Entrepreneur First (EF) is different to other accelerators.
Unlike TechStars, Y-Combinator and Wayra, it focuses on finding talented individuals instead of promising companies.
Once these individuals have been identified - typically deeply technical graduates from top UK universities (but not always) - they're encouraged to team up with others on the programme and build a serious technology company, not simply a copycat of something that's already out there.
As well as £17,000 in pre-seed funding, the full-time, six month programme provides individuals with mentoring and advice from the EF team and some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs. The teams are also provided with office space and legal and administrative support.
In return for all this, EF takes an eight percent equity stake in each of the companies that are spawned.
The results of the programme, launched by Techworld blogger Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford in 2011, have been impressive.
So far it has engaged 160 people who have built 37 companies and been funded by some of the world’s leaving venture investors, including Balderton Capital, Index Ventures, Notion Capital, Octopus Investments and Y Combinator.
Since the first EF cohort in 2013, 37 alumni companies have raised over $40 million with a total valuation of $170 million. EF also helped establish; Pi-Top, Tractable; Code Kingdoms and Magic Pony Technology to name but a few.
Nine companies in the latest cohort (EF4) presented their tech startup ideas to a room full of venture capital investors and angel investors this week.
The companies are summarised by EF here:
- StackHut lets anyone deploy code in any programming language without worrying about spinning up new servers or scaling their system.
- Fluently helps people find the perfect translator for content, without the hassle of dealing with an agency.
- Chattermill makes customer experience easy to digest data for businesses. No more trawling through spreadsheets you can now get customer feedback instantly and understand how your customers feel.
- Status Today helps companies detect abnormal behaviour and prevent leaks of sensitive or proprietary information.
- Soapbox aims to be the way that beauty vloggers can monetise their content effectively. It connects viewers with the products that they see in the vlogs so that they can buy them instantly.
- PassFort makes Know Your Customer compliance a 30 second process, reducing the amount of information that needs to be collected.
- Dara Technologies is creating an interactive storytelling experience which kids can shape to their own liking.
- Innersight has developed a machine aided technique for surgeons to visualise cancer and improve surgery outcomes.
- Automata is giving robotics its iPhone moment. They have created a robotic arm called Eva after 10 years working at Zaha Hadid’s architecture studios
The pitches were delivered in a building just off Old Street’s Silicon Roundabout that's home to satellite technology firm Inmarsat.
As someone that's attended a fair few of these pitch days, I can honestly say these were some of the cleanest and best prepared pitches I've heard. I was particularly impressed by Status Today, Chattermill and Dara Technologies.
The investors in the room also seemed to be impressed by the calibre of the Demo Day.
The team at EF recently raised £8.5 million to expand their company building course to more people.
Companies in the previous cohorts seem to be doing well but it's still too early to tell if EF is making a return for its own investors.
My gut feeling is that it's only a matter of time before EF produces some seriously big tech companies, possibly even unicorns.