At The CoWrks Foundry, we believe companies can thrive through both the known and unknown when led by formidable founders who are self-aware, gritty, and highly skilled.
We support their journey in building innovative solutions to relevant problems, forging a sustainable and scalable business model. Our program leverages rigorous and tailored curriculum, customized mentorship and the expertise of industry and academic experts to help founders develop great teams and a robust global network.
Our secret sauce is a program that keeps our founders’ learning and leveling up at the centre. While there has never been a better time to be an Indian founder, they are faced with unique challenges that hold them back from realizing their full potential:
Our ethos and life experiences offer limited exposure outside our comfort zone. For instance, many American youngsters opt into Girl Scouts or summer jobs, learning invaluable selling, negotiation, and presentation skills, while building risk tolerance and contextual awareness. Contrast that with the average Indian childhood, often populated with safe, structured academic and extracurricular activities, and an emphasis on ‘tried and tested’ career paths, founders find it making it difficult to flout convention, stray off the beaten path, and defy conventional expectations from those around us.
Funders Not Founders
Founders who are deeply immersed in the context have realized the shortcomings of models simply ported over from the West and are leaning towards building solutions from ground up. This leaves them with the added responsibility of educating and advocating while selling and mobilizing. New, untested ideas and markets struggle to survive and feed into a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and risk aversion.
When Jugaad Fails
As Paul Graham said, startups are fundamentally counterintuitive. He likens running a company to skiing, where leaning backward only makes you go faster, which is why skiing instructors exist in the first place.
The widely accepted Indian equivalent of ‘hacking it,’ jugaad, includes frugal innovation and a reliance on one’s intuition. But the counterintuitive nature of running a company means that often, jugaad fails to deliver, and brilliant, impactful ideas never see the light of day.
Jugaad has also become an unfortunate stand in for a lack of integrity and skill, a justification for questionable shortcuts. We’re here to change that.
We focus on building informed intuition and overall competence so you don’t have to rely on jugaad, luck, or gyaan to forge forward.
These are barriers that quickly become dealbreakers. We’re acutely aware of how they feed into designing a program that’s both cutting edge and contextual.
Which is why we’ve started from the ground up. With first principles deeply rooted in maximizing learning, both as an individual founder and as part of a close knit, curated community. We’ve deconstructed the fundamentals of the Competence Dogma and Communities of Practice- and reconstructed them into a unique, adaptive curriculum that will accelerate you and your company for the long haul.
The Competence Dogma and the Founder Learning Journey
We pride ourselves on our unique, founder centric curriculum, designed to build bulletproof basics with a keen awareness of yourself and your company. Let’s take a look at what that means.
When we start on any new task, or a known task in a new domain, we begin at the bottom of the competence pyramid. Our intuition is often wrong, our contextual awareness is low, and we’re painfully aware of our incompetence- and so is everyone else around us.
In any role transition, this feeling of incompetence lasts between 2-6 months. For a founder, it lasts for years, or maybe their entire career.
What’s worse? You’re blissfully unaware of all the mission critical blind spots that you and your company possess. This happens to everybody, no matter how self aware they feel. That’s why it’s called unconscious incompetence.
So what does one do? It can be overwhelming, the number of things that need to be done, that needed to be done yesterday, without knowing how to do them or where to begin learning those core skills. Should I learn how to size my market accurately or how to refine my business model? Why are my hundred prospecting emails failing to elicit a single response? How should my sales team look, and where will I find them?
At this stage, we don’t know what we don’t know. Feeling out of your depth is normal, natural, and oppressive. It’s crucial to have a mirror held to you and your company; becoming aware of your strengths and areas of development, and learning to prioritize them effectively, are some of the most important skills you’ll need to develop in order to succeed. We facilitate this (brutally honest) process with –
- Our monthly acid tests, where we stress test everything from your negotiation and pitching skills to your business model. You’ll walk out with report cards with self, peer, and expert assessments so wrong intuition/ wrong analyses don’t trip you up,
- Consistent feedback loops from internal and external coaches, designed to help you zoom out of the trenches and evaluate your blind spots,
- Consistent external juries, who give you feedback and provide an additional frame of reference,
- A needs analysis at the beginning, middle, and end of the program, designed to help us personalize and adapt to your areas of development.
The human mind is very well defended, and fights to keep us feeling comfortable and competent (for more, go google cognitive dissonance). Breaking through our ironclad defensive routines can be tough. This process will feel excruciatingly difficult and disorienting, but it’s the quickest way to accelerate your learning trajectory.
Now that you know what you didn’t know, you’ve moved to conscious incompetence, and we step in with carefully crafted founders roundtables, targeted skill building workshops, and coaching support to help you consciously build the skills that you need.
(Note: We’re extremely choosy about our coaches and select for the best teachers/ practitioners so their inputs aren’t just gyaan or personal anecdotes. More on that later)
The rest is hard work and elbow grease. Repeating to remember, remembering to repeat. As you put your skills into practice and integrate them into your mental muscle memory, we’ll keep showing you the mirror to help you level up into unconscious, effortless competence.
The Founder Community (of Practice)
Every accelerator and incubator promises a “founder community” that will knock your socks off. But how does one craft such a community? What does that really mean, and why should you care- considering you’re already juggling multiple priorities and have enough friends?
At the Foundry, we curate a small, select group of ten(?) teams, chosen as much for their core mindsets as their business and product acumen. We look for resilience, humility, and a drive to constantly learn and grow.
While it’s good to get great founders into a room and get them talking, we go that extra mile to ensure you’re all learning and evolving together. That the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. That we’re evolving not just as a group, but as a true community of practice.
A Community of Practice is a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
We take the right mix of founders and design spaces that go beyond feel good icebreakers and team building activities. Every Foundry platform includes design principles that help you make your thinking visible, get brutally honest peer feedback, build accountability and trust, and be vulnerable with each other about the things that keep you up at night. Whether it’s your weekly Momentum milestones or the monthly Acid Test report cards, you’ll emerge better, stronger, faster- and be each other’s biggest cheerleaders and critics. And you’ll keep those bonds and partnerships strong with our continuing high-touch alumni program.
We know that, as a founder, your time is an incredibly valuable resource. We work relentlessly to ensure that every hour you spend with us gives you 10x returns – as a learner, as a member of this vibrant and growing community, and as a founder building a global company.