • Be a believer: “I’d rather be optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right.” — Elon Musk
  • Make a move: “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.” ― Bruce Lee
  • Don’t give up: “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” — Thomas Edison
  • Be independent: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Bootstrapping is a privilege: “Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.” — James Baldwin
  • Power to the founders: “The startups that can retain control tend to be the best ones. They’re the ones that set the trends, both for other startups and for VCs.” — Paul Graham
  • Invent the future: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay
  • Change the world: “Those people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that actually do!” — Steve Jobs
  • Pay it forward: “The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.” — Anton Ego
Join Us:

Published by Neil Thanedar

Neil Thanedar is a scientist, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. He is the founder & CEO of Air to All, a nonprofit medical device startup designing low-cost respirators and ventilators for COVID-19 and beyond. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Labdoor, a consumer watchdog that independently tests and ranks supplements and other health products for its 20M+ users. He was previously co-founder and President of Avomeen Analytical Services, a product development and testing lab acquired for $30M+ in 2016. He has also served as Executive Director of The Detroit Partnership and Senior Advisor to his father Shri Thanedar in his campaigns for Governor and State Representative in Michigan. He received his BBA (Entrepreneurship) and BS (Cellular & Molecular Biology) from the University of Michigan in 2010. Neil lives in Michigan with his wife Shoua, sons Kai (3) and Ajay (1), and dogs Zeus (12) and Pluto (11). He is also a (very) amateur hockey player and drummer.