Founder Track

Curriculum, opportunity and community for future first-time technical founders

Note: The health and well-being of every community member is of the utmost importance to us here at First Round. Given COVID-19 spread, we’ve decided to take Technical Founder Track fully remote. We are super excited to open up applications beyond SF, and encourage engineers anywhere to apply!

The Backstory

It’s a big leap to go from sharpening your skills as an engineer to taking on the titles of Co-Founder and CTO. And as we’ve gathered engineering advice and stories on the First Round Review over the years, we’ve noticed that whether you’re a chief architect, leading a large engineering team or an experienced IC, there’s still a gap in the support needed to start your first company. We want to help close that gap.

We’re launching Technical Founder Track to bring support and structure to engineers still in their full time roles, who are contemplating the ambiguous challenge of starting something new. From the big mistakes to avoid and the nitty-gritty details you need to know, to the CTOs who’ve been in your shoes before and the frameworks they’ve used to build from the ground up, we’ll give you the guidance and access you need to go from “I’ll start a company someday” to “I’ve got a game plan.”

Applications for our cohort are now closed. Please sign up below to stay updated on future cohorts.

The Program

Here’s how it works: We’ll have sessions every other week over the course of April and May. The first half of each session will be a discussion led by founding CTOs who’ve done it all before. The second half will focus on peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and reflective exercises that will help you move forward in the decision-making process. In the weeks between sessions, you’ll check in with your mentor.

Applications for our cohort are now closed. Please sign up below to stay updated on future cohorts.

Topics We’ll Cover

Founder roles: What you’ll specifically take on as the co-founding CTO

Timing: Where to start and how to gauge whether you’re “ready”

Support systems: The power of mentorship and your network

You: Knowing your strengths and scaling as a leader

Co-founders: Building a strong foundation and navigating conflict

Learning Quick: The most common mistakes first time CTOs make

Your Team: Hiring & Recruiting

Bootstrapping: Designing an engineering org from scratch


Tina Huang


Ralph Gootee


Nikita Shamgunov


Mike Kim


Lloyd Tabb


Kevin Mahaffey


Julia Grace


Joel Poloney


Ian Wong


Gordon Wintrob


Calvin French-Owen


Ben Liebald



Who should apply?
Any engineer who is looking for a strong foundation before founding a company should apply. 
Do I need to have an idea already?
No, but you should be ready to start exploring areas that you’re interested in today. While some participants may have decided on a list of ideas, we also welcome those who have more general areas of interest and are excited about starting their first company.
How close to starting a company do I need to be?
Maybe you’re still at your current company and just considering starting a company sometime in the future. Or perhaps you’ve recently left your full-time role and are looking to join this community. 
Is this for people who want to be co-founders or for the first engineering hires (also called founding engineers)?
While many participants may be interested in both, the program will focus specifically on the unique challenges of being a co-founder.
Is there an equity or cost component?
No. This program is focused entirely on mentorship, education and community. There is no cost or equity agreement required to participate.
What is the format and time commitment?
The program is run over 5 bi-weekly sessions: 4/13, 4/27, 5/11, 5/26, 6/8. Each session has experienced co-founding CTOs that will explore an important topic with the cohort. In addition, there will be interactive projects and peer-to-peer sharing.
What if I can’t make all the sessions?
We strongly encourage everyone to attend all sessions. We ask about this in the application and it will be a deciding factor.
Can I join the program if I’m not based in the Bay Area?
Yes! While originally the program was going to run in SF, we've decided to take Technical Founder Track fully remote given COVID-19 spread. We are super excited to open up applications and encourage engineers anywhere in the US to apply!
When do applications close?
Friday, March 20 at 3pm PT