Seemingly a year ago but in reality only 4 months, while in a break between my last role and my current gig I decided that as I was now living “in the valley” I should finally get around to getting one of my own ideas off the ground. Having run several growth stage companies over the past 11 years I knew I had the skills once it got going but I was not so sure I would have the day to day commitment required of doing a pure startup.

I needed to ensure that I had some external pressure to push me through the necessary steps of not only starting the company but refining and proving my idea. Along with this having taken on another CEO role I had to make sure I would not get swamped by my day job.

Over the last two years I had observed Adeo Ressi firstly through The‘s many different events and then in the tech press with his launch of a new style of startup incubator The Founder Institute. When I read through the variety of blogs, comments and information about its program and its methods I thought I had found my thing……

So first up was the application process which was centered around a sort of IQ test that was meant to measure your IQ, aptitude and personality. I dislike such tests as without controlling for environment I doubt how accurate they can be, this was the first exposure to Adeo’s data driven measurement system. I completed the online test in around 30 minutes and due to kid driven distractions was not feeling very hopeful, something must have gone right though as I was accepted in the program (I believe around 1in 5 was accepted which was a good thing for my ego to hear…).

From there the pressure is on, it is literally immediate, you find out about being in the course days prior to kickoff and then after paying a $1000 fee you are in your first meeting. Bam, right between the eyes, Adeo Ressi is up in front of the group (it is not a “class”) and the major messages which are liberally sprinkled with expletives are that both you and your idea are crap.

It feels like the first part of FI is all about getting rid of people and this kickoff is the first step, if you are not totally serious about getting through the program then get out. Adeo offers immediate refunds with an additional $100 bonus if you leave there and then. That is followed by a series of tasks which must be completed within 24 hours (the next meeting is the next night), if they are not all completed then you are out. This start has a dramatic effect on the group, a small number leave and the majority are shaken, its a good approach, if you cannot handle that initial stage then why even put yourself through the rest, it gets no easier.

The general format of the program is a weekly meeting (themed with a relevant startup area i.e. Intellectual Property) of the entire group (starting with 50). We would begin around 6.30pm with an initial rant/presentation by Adeo followed by presentations from 3/4 mentors. This is liberally interspersed with hotseats (1-3 minute pitches from individuals) that are immediately scored on a 1-5 scale by the mentors, this judging is followed by full and frank criticism of both the pitch and the idea. This is not for the faint hearted. This session runs through to 11pm and we then all decamp to a local watering hole Antonio’s Nuthouse for a few beers and a chance to interact personally with the mentors.

In addition to the formal weekly meeting we are assigned to groups with whom you are expected to meet twice a week as well as completing a weekly set of tasks that can take anywhere from ten to twenty hours.

If that does not sound a lot (remember that most in FI have day jobs…) there is more, if there is any doubt in your commitment, your idea or the quality of your pitch you will be regularly hit with emails from Adeo and given additional assignments to prove that you deserve to stay in the program.

Sporadically (and rarely) you get the opportunity for a thirty minute session one-on-one with Adeo, these sessions are sought after and worthwhile, because even though during them he can be easily distracted, Adeo Ressi, like no other that I have met yet, can quickly assimilate your idea or business model and giving you immediate insightful feedback.

Essentially that is the structure of the program, week after week after week and it works.

Why does it work? Well it is not a coaching program, this is about pressure, incredible pressure. Under this pressure people discover abilities that they did not know they had. They learn that they can actually pitch coherently, they test, change, retest and refine their ideas, they become confident in themselves and come away from the program truly as founders. I was amazed to see how far individuals and their ideas progressed thanks to this unrelenting pressure, it was incredible to watch and incredible to experience.

So to my 13 fellow graduates congratulations, it was a rough ride but worth it. To Adeo Ressi, keep it up.