As any entrepreneur can tell you, it helps to have any friends you can in the business. While cocktail partys and meet-ups certainly go along way to helping groups evolve professionally, one company is hoping to offer the extra leg-up many companies are looking for without any of the guess work. Dubbed by its creators as the ‘AMEX Black Card for start-ups,’ the newly developed FoundersCard offers members access to an exclusive community of like-minded innovators and business leaders, as well as over 150 unique benefits from some of the most sought after travel, lifestyle, and business partners. These illustrious names include Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Apple, Equinox, W Hotels, Mondrian SoHo in NYC, FedEx, John Varvatos, 3×1, Ritz Carlton, American Airlines and others. For those hoping to use the card to network, it also offers its 5,000+ members access to exclusive networking events with fellow FoundersCard holders in New York City, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles.
However, in order for this to be a successful aid to businesses there needs to be someone behind the scenes who already knows what entrepreneurs will need for their short-term as well as long-term goals. Luckily, the FoundersCard is being manned by Founder & CEO Eric Kuhn, whose varied history with e-commerce and internet start-ups proves to ample creative grounds for this new endevour. Below, one of the reps for FoundersCard was kind enough to answer a few questions for us about the company.
Why did Eric decide to start the company?
Eric started FoundersCard because of his own experience as an entrepreneur when he founded Varsity Books, Inc. (an internet company) over 14 years ago. In the eyes of many, starting a business is one of greatest professional challenges that an individual can take on in the work force. Eric realized first-hand the obstacles and challenges that entrepreneurs face and wanted to create a community that served three major functions: 1) arm entrepreneurs with certain essential resources that he wished he had access to when he founded his first company, 2) reward these individuals and their innovative spirit by offering a one-of-a-kind package of benefits unlike any other, and 3) offer and extended network of like-minded professionals for these entrepreneurs to interact with during events for FoundersCard members throughout the year.
How did Eric decide who would participate?
Eric carefully selects business partners that are the most representative of the brand and of the membership base. Once a brand is selected by FoundersCard, the partner works to create unique benefits for FoundersCard members.
Ultimately, what does Eric see this project developing to 5 years from now?
FoundersCard was created to be a community for founders and the growth of the community will be fueled by the impact of the members. This is significant as it’s the members who control the direction of the company while Eric acts more as a guide as the network grows. The members have contributed to what FoundersCard is today and will play a vital role in shaping the brand moving forward. Members also play a significant role in determining which brand benefits are available to the network; a number of members offer their own companies to the FoundersCard partner network, which will only increase as the network grows. They will also continue to influence the new features and events, which will expand in the future beyond major domestic cities like New York, San Francisco, Miami, and Los Angeles to include international events. The FoundersCard experience for members now is a highly interactive experience for members. It’s a dynamic community that will continue to evolve and improve as it grows.
How do users become members? What is the vetting process?
The FoundersCard application process is based on member referrals. Each member is able to refer other members. There is an application process to make sure each applicant is connected to the entrepreneurial world.
How has Eric’s own background contributed to this project?
As the founder of companies at the height of two different internet boom eras, Eric offers interesting insight into lessons learned and the challenges associated with being an entrepreneur then and now. It was his background experience as the founder of Varsity Books, the first e-commerce company to be listed on the NASDAQ, that inspired him to start FoundersCard. His goal in launching FoundersCard was to offer the benefits usually reserved for larger corporations to individual entrepreneurs and innovators. Exclusive privileges available to the FoundersCard community include preferred hotel rates, upgrades, elite status on airlines, spa treatments and benefits with fashion brands like John Varvatos. Eric’s pay it forward mentality represents a larger trend in the entrepreneurial community, which is increasingly providing the tools and resources for success to the start-up leaders of tomorrow (e.g. The Founder Conference, TechStars, NY Big Apps Competition, etc).