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Origins of the Dōjō

The Dōjō is the Result of a
Decade of Research, Experimentation and Learning

An Uncomfortable Discovery

Over the past 20 years, governments around the world spent billions on a wide range of programs intended to create a domestic innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem that could somehow replicate or rival Silicon Valley.


While progress has been made in a few places, the overall results have been disappointing. This puzzled us. ​We saw that there were talented, intelligent, ambitious people everywhere.​

So why were these efforts falling short? 

The Answer? Emerging Ecosystems Need Better Founders

In our work, it was apparent that most of the founders we worked with had little to no experience in starting a company. They lacked the mindset, the knowledge and skills needed to succeed as a founder. In 2023, the US non-profit Endeavor released a study, "Where Do Unicorns Come From?" that supports our initial conclusion. 


Their research examined the prior experience of 200 unicorn founders in the US and emerging markets. The graphic below shows the many "pathways" that the founders took to becoming a unicorn founder.

Their research clearly demonstrated that previous experience at a startup or entrepreneurial employer was a key factor in later success as a founder. In the report they wrote (emphasis added):

"Most of the world’s successful unicorn founders did not have experience working for name-brand employers. Usually, they worked for an entrepreneurial company prior to launching their unicorn company. Many of these founders served as C-suite executives of tech startups, or grew from within the ranks as that entrepreneurial company went from startup to scaleup. A significant number of those employers were unicorn companies themselves. In most cases, the entrepreneurial employer had a successful exit, either by going public or being acquired. Aspiring founders who work for companies that have an exit like this gain invaluable first-hand experience."


A few other interesting findings:

  1. More than 2/3 of founders did not attend an "elite" university;

  2. Most founders had a technical education;

  3. The average length of work experience is 10 years;

  4. Very few worked at big consulting firms; and

  5. Many had previous experience in product management or engineering.

Successful startup founders learn how to be founders by working at startups,
ideally very successful one.

In simple terms, they "learned on the job."

​​But what do you do if there are no startups to serve as the training ground?

The Dōjō is our answer to this challenge.

Traditional classroom education is insufficient

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