What do preferred rates at top hotels, elite status with leading airlines, valuable business-service discounts and exclusive networking events have in common? They’re all benefits enjoyed by FoundersCard members. RewardExpert spoke with FoundersCard’s creator and CEO, Eric Kuhn, about the inspiration behind this first-of-its-kind membership, the advantages offered, and how our entrepreneurial readers can join the community.
Designed for Entrepreneurs by Entrepreneurs
Kuhn understands the roller coaster-like experience of today’s entrepreneurs. After starting an Internet company in the mid-1990s, raising venture capital investments and taking his business public, the turbulence of the dotcom bubble burst of 2000 derailed his progress.
“It was a struggle to retool the business model to get it profitable again,” he recalled. “We were fortunate to be able to accomplish it, but it definitely involved a lot of twists and turns and ups and down. This experience of growing, rebuilding and regrowing a company was the inspiration for creating a community specifically for entrepreneurs designed to help and reward them.”
Kuhn launched FoundersCard in 2009 and began accepting the community’s first members in early 2010. “We now have a little over 25,000 members,” he added. Members range from first-time entrepreneurs to some of the world’s best-known innovators and live in virtually every major city around the globe.
“Our membership spans every industry,” Kuhn continued. “While it started off predominantly with founders and CEOs of technology companies, as we’ve grown it has expanded to include people running entertainment, fashion and finance companies. It has also diversified in terms of where our members are at in their professional careers. We have first-time entrepreneurs and very successful serial entrepreneurs plus everyone in between.”
A Portfolio of Exclusive Benefits
In exchange for an annual membership fee of $595, plus a one-time initiation fee of $95, FoundersCard members enjoy an impressive portfolio of valuable benefits ranging from airline and car rental discounts and elite status upgrades to hotel discounts and loyalty programs, lifestyle and retail discounts, business-related perks and special member-only networking events.
“We started FoundersCard with the notion that we wanted to create unique high-value and compelling benefits with each of our partnerships,” Kuhn explained. “So, whether it’s a well-known airline or a new company that we’re bringing to our members in the form of a benefit, we strive to find things that are high-value with strong brand alignments that can add to our members’ lives and help them with the mission of building and growing their companies.”
While some membership programs offer the same selection of benefits year after year, Kuhn strives to continuously add new perks for the community. “We constantly solicit input and feedback from our members,” he said. “We encourage them to be vocal and tell us what they’d like to see.”
Because so many members are frequent travelers, Kuhn said the elite status advantages at major travel brands are very popular. “If you had to pin me down on a specific area or category, those tend to be our most popular benefits and provide our members with access or preferred pricing,” he added.
The members-only networking events are also a big draw. “The idea there was to find a way to bring together entrepreneurs to allow them to mingle and connect in a format that was a bit unique,” Kuhn said. “Our FC Signature Series events allow our members to connect with other like-minded entrepreneurs in great venues across the world.” Upcoming events include gatherings in London and Chicago in August as well as Boston and New York in September.
A Simple Application Process
Kuhn explained that most of FoundersCard’s membership growth has come from referrals and word-of-mouth. “Our members are very happy and pleased with the value that they’re getting and have introduced us to fellow entrepreneurs in their network,” he added. “It has really happened organically.”
While typical members are referred by others in the community, any entrepreneur can preview FoundersCard membership with submission of a simple form through the website.
“We look for like-minded professional entrepreneurs to be part of our community,” Kuhn said. “We don’t have firm financial guidelines for membership like some communities have. Instead, we are above all looking for that commitment to entrepreneurship.”