By Nancy Dahlberg
Wanted: Smart, ambitious students who want to spend their summer solving a real problem they care about using AI. Tech skills not required.
Founder Camp is a new, free 8-week program designed for high school and college students, but anyone can apply. Miami entrepreneur Eliam Medina believes AI is going to dramatically increase what determined young people can achieve, and this summer, with support from the City of Miami and Miami Dade College, he’s bringing together a group of talented young people and teaching them how to use AI to solve a problem they find interesting. “We want determined people, people who want to do big things in life, who have a track record of doing hard things, people who have a chip on their shoulder,” he says.
Medina founded Willing, a Miami-based startup that made it easy to create a will or other estate-planning documents, later sold it to MetLife in 2019 and worked for the insurance giant for another two years. Since then, he wrote a letter to his daughters about what he learned in his life and realized that a lot of the contents of his letter would be obvious to people in Silicon Valley, but not so obvious outside of it so he decided to make those learnings into a two-day class he gives in colleges and high schools. But now Medina has decided to scale it up.
“I want to put together some of the smartest, most driven students I can find and share with them the most important things I’ve learned and see what they can build over eight weeks,” says Medina, the son of Cuban immigrants who grew up in Miami. “I really believe that AI is going to make it much easier for people to start startups and to solve problems that they really care about instead of getting a job working for someone else.”
He thinks a lot of the young people in Miami lack founder heroes and he’d like to change that. He says the camp will expose them to smart, successful founders, and in his classes he always shares the stories of his startup heroes, like the founders of Airbnb.
The program is going to be June 12 through early August. It will begin with two weeks of full days, where he and his other Founder Camp team, including Kris Borer who will be leading the technical instruction, will help people understand that a startup is a tool for solving big problems and for modern wealth creation. The Founder Camp will introduce some of the fundamentals of programming but it’s not a coding bootcamp, Medina says. “We want to teach people how to learn how to program and have them learn on their own, because I think all good hackers learn on their own. They figure it out.”
Founder Camp students will be introduced to some of the latest AI tools and how they can use those tools to build something interesting to them, as well as get a taste of day to day startup life, like deciding what to prioritize and how to set goals. Then after those first two weeks, Founder Camp students will work on their own but meet weekly to talk about what we what they’ve accomplished, demo what they built so far, set goals for the next week, and hear talks from founders. Medina will be available for office hours as well.
Then Founder Camp will conclude July 31st with August 4 with demo days for the projects. It’s modeled after Y Combinator – Medina was part of Batch S15. “The goal here is to see how far people can come and how ambitious they are and how they’re able to use the tools to achieve more than they ever thought possible.”
And after? “I hope to start building a network of some of the smartest, most driven people in Miami. And you never know, big things start small. I think we’re going to see where it goes.”
He says a number of schools have expressed a desire to participate, including the School for Advanced Studies at Miami Dade College, the Honors College at Miami Dade College, Florida International University, and a number of private schools, including Columbus, Medina’s high school alma mater.
Parts of the program are going to be at Miami Dade College. With the support of the City of Miami, participating students will receive a stipend of $1,000 and lunch on the days they meet. The Idea Center at Miami Dade College is also providing a $1,500 cash prize to the winning team at the demo days, Medina says.
“Kris and I think AI is going to make it way easier for people to start companies, so easy that a high school student can build something that’s better than founders and experts at the top of their game, and we’re going to find out if that’s true. Most students put so much energy into becoming doctors and into becoming lawyers, or just even into getting into college. And if they were to put a fraction of that energy into solving a problem they really care about, I think the world would be a better place.”
Find out more and apply: foundercamp.org
Program length: June 12-August 4
Cost: Free, plus $1,000 stipend provided
Deadline to apply: Friday, April 14
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