Photo courtesy of FoundersCard
Eric Kuhn, the founder and CEO of FoundersCard, wants readers to know that his product is not primarily a travel card. He built FoundersCard on his experience as an entrepreneur, and wanting to offer a product that would ease the way for those in the entrepreneurial community, whether they had already gained venture capital backing, sold their first company, or just had an idea bubbling they hadn’t taken their first steps on yet.
“Some who are interested in the card might be interested because of a specific feature or travel benefit that’s included,” he explains, “And we’re really much more than that. We’re looking for members who are going to be a part of this entrepreneurial community.” The card has a strong travel benefit only because it’s an in-demand feature by the members.
The travel benefits are significant, but not over-the-top. The primary benefits I noticed were discounts with normally-not-discountable hotel brands like Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons. The number of participating hotels in each city can be limited, although there’s a participating property in most major cities around the world. The discounts at each property (which I got a sneak peek at, but have agreed not to disclose because the hotels have contractually obligated FoundersCard to keep them private) range from significant to comparable with public discount rates.
If anything, the hotel discounts could be described as “sensible”. You’re not going to suddenly be awash in practically free luxury hotel stays, but if you’re already planning travel and a slight price break means the difference between a luxury hotel in a more convenient location versus an upper upscale hotel with a slightly longer commute, that’s where you’re really going to find the travel value.
Kuhn specifically calls out the St. Regis San Francisco as a hotel that typifies FoundersCard’s agreements. “The property is contemporary, has a beautiful new design that appeals to our members, while the St. Regis New York is more classic, traditional, a little stuffier.” He goes on to explain that rather than partnering with entire hotel brands, FoundersCard instead chose to hand-select single properties in each city based on their unique features.
When it comes to the coveted elite statuses with airlines and hotels, a handful of those are available outright to members, or with reduced thresholds. A quick internet search will compare the value of the elite memberships with the cost of becoming a FoundersCard member, but I find that it’s hard to value elite benefits because every member’s use is different.
Another way to think about it is like Fortune 500-level corporate travel benefits without the Fortune 500. For example, if you were working for one of these companies you might receive a negotiated discount of up to around 20 percent booking with large international carriers like Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, or Cathay Pacific. FoundersCard provides the same benefits to entrepreneurs who would otherwise not have built their ventures into a Fortune 500 concern—yet. Domestic carriers such as JetBlue and Virgin America also participate at varying levels. The airline benefits definitely tend to lean toward non-US based global carriers, so benefits might be limited for travelers whose primary destinations are within the 50 states.
In addition to the travel benefits, there’s a larger suite of products that are tailor designed for entrepreneurs: web hosting, virtual office services, shipping—everything needed to launch a new venture. FoundersCard also hosts networking events for members at notable venues in cities around the world, underlining its efforts to be more of a community for entrepreneurs than just a retail travel card.
FoundersCard requires an application process, mainly to verify that new members will be active in the community that Kuhn has endeavored to create, rather than just paying the membership fee for the benefits.
I won’t go so far as to endorse or recommend membership for two reasons: first, because the program is purpose-designed for a specific segment of travelers; second, because valuing travel programs is inherently personal—travelers should choose based on their own needs and preferences. It’s important to take enticing promotional words like “VIP” and “Luxury” out of the equation and really consider whether FoundersCard’s primary oeuvre as an entrepreneurial community is really a fit for you.
FoundersCard has offered TravelPulse readers a preferred membership rate. You can find more details here.