Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Runway Program by Innovation Endeavors | Giving Entrepreneurs Runway to Launch Their Next Big Company

Undeniably, being in the Silicon Valley gives technology startups a huge boost. This is the place that has amassed the most talent, the most VC dollars, and the best ecosystem for launching. Whatever else may be said for its ridiculously high cost of living (and cost of labor), employer-unfriendly laws, and, take your pick, nasty traffic or seismic uncertainty, I doubt there is another place that can boast so many startup incubators, accelerators, and coworking spaces as the San Francisco Bay Area. The links page on my website features 14 different organizations in this category, and I am sure it is not exhaustive. (In fact, if you are aware of anything I've omitted, please let me know.)

Yesterday, I met for coffee with Corey Ford, Director of Runway Program, a paid six-month entrepreneurship program based out of Innovation Endeavors, to learn more about their project. Here's what I learned.


Runway is pre-team, pre-idea. You should consider applying if you are (1) entrepreneurially-inclined and think you have the skills, whether on the technical, business or design side, to be an entrepreneur, (2) are willing to commit at least 6 months, full time, to building a company in Palo Alto, (3) are interested in a collaborative process to identify a problem and develop a solution that is a viable business opportunity. (You should also be authorized to work in the United States for any employer.)

Runway is not for entrepreneurs who already have a business solution they are committed to and are just looking for cofounders. It is also not an ideal fit for established teams, as the application process is for individuals and considers each applicant individually (though established teams may apply individually and indicate a preference to work together).


If you are itching to start a company and fit the criterial above, you can submit an application to the program. Applications for the August program will only be accepted for another couple of weeks (deadline is May 23, 2011). There is no cost to apply.

Each application will be individually reviewed filtered on values and on disciplines. Some of the applicants will then be selected to do a mini-project, to test their entrepreneurial skills, followed by interviews. The finalists (less than 20 in all) will meet at a Final Team Weekend and will work on small group projects, observed by Runway program coordinators. Final selection of program participants will be made following another interview round.


Runway gives entrepreneurs "the cushion, connections, and coaching [they] need to take the entrepreneurial leap and succeed." The inspiration and culture for the program has its roots in the Stanford d.school.

The winners, working in self-selected groups of ~3-4, will incorporate a company, receive initial funding of up to $150,000 from Innovation Endeavors (in the form of a capped convertible note) and will proceed to work over the next 6 months, with the mentorship and support from Runway program coordinators, on identifying their business idea and building a business around it.

"Nothing comes from the top down," said Corey during our meeting. "We catalyze the entrepreneurs. The direction comes from them."

At the end of 6 months, which is the financial runway of the Runway companies, they will need to look for venture funding. Innovation Endeavors will not lead the round, but they will help with introductions and may participate along-side the lead investors.

Take Away

This program is obviously not for everyone, and not even for every talented entrepreneur. But I think this can be a great opportunity for some of you out there, so I wanted to help spread the word. More information can be found on the Runway Program website, and you can schedule your own meeting with Corey Ford here.

Inna Efimchik

Emergence Law Group  Emergence Law Group, specializing in assisting emerging technology companies in Silicon Valley and beyond, provides incorporation, financing, and licensing services as well as general corporate counseling.


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