Announcing: the Second On Deck Fellowship

 min read
September 1, 2019
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Applications to the October 2019 Cohort have closed

A little over three months ago, we announced the inaugural On Deck Fellowship.

An experiment in community building among future founders, the Fellowship was designed to take the magic of the one-off On Deck events we’ve run since 2016, and build it into an 8-week program for 100 of the very highest potential founders across the broader On Deck network.

What happened next was incredible. What started as a room of 104 strangers became a close-knit family of talented founders, with no fewer than 40 new startups between them. We were blown away — not only by the incredible caliber of participants, but by their eagerness to engage, help each other brainstorm and validate ideas, and pay it forward.

Now we’re excited to announce: we’re doing it all again!

The second On Deck Fellowship will begin October 19th — in San Francisco & New York City.

We’re accepting up to 100 new Fellows into the community in San Francisco, and 60 in NYC. Applications are open through to 11:59pm on Sunday, September 22nd.

Read on to learn more, or if you’re ready to get started: apply now!

What do I need to know?

  1. Who we are, and why we’re doing this.
  2. What we’ve changed since the first cohort — introducing “tracks” & advisors.
  3. What we’re doubling down on from the first round — collaboration & accountability
  4. What’s happening in New York!
  5. What it costs, and what you get as a participant.
  6. More frequently asked questions :)

Who are you, and why are you doing this?

On Deck is the first place the best people look when thinking about starting or joining a new venture.

Founded in 2016, On Deck emerged out of a need for talented people to have a safe space to talk about their ideas and desire to start a company, freely and confidentially. So much goes into successfully launching a company, we saw a need for a thoughtful, highly curated community that truly supports the growth of entrepreneurs and their visions.

Our ultimate goal is to help more people build better companies, through forming stronger, better aligned teams; fast-tracking early hires; and helping founders construct a community around them at the very earliest stages.

To this end, there are only two rules — the same rules On Deck started with in 2016:

1) Everything is confidential — the identities of participants are held in confidence among the group, creating a secure and supportive environment for those who haven’t yet made the leap to move on from current roles/companies

2) Come with a spirit of service — think about how you can give value to others without expecting anything in return.

The On Deck Fellowship is an 8-week program that brings together a group of founders from the broader On Deck community on a weekly basis to work alongside one another on their startup ideas, and connects them with mentors, experts, and investors in various industries via a series of 1:1 introductions, dinner events, hack days, and an exclusive online community with the current cohort and past alumni.

New improvements: “Tracks”, “Squads” and Advisors

On Deck’s mantra for the first cohort was “get the right people in the room, and get out of the way.” Every Fellow is world-class at something — so we focused on helping them connect to, and learn from each other.

However as the program went on, we found participants hungry to deep dive on certain skills and subjects, business models and technologies. Above all — they valued the opportunity to connect deeply and more intimately with others.

In cohort #2, we’re doubling down on all of this, introducing “tracks” and “squads”

A track is a high level grouping based on vertical interest — Consumer, Enterprise, Fintech, Biotechnology/Longevity (co-hosted with Laura Deming and The Longevity Fund), and Crypto (co-hosted with Soona Amhaz and the Token Daily Capital team) — each of which will include a handful of smaller, more intimate dinners (20–25 guests), “office hours” with leading VCs and experts, and varied bespoke programming tailored to each sector (e.g. lab visits for biotech track, enterprise pilot validation, consumer oriented hackathons)

We’re excited to be partnering with world class investors and operators such as Laura Deming and The Longevity Fund for the bio track, Keith Rabois, Jonathan Swanson, Balaji Srinivasan, Soona Amhaz and Token Daily Capital for the crypto track, and more.

A squad is a stage-based horizontal grouping — your smaller family within the larger cohort. With squads, each Fellow is assigned to a small group of 12–15 people at the start of the fellowship based on what stage you’re at — from ideation, to prototyping, to fundraising. Your squad will meet regularly, help each other with feedback/accountability, and become close friends.

Collaboration & Accountability

We love forcing functions, and believe being surrounded by a support network of ambitious, hungry founders cultivates an environment ripe for accountability and collaboration.

We’ll structure the program in ways that encourage this behavior:

  • Weekly check-ins with your “Squad”
  • A “Showcase Day” towards the end of the fellowship to pitch your MVP to an audience full of the cohort & past ODF alumni
  • Hack days to team up and sprint towards converting an idea to a prototype
  • Access to flexible co-working space at least 1x/week to jam on ideas, strategize, and get feedback
  • 1:1 Introductions — grab a coffee or Office Hours slot with folks both within the cohort, and also the broader On Deck community. We’ll try to match you up with those most relevant to your stage, skillset, and interests.

What are you doing in New York?

New York has always been one of the On Deck community’s strongest hubs, thanks to the incredible work of Ben Lang and Raphael Ouzan.

We dipped our toes into the east coast talent pool with Fellowship #1. With Fellowship #2 we’re jumping in headfirst — we’ll have a sub-track running locally with at least one weekly event. NYC Fellows will be added to the same global community, and have the opportunity to attend the Kick-off event outside of San Francisco, as well as fly in for any SF-based events throughout).

What does it cost? What do I get as a participant?

The 8-week Fellowship costs $990.

We aren’t an investor — we don’t charge equity (which is much more expensive), or make you take our money once you graduate. We’re a startup too, and aim to cover our costs first and foremost.

Charging for participation allows us to keep the wheels turning, to allocate full-time resources towards managing operations, contributes to the cost of the all-day kick-off retreat and wrap up event, 10+ dinners, hackathons, co-working, and expert workshops/fireside chats you get access to as a Fellow.

We also believe that each participant having some “skin in the game” encourages them to make the most out of their investment; to be present and engaged with the community and opportunities that come their way — this was certainly the case in Fellowship #1, with tremendously high engagement levels throughout the program.

Our goal is to make the Fellowship accessible to the absolute best talent around. Because we know not everyone has a spare $990 lying around, we’re excited to be able to offer assistance to those who have all the skills and potential, but don’t have the means. You can indicate your interest in this option when you apply, and we’ll work with you to help the best we can.

That’s it!

Do you want in? Apply here.

Or do you know someone amazing who might be interested? Send them this post!

Are you a VC or other firm interested in sponsoring one of our dinners, co-working days, or other activities? Contact david [at] for details.


1. Do I have to be in San Francisco or New York to join?

  • Yes — sorry.
  • While we know amazing talent is everywhere, we believe the opportunity to connect face-to-face and be offline together is crucial.
  • If you don’t live in NYC or San Francisco, you’re still welcome to apply — but you’d be expected to make an effort to attend the kick off event (October 19th), and visit at least 2–3 times during the program. We’ll be adding new locations in future cohorts, and will open up more “remote friendly” options.

2. How do you assess candidates?

We’ve developed a framework for assessing candidates on at least one of the following:

  • Raw entrepreneurial potential and network — Previously founded or was early generalist employee of a notably successful company, and is now moving on to a 2nd/3rd/etc venture.
  • Technical excellence — Has advanced degree and/or recognized as a research leader within applicable technology fields (e.g. machine learning, STEM).
  • Product leadership — Held senior roles at notable companies, and can point to examples of products they’ve built/scaled to hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Industry experience — Worked in X industry for Y years, and has developed and can speak to unique insights or unfair advantage they possess vs. all others.

3. What stages are most fellows at?

  • We feel the formative stages of a company are the most critical, and that they set the foundation and trajectory for the journey ahead. We want to ensure founders at this early stage have the adequate resources and infrastructure they need to succeed.
  • All fellows should be intent on imminently starting a company within the next 6 months. Otherwise, hold off and join a future cohort! (3x/year)

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