A London-based sparring group for startups has announced its intention to stay one step ahead of its competitors in America by identifying the top tech talent before the talent even thinks up or acts on a business idea.
The company, Entrepreneur First, is a startup accelerator. This means that the company helps tech talent in the UK and Central Europe design and run their own startups. The company does this through their startup accelerator programme.
Philip Wilkinson a partner in the Entrepreneur First programme states that the idea of the programme is “to get them [top talent] before Y Combinator does, so that you don’t only get the second best”. Y Combinator is an American seed accelerator who had early involvement in many successful startups, such as Dropbox, Reddit and Airbnb.
The idea behind Entrepreneur First is to seek out the very best talent in the technical industry from fields such as engineering and computer science and then connect the talent to see what happens. The idea is novel but Alice Bentinck, co-founder of Entrepreneur First, is keen to disprove the idea that the company is trying to create the next Facebook. She emphasises that the company is just “looking for technology that’s defensible, preferably patentable.”
She highlights the fact that Europe hosts some of the very best engineering schools in the world, so why shouldn’t this be taken advantage of?
The Entrepreneur First Programme provides successful applicants with a £1,100 monthly “income” for the first three months of the Programme. This is followed by a £10,000 investment into the startup company, for which Entrepreneur First receives an 8% stake.
The dropout rate of applicants who don’t ever create a company currently stands at 30%. Despite this rather high figure, the company still managed to secure £8.5 million in July this year, which they will use to finance their candidates for the following three years.
Since Entrepreneur First’s original graduates made their first pitches in 2013, over $40 million of extremal investment has been given to the company’s Programme graduates. Alumni of the Programme are impressive and include: Magic Pony Technologies, a video compression developer; Adbrain, an advertising tech platform; and, Blaze, a bicycle light maker.
Accelerator programmes are by no means new, indeed there are many operating across the globe, including Founder Institute, a Silicon Valley based programme and Germany-based Rocket Internet AG. However, where Entrepreneur First differs is in its rather unique business model to focus on identifying individuals in the tech sector before they’ve even thought about setting up a company.
This model appears to be working for Entrepreneur First, with their graduates leading pitches to investors to promote a range of impressive products and ideas. Previous pitches include: an affordable robotic arm with compatible software, algorithms to detect insider hacking and 3D medical imaging for surgeons.