What We Did in 2016 at Entrepreneur First
By Matt Clifford, EF Co-Founder
Entrepreneur First turned five in 2016. Every year, we reflect as a team on how we’ve progressed towards fulfilling our founding mission — to support the world’s most ambitious individuals to start technology companies — and for us 2016 has been the best year yet.
The Entrepreneur First community has made great strides forward this year, so we wanted to share how we’ve grown and what we’ve done since January:
International growth: We opened EF Singapore in January and kicked off what looks to be an extraordinary first programme there in September. We also opened a US office to support our alumni to fundraise from American investors. We ran recruitment events in 13 countries across three continents.
Funds: We raised two new funds this year — the EF Singapore core fund and the £40m Entrepreneur First Next Stage fund, which allows us to invest an additional £70,000 in each company that forms during the UK programme and to keep supporting and investing in our alumni up to their Series A.
Startups: We helped build and funded 70 new companies this year across three cohorts — EF6, EF7 and EFSG1. This brings the total number of startups we’ve funded to 143 and the total number of individual alumni to 484.
Funding: Our alumni from previous cohorts closed 25 follow-on funding rounds this year led by some of Europe’s — and increasingly the world’s — top investors. More than one in three EF seed rounds now involves US participation.
Talent: EF is attracting more and more applications from more and more extraordinary individuals. Total applications were up 60% on last year and we spoke to over 5,500 people to select our final cohorts (You can apply now for our March 2017 programme in the UK and our September 2017 programmes in the UK and Singapore — deadline 31 December).
Team: On 1 January, 13 people worked at EF; today there are 40 of us across the UK, Singapore and the US. We think like an operating company, not a traditional VC fund, and we’ve built an extraordinary team to support our startups and alumni at every stage of their journey — from building their founding team and refining their ideas to raising investment and negotiating commercial agreements. In 2016 we also built out our in-house tech team, which builds the software that EF runs on and allows us to scale gracefully (We’re hiring).
Technology: We’re most excited about companies built on deep technology; we’ve funded startups working in areas as diverse as quantum cryptography, satellite communication, infrastructure, IoT security and robotics. We’ve also made 33 investments in AI / machine learning companies, which we believe may be the highest total in Europe.
Corporate partnerships: We created our in-house commercial team in 2016, which is focused on supporting our alumni to build B2B commercial partnerships and sales. They also build EF’s own corporate partnerships, which are deep relationships with organisations that share our excitement about talent and technology. We were excited to launch the first two of these with the Telegraph Media Group and Vitruvian Partners.
Awards: We never want to get too excited about collecting badges, but we were delighted this year to be recognised as Best Accelerator and Best Seed Fund in Europe — as well as being involved in Best Exit with Magic Pony.