Entrepreneur First (EF), a London-based organisation that helps technologists build startups from scratch, has raised an additional £8.5 million to help scale its "pre-team, pre-idea" model. 

The organisation, founded by Matt Clifford and Techworld writer Alice Bentinck in 2011, provides deeply technical people with £17,000 in pre-seed funding so they can build a technology startup over a six month period. In return, it takes an eight percent equity stake. During the six months, members of the cohort team up with like-minded people on the programme and cofound a company with mentoring and support from the EF network, as well as a desk to work from. 

Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck Entrepreneur First
Entrepreneur cofounders Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck ©Entrepreneur First

High profile angel investors including Index Ventures partner Robin Klein and Zoopla CEO Alex Chesterman have backed the latest fund, as have venture capital firm Encore Capital and Singapore’s Infocomm Investments. The programme is also being supported by top computer science experts, including Phil Blunsom of Google DeepMind and Zoubin Gharamani, head of computer science at Cambridge University. 

"This fund will see us becoming one of the highest frequency investors in Europe and what's most exciting is that the 200+ people we invest in will all be focused on cutting edge technology,” Bentinck told Techworld.

“We are now supported by not only some of Europe's top investors, but by some of Europe's top technologists. Our science partners bring together leading academics in deep learning, machine learning and robotics." 

The EF programme, run biannually, has gained a reputation as a hub for top maths, science and computing graduates that don’t necessarily want to go and work for an investment bank like JP Morgan or even a Silicon Valley internet giant like Google or Facebook. One in three Cambridge computer science graduates now apply for the programme, EF claims.

Today EF backs what it perceives to be the 200 best and brightest students, postgraduates and young professionals a year, compared to just 30 in 2011. 

The accelerator programme has spawned and nurtured 37 companies that have raised over $40 million (£25 million) from the likes of Balderton Capital, Index Ventures, Notion Capital, Octopus Investments and Y Combinator. 

Today the companies have a total valuation of $150 million (£96 million), with notable alumni including adtech firm AdBrain, bike light manufacturer Blaze and coding game Code Kingdoms.  

Steve Leonard, chairman of Infocomm Investments said: “The UK and Singapore both prioritise the contributions that entrepreneurs play in tackling important challenges in areas such as healthcare, transportation and energy. We believe EF is leading the way in helping great technical talent become great entrepreneurs. As Singapore builds itself into a Smart Nation, we want to work with the best talent around the world.”