Founders Academy Review: Is It Worth It ?

Founders Academy Review

As we head into the 21st century, you might have noticed an increase in so-called "alt-MBA" s.

If you're a budding entrepreneur or business person, you might find that the Ivy League price tag of $100,000+ for an MBA is just a bit too steep.

So the Founders Academy alt-MBA might seem like a particularly tempting option.

But is it worth the time-investment or mental exertion that a nine-month full-time course can take? And what does the course look like anyway?

The good news is that we at have done our due diligence to present you with a breakdown of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to considering The Founders Academy for your alt-MBA needs.

1. Introducing: The Founders Academy

Based in the UK's thriving capital city, The Founders Academy is a London-based alt-MBA course founded by Harvard Business School graduate, and Founders Academy CEO, Riya Pabari, and her partner Asha Haji. 

The Founders Academy

The course is backed by British serial-entrepreneur, Brent Hoberman (of, and furniture retailer Made).

The Academy was born out of Founders Forum, a global community of the world's leading tech entrepreneurs.

1.1. The Founders Academy mission

As you might expect from an endeavor including startup master Hoberman.

The Founders Academy's intention is to broaden the talent base for European based startup companies and encourage those who might be considering moving into the startup world.

1.2. Cost of the course

What particularly stands out when it comes to The Founders Academy is that the course is completely free for participants

Not only that, but in the placement part of the course, learners earn a stipend of £1800.

1.3. Financial backers

Investors in the alt-MBA include the energy startup unicorn Bulb, as well as the AI-driven medical platform Ada

So there are some pretty convincing organizations throwing their weight behind the course.

2. Learning structure

Learning structure

The course focuses on developing what it calls "Adaptability Quotient," and is broken into four sections.

2.1. Online pre-programme

Online pre-programme

The online pre-program includes a 1:1 in-person career coaching session, which includes an AQ assessment. 

This provides the teaching staff with the opportunity to develop personalized learning outcomes and to provide you with pre-course online learning opportunities.

There is also a Slack channel, which allows you access to other professionals with whom you can network.

2.2. London campus (3 months)

London campus (3 months)

For twelve weeks, you will take part in a project-structured learning experience that will open you up to the strategies and skills needed in a startup

They will also provide you with resources, tools, and information on how to work in a startup environment from day one.

The Founders Academy's focus is on producing "T-Shaped leaders" who have a breadth of knowledge, mastery of specific skills, and the ability to collaborate and contribute within a team.

2.3. Placement (6 months)

Placement (6 months)

The significant part of the course is made up of a six-month placement at one of the Founders Academy's partner startups

The startups have been selected to reflect their potential for growth, culture, and impact.

In reality, this looks like 4.5 days a week at the startup, and then a half-day back on campus to share your findings and learn from your peers.

2.4. Alumni life

Alumni life

Founders Academy considers itself a launching pad for a career, as well as the opportunity to develop a community of graduates.

Through access to partner companies, there is an opportunity to apply for permanent positions within the partner companies.

Graduates will also be invited to help with future cohorts in a mentorship role.

3. Overview


The aim of the Founders Academy is to build a cohort of well-trained and focused professionals who will be able to join the startup world and, ultimately, lead the Academy to glory.

The focus is predominantly on tech-startups, so you'll want to make sure this aligns with your interests.

Cohorts are small - the first January 2020 cohort was 16 people.

3.1. Who is this course for?

Who is this course for?

In terms of personality traits, Founders Academy is looking for self-starters and creative problem solvers who love learning and see themselves as empathetic leaders

The ability to be a team player is essential, as is having a track record of inspiring others.

Application to Founders Academy involves a screening process and is by invitation only.

There are a few non-negotiable specifics that you must meet.

  • The course is based in London, so you must be eligible to live and work in the UK. Founders Academy cannot sponsor any part of the visa process.
  • You must also have at least 3 years of work experience to be eligible to apply.

3.2. What is the application process?

There are three stages to applying.

  • Request Invitation: There is a short online form that must be filled out by the specified due date. You'll hear within 48 hours whether or not you'll be invited to apply.
  • Online application: Your online application form is your chance to demonstrate that you have the characteristics Founders Academy is looking for.
  • In-person interviews: Before the interviews, you will be given a startup challenge to prepare for. The interviews themselves are 2 45-minute interviews, which will focus on your problem-solving skills and your leadership potential.

3.3. Who is the course not for?

If you're looking for a more traditional learning model, then the speed and focus of an alt-MBA is unlikely to work for you.

The same also goes for people who are looking for a specific corporate job after graduation. 

The focus on the course is expressly for those who want to join the startup revolution.

If you're looking for more esoteric, and theory-based learning, you're better off looking at something like the Founders Classical Academies.

4. Evaluation

4.1. Pros

  • It's impressive to see Founders Academy put their money where their mouth is. Offering free training is good, and the fact they're offering a stipend is great.
  • The aim of the Founders Academy is also to diversify access to leadership, and for those who are priced out of education or uncertain how to get access into this world, the course seems like a solid step to take.
  • There is some serious financial backing to the course, from people with a solid track record of investing in winning projects.

4.2. Cons

  • An alt-MBA isn't actually a qualification. While the networking might be useful for you, the qualification in and of itself is unlikely to move the needle for employers who prioritize a more conventional education system.
  • According to Neil Patel, 9 out of 10 startups fail. While Founders Academy prides itself on working with quick-growth startups, the industry is still far from being a guaranteed success.
  • Working full-time for nine months and no salary is a huge undertaking, regardless of the stipend provided. This is going to be a financial challenge too far for some people, particularly in a post-COVID19 world.

5. Conclusion


In all fairness, the Founders Academy has only just begun - the initial cohort began in January, and the course has had to contend with a global pandemic in the meantime

So it's hard to say whether or not a Founders Academy alt-MBA is going to work out how it intends.

Over the next couple of years, it's going to be interesting to see if we hear more from successful graduates, or if the biggest names around the course are going to be those who founded it.

However, if you've found yourself in a position where you're looking at making a new career choice, or considering breaking into the world of startups, the most winning aspect of the Founders Academy is that it costs you nothing to try.

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