Some of the most talented people in Britain are leaving top jobs at big firms for the chance to build their own tech startup on a company building programme that is now firmly on the radar of Europe’s best-known investors.
Deeply technical people working at Silicon Valley giants like Google or investment banks like Goldman are handing in their notice and signing up to Entrepreneur First, a year long programme that helps people find a cofounder and provides them wi tht the support they need to build a business.
Entrepreneur First — founded in 2011 by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck — began by accepting less than 20 people a year from the best universities when it launched in London in 2013. Today, it accepts over 200 people a year from universities, big name firms, and other areas.
“If we take a moment to reflect on what we’ve been doing over the last five years, probably the bit we’re proudest of is the people who are now joining,” Clifford told Business Insider at the company’s Demo Day last week. “In year one, we would have been like: ‘Oh can you imagine if so and so joined?’ Now they’re lining up to join.
“The list of companies people have dropped out of to join EF is like Google, Palantir, Microsoft, Facebook, Samsung, McKinsey, Bain, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs.”
Rory Greig, for example, left his job as a software developer analyst at Goldman Sachs in June 2014 to join Entrepreneur First. Meanwhile, George Thomas interned at Google in 2014 before joining Entrepreneur First in 2015.
At the Demo Day, one company that caught the eye of investors was a startup called Lingumi, which helps pre-school children to learn English in countries where English is not the first language. Lingumi has been founded by Oxford languages graduate Toby Mather and former J.P. Morgan intern Adit Trivedi.
Entrepreneur First provides those on its cohort with £17,000 in pre-seed funding so they can build a technology startup. In return, it takes an 8% equity stake in the company that is created.
The 50 startups that have previously graduated from the programme have raised over $60 million (£42 million) in venture capital from investors, according to Entrepreneur First. Collectively, these startups are now worth more than $250 million (£176 million). The portfolio includes deep tech firms (Magic Pony Technology, Adbrain, and Tractable), marketplaces (Hubble, ClickMechanic), consumer products (Prizeo, Code Kingdoms), and hardware (Blaze, Pi-Top, Speakset).
Earlier in March, Entrepreneur First announced that it plans to raise £40 million to invest in the companies that come out of its programme. It also appointed two new general partners: Wendy Tan White and Joe White. The duo, previously venture partners at Entrepreneur First, are the cofounders of website building software provider Moonfruit, which was acquired by Yell for $37 million (£25.7 million) in 2012.