The Founder Institute, a very early stage startup accelerator and entrepreneur training program, was launched in 2009 by Adeo Ressi. The company now has programs in a variety of cities in the U.S. and around the world – ten cities at the last count.
That’s a lot of startups flowing through the program, and Ressi often gives advice to young companies even after the program is over. One thing he doesn’t like are people and companies that do things that add friction to the already difficult task of building a company (or otherwise piss him off). And he usually doesn’t waste a lot of time before jumping right in and slamming anyone he thinks is guilty of being an “unsavory character.”
Today, for example, he began publishing a blacklist of these companies, available only to people who’ve gone through the program. First on the list is a law firm, Gunderson Dettmer, that often represents venture capitalists and startups. Over-lawyering by the first apparently caused one venture deal to fall apart.
Here’s the email he sent out to companies today. The blacklist is here, but you have to have credentials to view it.
Let me start out by thanking everyone for their hard efforts to launch enduring and meaningful technology companies in honor of the US Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a great time to pursue your dream company, and I am proud to be associated with your current and future successes.
The Founder Institute is introducing a new service to help Founders avoid bad actors. Unfortunately, there are many people in the world that seek the opportunity to take advantage of entrepreneurs, including employees, service providers, law firms, consultants, advisors, technology companies and investors. Unsavory characters and disingenuous firms will promise the impossible, overcharge, steal equity, destroy value, waste time, hurt your reputation and sabotage your success. It’s time to put a stop to this.
The Founder Institute helps talented entrepreneurs succeed by making the right decisions and by avoiding deadly mistakes, which often include bad business relationships. If an accounting firm botches your taxes or a law firm ruins a financing, your business will suffer and possibly fold. A bad employee can destroy your team productivity, and a bad partnership can overwhelm you. In response, the Founder Institute is launching a private Blacklist (http://www.founderinstitute.com/guides/103) for enrolled Founders, Graduates and Mentors to access that will include individuals and companies to avoid doing business with, either directly or indirectly, around the world.
An example of one blacklisted company to avoid is the law firm, Gunderson Dettmer (http://www.gunder.com). This firm has caused problems for Founders around the country. In New York, Gunderson has told Founders that Class F stock hurts entrepreneurs and allegedly spread negative rumors about other law firms to secure clients from the program. In San Diego, associates at Gunderson billed Founders for cosmetic changes to template agreements that have been accepted “as is” by dozens of lawyers from other firms across the country. In the Bay Area, Gunderson billed multiple rounds of cosmetic changes to standard investment agreements that caused at least one Graduate financing to fall apart needlessly. The Institute has contacted various attorneys at Gunderson and had unsatisfactory responses.
If you know any individual or company to be included on the Blacklist, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a message titled, “BLACKLIST: [Company / Individual]”. Please include the full name and contact information for any individuals, and write one paragraph to describe the reason for blacklisting. If you recommend blacklisting a company, identify the specific individual or individuals at the firm to avoid. Please also attach any related correspondence or supporting information. The Institute will review each recommendation before adding them to the blacklist. Depending on the severity of the situation, a blacklisted entity will remain on the list for 6 months, one year or even permanently.
While this action appears negative on the surface, as a seasoned entrepreneur, I can tell you that you will be taken advantage of, and, if you can avoid bad actors, it will increase your chances for success. In the end, this may be one of the more helpful things that Institute provides.
Keep up the great work! – Adeo
Gunderson Dettmer must be pleased as punch. There’s nothing like having an “unsavory character” blacklist launched with you as the founding member.