Founder Institute Ranks San Diego Lowest, Seattle Highest in Likelihood for Entrepreneurial Success

As if it wasn’t already hard enough to be an entrepreneur in San Diego. A recent survey suggests that San Diego entrepreneurs are the least likely to succeed in their startup ventures—while Seattle’s entrepreneurs are the most likely to break through to the other side.

The survey, which was first reported by VentureBeat last week, was based on information provided by the aspiring founders who have enrolled in the business coaching and startup incubator programs that the San Francisco-based Founder Institute has launched so far in five U.S. cities, including San Diego and Seattle. (The Seattle program begins on December 7.)

In order to process hundreds of applications by aspiring entrepreneurs (who are not required to disclose their idea for a startup venture), the institute uses a blended personality and aptitude test that takes just over an hour to complete. The Founder Institute has enrolled 100 students from 263 applications in programs established so far in five metro areas, so it’s not a big sample. A social science researcher in Canada created the admissions test, according to Adeo Ressi, the Founder Institute’s founder. Besides requiring a full LinkedIn profile, the admissions test asks applicants to answer questions like, “Why do you think you can be an entrepreneur?” and “What are you passionate about?”

As VentureBeat reported, Adeo Ressi says he worked with the social science researcher to develop a system that could be used to predict the success of student founders in the program. As the data accumulate, Ressi says it can be used to look at the attributes of aspiring entrepreneurs on a regional basis.

Here’s how the average scores compare among the programs. (We’re unsure exactly how to read the numbers, but guess it’s based on a normalized scale from 0 to 5.):

—Seattle (2.72 / 5.00)

—Silicon Valley (2.66 / 5.00)

—New York (2.54 / 5.00)

—Washington DC (2.42 / 5.00)

—San Diego and Orange County (2.26 / 5.00)

Ressi told VentureBeat the test can predict two things with greater accuracy than 95 percent of published social science research. (Hmmm. Was he perhaps speaking sardonically about the quality of research in the social sciences?) One is to rank the quality of the idea that Founder Institute students will develop while they’re in the program. The other is how the student will perform at building a business during the four-month program.

When I asked Ressi to elaborate on why San Diego’s showing was weakest, he replied by e-mail: “‘Weakest'” is all relative, of course. Part of the situation in San Diego is that it had the lowest number of applicants, but everything was proportional to the relative market sizes. Silicon Valley was largest, followed by New York, Washington DC, Seattle (which is almost tied with Washington DC), and San Diego in terms of applicants.”

(Ressi did not respond when I asked if he could elaborate any further on why San Diego and Seattle were at opposite ends of the scale.)

The San Diego Founder Institute had 42 applications and enrolled 22 students in its program, which began in November and has scheduled its graduation for Feb. 23. “The class just finished the third class last week so it is hard to give an assessment,” writes Jeanine Jacobson, a San Diego partner of the Founder Institute. “December 7 is the first investor session where the Founders will be pitching to investors. At that time, we will be able to provide more feedback.”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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3 responses to “Founder Institute Ranks San Diego Lowest, Seattle Highest in Likelihood for Entrepreneurial Success”

  1. JB says:

    I think entrepreneuring is ugly. It’s like that show biggest loser, you look awful before and while doing it. But if you stumble and get back up, the results speak for themselves.

    I once went through something called fastrac a long time ago, I wonder how much better this type of program is than that.

    Since coming here to CA I see it is much easier here to ‘lose weight’ using our analogy to entrepreneurship above because there are trainers on every corner. But that can also lead to worst-of-breed issues.

  2. I like what Adeo is doing at the Founder institute, but asking wanna be entrepreneurs who feel the need to go to school to learn how to grow a startup to rank the probability of success is absurd.

    Let me go down to the local little league field and ask them to handicap how the Dodgers and Padres will do next year and report back to you.

  3. I could not agree more with Michael – the whole notion of this scoring approach is upside down!

    Looks like a ploy to get press for founders institute