Entrepreneurship has seen a boom in recent years especially with the recession and a greater amount of money being spent by investors in tech companies. With everyone taking notice of how entrepreneurship can help boost the economy, governments have made an attempt to help out startups with support such as StartUp America, StartUp Britain and most recently StartUp Greece. These are all very useful and all, but now entrepreneurs have been given another option.
Its called the FoundersCard, created by Eric Kuhn, it is a metallic card that gives members a number of discounts and deals on travel, lifestyle, and business benefits, as well as access to networking events for members. FoundersCard is exclusively a members only organisation. You will need to apply for one via the website or be referred by an existing member.
A number of companies have signed up to offer deals including American Airlines, Equinox Fitness, AT&T, W Hotels, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Rackspace. The card has been described as the 'AmEx Black Card' for startups by Business Insider.
The card carries deals for countries across the world with the startup based in Manhattan. Having launched the product in January 2010 founders card has attracted thousands of members. Eric though makes sure the focus for growth doesn't just depend on the volume of members but Eric believes in keeping up the quality.
Another aspect to the membership has recently been added is giving members the opportunity to offer deals from their own startups to other members. Eric has always wanted to make sure that the deals offered are useful for the small startups as well as larger ones which have received funding.
Marketing of FoundersCard comes in the form of word of mouth. They rely on people referring and recommending the club to others which helps them keep the quality of members who join. Since the card looks so cool they also get a lot of people posting pics of their cards on social networks, spreading the buzz even more.
The membership currently costs $495 a year plus a one time initiation fee of $65 and really does pay for it self. So should you get one? Well for many startup founders, yes it's great as it tends to pay for itself through great savings, but if you are in bootstrapping mode than maybe not so much.
Before FoundersCard Eric founded Varsity Books in 1997. This was quite the roller coaster ride for Eric but gave him great experience to learn from. Varsity Books was started when Eric was looking for a way to get out of law and become an entrepreneur. At that point there were only a handful of public dot coms and Eric wanted to be there. After spending time and money in many bookstores looking for his study books Eric felt there must be an easier way and that way was to take it online.
Eric managed to raise $40 million dollars in 18 months including an initial angel round of funding from a relative of the legendary Warren Buffet. In early 2000 after the internet boom of the late 90's Varsity Books went public with and the stock valued at $10 per share. Brilliant a day of celebration ensued for Eric and his employees. This didn't last long though and as the dot com bubble burst Varsity Books share value plummeted to $0.13 cents.
Eric didn't give up, at his loneliest point he worked harder and faster as his business would not exist unless they shifted the business model. At the highest point Eric's phone would be ringing non stop but as soon as things start sliding down, the calls stopped.
The business changed direction and looked at building partnerships with private schools, where they didn't have bookstores and wanted a solution to supply books to students. In comparison to targeting college students where the company had to fight to convince students to buy online rather than the bookstores that the bigger institutions had. Although a smaller market this helped reduce costs significantly during this tough period they were going through.
Whilst others heads were dropping Eric kept his head up and was to survive the dot com crash. With the new market position Varsity Books was able to get back to a profitable position. The company had had to downsize and felt like a startup again. Over the years Eric went on to sell most of his shares and step down as 100% of his net worth was in Varsity Books and with the crash he lost a huge amount of value.
As of 2007 he was no longer head of the company and it was his chance to think what next? What came next was Founders Card. He will be hoping for a smoother ride this time!
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