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Tim Tkachenko

the journey by enty
Head of Founders Running Club
Running marathons along with startups: the story of Tim Tkachenko and Founders Running Club
Business is not only about money and paperwork. Most of all, it’s about people, inspiration, and passion. With that in mind, we present you the Journey — a project where entrepreneurs share how they started their business, what made them successful, what drives them, and how they came up with what they ended up doing.

Our today’s guest is Tim Tkachenko, the head of Founders Running Club — a non-profit organization hosting running and networking events that unite people passionate about entrepreneurship and startup culture.
I was running and thinking: “What can I suggest for this community?”

Getting into running

My affinity for running developed long before I decided to take up this sport. I’ve always admired people running marathons. Preparing yourself for something like that takes a lot of discipline and determination. I was inspired by the example of my friends who were entering these events, but I couldn’t find a proper occasion to get down to it myself. I bought some gym clothes and an Apple Watch and jogged in a nearby park once or twice, but it didn't go any further than that.

Then in May 2018 I moved to the Netherlands. My employer at the time offered me to run a half-marathon in Amsterdam. I was intrigued by the challenge and decided to give it a try. That experience was totally different from my initial foray into running. Unlike those sporadic jogs, this time I had to actually commit myself.
That’s when this whole thing finally clicked for me. The workout plan, the training, the new regimen, how it all translates into that awesome feeling you get when you cross the finishing line. That half-marathon was the turning point. I pretty much went from running skeptic to running convert after joining it.

The birth of Founders Running Club

I’ve been running for almost 6 years now. It really helps me with my work and my life in general. Going for a jog is a great way to rest your body and soul and recharge mentally. Also, when you run, sometimes you come up with new ideas, which makes it the go-to hobby for any entrepreneur. Come to think of it, the idea for this startup was also born during a jog.
ph: John Grzyb
You see, I spent most of 2022 in San Francisco. It’s a very vibrant city. There’s something about that place that just makes you want to give back to the people. So I was running and thinking: “What can I suggest for this community?” Then it struck me: I’m an entrepreneur and I’m passionate about running, so why not create something that revolves around both of these things? You know, just take my love for this sport and create a community where startuppers could participate in runs together and connect with each other. So I took that idea and set out to create an MVP version of what would later become Founders Running Club.

Hosting the first event

The first run I organized took place on July 16, 2022, in San Francisco. There were four people running. At the time I still wasn’t sure if this thing would take off. The idea was to build an MVP version of this community and see if it would work. If it grows and people are interested, then I’d put more effort into it.
I reached out to a designer I know to make a logo for the community and registered an Instagram account. I also created a page on Meetup and asked a few friends to join. Before the run, we had around 15 people on Meetup, but on the day of the run it was just me and a couple of friends.
ph: Stella Kalinina
The attendance for the next two runs was also quite modest — it was five people and then five people again. Then on the fourth run more than 20 runners showed up, and it became evident this thing started to gain momentum. The idea behind the community I was trying to build resonated with people, and they began to spread the word about us.

From four runners to a growing community

From that point, I realized that my MVP was actually working. It was time to put a little more effort into building our community and scale up. We did that the next year. Then we launched our second location in Amsterdam.
Our reach has expanded significantly since 2022. Currently we have seven active locations. Two of them are in the United States: one on the West Coast, in San Francisco, the other one on the East Coast, in Boston. Then there are four European locations: Amsterdam, London, Lisbon, Copenhagen. London was our biggest launch yet. We’ve also launched in Dubai not long ago.
By now we've crossed 3000 attendance across all locations. So yeah, we’re pretty big. I attribute this rapid growth to the strong and supportive community that has developed around this project. We now have a dedicated team of volunteers in each location who help me organize these runs. I guess it's 2 to 6 people per location. Each of them undertakes a certain organizational task, like providing information support for runners, handing out merch, or booking a place for an afterparty for the running event. I’m really grateful for their support. Founders Running Club wouldn’t become so huge in such a short span of time if it wasn’t for them.
Word of mouth has also played a crucial role in attracting new members. People find us somehow and tell their friends about us. I guess they just like our vibe. Some people join us just for one run, others stick around and attend our events regularly.
We are always looking for collaborations to grow our audience even further. Since our audience mostly consists of startuppers and IT people, we also try to promote Founders Running Club by hosting events at major tech conferences. We began doing this several months ago, but now we are part of almost every big conference in each of our locations. And I pitch for the startup myself whenever there’s a chance to do a talk.

Collaboration with TechCrunch Disrupt & first anniversary

Our biggest running event so far was organized in collaboration with TechCrunch Disrupt. It was held in San Francisco on September 23rd. I remember that event vividly because of the organizational challenges we had to face. There were wildfires in California that week. The poor air quality made it unsafe for people to engage in outdoor activities.
Initially we considered canceling the event altogether. But on the morning of the event, the situation improved significantly, and it became safe to proceed. We were able to pull off a successful run. There were 50 people running and even more joined for the networking part. If we hadn’t mentioned the possibility of cancellation multiple times, even more people would have probably participated. But 50 people was already enough.
As per non-running events, our anniversary networking event was probably the most attended one. We met at a wonderful place called Berlage in Amsterdam. It is located in the city center, inside a historical building. It is named after Hendrik Petrus Berlage, a famous Dutch architect. He designed a lot of buildings across Amsterdam and the Netherlands in general. The venue was fantastic, and there were over 80 people in attendance. This was probably the most significant day for us so far.

Fostering growth through sponsorship

I do like that we are an NGO. Since we’re a startup, I also have a few ideas about what we can do on top of that. But I want Founders Running Club to stay a non-profit. There may be potential for some project in the future that could be scaled to other communities, but it will always remain an NGO.
We are always looking for sponsors who can provide support for merchandise, special events, and launching new locations. But that's different from investors in the startup space. If we do some kind of project on top of the Founders Running Club, maybe we’ll search for investors.
Right now I am personally providing most of the community's budget. If we had additional funding, we would be able to grow even faster and provide more value to the community. We have plenty of great ideas on how to improve and expand.
I guess we have already scaled up enough that sponsors will approach us themselves soon. I've talked to other startuppers who built communities like that, and they all have experienced businesses approaching them at some point. So I’m confident that we’ll secure some sponsors in the near future.

Thank you for reading Tim’s story, hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you are looking to share your story, please leave us the form below and we will contact you back. Cheers!