Note: All reviews by NextCohort are independent. We do not have any commercial relationships with the course providers that we review
By Viktor Vecsei
DayOne is a cohort-based fellowship designed for early-stage founders who want to get from zero to one. Their 10-week program is focused on learning by doing, taking your idea through the first steps of development into a working product or service. You get through the first hurdles, like customer discovery, building an MVP and coming up with a business model together with your fellows. These steps are aided by ready-to-use playbooks, mentoring sessions, group discussions and office hours with experienced entrepreneurs. Alumni we have interviewed for this review have highlighted that DayOne offers hand-holding from experienced program directors, useful playbooks and events that help newcomers take big leaps towards success in entrepreneurship.
DayOne was started in 2020 by Andrew Hutton with the mission to help future founders kick start their career by receiving education, advice from the community and access to a network for funding. Their course framework is remarkably different from the accelerator type of programs they were meant to compete with. It's cohort-based, tight-knit, community based equivalent where they take no equity from participants. DayOne has completed four cohorts (as of September 2021) and has recently launched DayZero, an ongoing community platform to incubate early startup ideas.
The weekly cadence of DayOne revolves around specific topics that you focus on, helping you develop your idea and leave at the end with a tangible minimum viable product or demo, along with pitching experience for fund-raising and finding partners. The path laid out creates a forcing function for your progression, as you get a playbook and tasks to complete, such as identifying your audience, conducting user interviews, building a financial model, setting up operations and so on.
Along this journey you are guided by a Day One Mentor, and you also be part of a closer-knit group of fellows who become your sounding board and mastermind group. Building in public is default during the DayOne programme - you present your work and get feedback on your milestone achievements. You build on your small wins every week. A certain level of accountability is built-in to the program, but it's not forced, rather laid back - the framework is there to provide it, but no-one is going to chase you down for your deliverables for the week.
As with other, similar cohort-based courses that are packed with events, the DayOne experience is designed to be a pick-and-choose feel, where you are free to take part in any session, but also skip over those less interesting or relevant for you. Nonetheless, as per our alumni interviewees for this review, some parts of the programme are unmissable. Mentoring sessions and most office hours provide access to experienced entrepreneurs and opportunities to receive targeted, tailored advice from the DayOne team and outside experts. These are invaluable at the early stages of developing a business.
A typical week for a DayOne participants (as per their programme overview)
The larger cohort is broken down to learning pods that consist of 4 to 6 people. These act as mastermind sessions and received mixed reviews from the fellows we have talked to. If you manage to find good sparring partners in your pod then you can hit gold. Yet if others in your group decide to not show up, or have completely different backgrounds and experiences, then you might feel that you wasted time attending the sessions. Most interviewees did however add that they have belief in the team to improve on that part of the experience based on direct feedback from alumni.
Some parts of the program, like playbooks for basic steps of building a business and mixers, were not marked as essential or very valuable by more experienced fellows. On a similar note, while perks (such as deals for software) can help you get started with lower costs, they seem to be more relevant and useful for folks completely new to entrepreneurship.
Pros and Cons of DayOne
Based on the review of DayOne's program and interviews with DayOne alumni we have identified a number of pros and cons of the Fellowship compared to other, similar programs that are designed for future founders.
Access and hands on approach. Experienced founders with a significant entrepreneurial network run the fellowship, and act as mentors and facilitate group discussions. If you take advantage of their knowledge and advice you will instantly get more out of this program than would be possible from a non-community, non-cohort course.
Friendly, tight-knit community with better chance to form deep relationships - given you find people with similar background, interests and goals in your cohort.
Outstanding programme design, specifically for people new to entrepreneurship. Playbooks and themes are relevant and strong for those that need input for developing and validating ideas.
Strong community experience and ongoing discussion on DayOne Slack
These pros are in clear contrast with a similar program designed for aspiring founders, On Deck Founders. ODF runs with larger cohorts, talks tend to be more 'crowded' with less direct, one-on-one access provided to invited experts. While programme directors are accessible during your fellowship, you tend to be two degrees removed from the founders of OnDeck - a different feel to DayOne's family-like atmosphere.
DayOne’s strongest suit is facilitating a tight-knit community experience
Smaller cohort size means less people, which in turn means lower chance that you will take this course together with people who look for similar things, are in a similar stage in their career etc. You get the most out of the community experience if you find these partners - while deeper relationships can form here than at larger programs, it can be a hit and miss.
Outstanding programme design can have downsides: perhaps too much content and opportunities. One interviewee mentioned that they felt hard pressed to attend all events and complete all assignments with other things going on in their life. If you can manage your expectations and fear of missing out well, this should not be a problem though.
DayOne is based in New York. While most of their events and program segments happen online, most participants live in the US. For us, this is a negative signal for those who are not US-based.
Is DayOne a good fit for you?
The answer won't surprise you: it depends. It's probably a good call to apply if any of the following fits you:
You have a specific idea for a venture or startup, but not sure if it's worth developing it, or you lack fundamental knowledge on starting a business.
You know a problem space well, have multiple ideas to serve it, but not sure which one to move forward with.
You are at early stages of building your business and looking for networking opportunities, pitching practice and receiving strong advice from experienced fund-raisers.
You are just starting out in the business world and want to jump on the entrepreneurial track, looking for a good entry point - especially if you don't have any co-founders (yet).
A list of companies run by DayOne alumni
We advise spending some time looking at different options if:
You are a serial entrepreneur and have started and scaled a business before - this would not be your Day One.
If you have gathered deep experience in a specialized domain as an employee, and you need specific advice and peer feedback from that segment to start a company. Some playbooks will not be applicable to your situation, while peer sessions could miss the mark as fellows won't have a good understanding of your target market.
If you don't have at least 8-10 hours in total to commit to the program per week, including session participation and working on your idea.
If you are more than 6 hours away from EST timezone (East Coast US).
Finding out more about DayOne
The Day One programme is run by a genuinely helpful team who are ready to get to know you. You can book a half an hour call here with one of their staff members to go over any questions you might have. If you feel that based on this review you are not ready for the DayOne fellowship and you want to work on your ideas more, consider joining their DayZero community where you can warm up to the community first.
Another option is to skim through the Twitter feeds of Andrew, Rahul and Alifya to get a feel for what they are up to. You can also reach out to us here at NextCohort if you want to learn more about anything in this review or need some tips for talking to DayOne alumni.
DayOne is a good fit for first-time entrepreneurs with limited experience on validating ideas, raising funds and running a business in general. Seasoned professionals who have gathered significant experience at startups or bigger firms might find some of the curriculum lacking in value. Due to the limited cohort sizes, they might also find themselves in a mastermind group where others are not aligned with their focus and current trajectory.
On the flipside, all participants we have talked to praised Andrew and their team for their hands-on approach, insights and their willingness to go out of their way to always be available and help anyone with any issue they might encounter. DayOne's network and alumni is top-notch, which means getting advice from and real face time with experienced entrepreneurs and investors is not just possible, but one of the core parts of the program.