Entrepreneur First

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Entrepreneur First
TypePrivately held company
IndustryHigh tech startups
FoundersMatthew Clifford
Alice Bentinck
Area served
Europe, Asia
Key people
Matthew Clifford, CEO
Alice Bentinck, CPO

Entrepreneur First is an international Talent Investor, which supports individuals to build technology companies. It has offices in seven locations; Toronto, London, Berlin, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bangalore. Founded in 2011 by Matthew Clifford and Alice Bentinck, as of 2019 the company has had 1000+ people go through its programme, creating 200+ companies worth a combined $2bn.[1] Entrepreneur First differs from other accelerators such as Y Combinator and Wayra in that it seeks out individuals to invest in, rather than existing companies.

In 2016, Entrepreneur First opened applications for a Singapore programme, its first expansion abroad.[2]

In 2017, it was announced that Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock, was leading a $12.4million investment into Entrepreneur First.[3] As part of his investment, Hoffman joined the board of EF.[4]

In 2018, it opened offices in Berlin,[5] Hong Kong,[6] Paris[7] and Bangalore.[8]


Entrepreneur First aims to attract the top technical experts in fields such as computer science, maths, and engineering,[9] with the goal of encouraging them to start their own businesses rather than enter traditional career tracks in the corporate or banking world.[10] Many applicants have post-graduate degrees in specialist fields or have hands-on experience working in tech firms.[9] People who have had successful careers in industry are also taken, and they can utilise their industry-specific expertise, business experience and contacts. Candidates have joined from financial services, the music industry, construction, media and more. Applicants do not need to have an idea for a business or a team in place before applying, but are evaluated solely on the basis of their ambition and talent.[11]

The six-month, cohort-based program is divided into two parts. The first three months called "Form" are devoted to building a team and "identifying a problem they want to solve before creating a product to solve it",[10] the idea must show very strong traction to get onto the second three months, also called the "Launch".[12] The selection is very competitive, with only 30% of the companies pitching for a place on "Launch" getting accepted. During the second three months, participants receive guidance in running a business from mentors in venture capital fields.[11] The program furnishes each individual with a monthly stipend from day one for living expenses, office space, and administrative and legal assistance.[9][13]

The program culminates in a Demo Day[14] at which each team delivers a three-minute pitch before hundreds of venture capital investors and angel investors.[11][13] Entrepreneur First continues to guide startup teams through fundraising and hiring over the subsequent months.[14][15]

Entrepreneur First invests £80,000 in each startup in Europe, and SG$75,000 in Asia. In return, it claims a 10 percent equity share.[10]

Among its successful startups are Adbrain, Echobox, Blaze bike lights,[16] Pi-Top, Permutive, Tractable, Bloomsbury.ai, Transcelestial, and Magic Pony Technology - who sold to Twitter for a reported $150m only 18 months after the founders met on the programme.[17][9]

Application process[edit]

The program receives roughly 10,000 applications per cohort, and accepts between 50 and 100 of them depending on the location.[18] Many applicants are the products of the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University of Edinburgh, University College London, and the University of St Andrews.[10] Entrepreneur First conducts its own talent searches to find and interest graduates in the program, encouraging them to apply "rather than joining Google or Facebook or doing a PhD or Postdoc".[9]

Entrepreneur First differs from other accelerators such as Y Combinator and Wayra in that it works with individuals rather than companies.[13] However, its successful startups have gone on to receive investor funding from Y Combinator, as well as from Balderton Capital, Index Ventures, Notion Capital, and Octopus Investments.[9]

In July 2015 Entrepreneur First announced the establishment of an £8.5 million fund, backed by Encore Capital Group, Infocomm Investments, and angel investors such as Robin Klein and Alex Chesterman, which will enable it to accept 200 participants per year for the next three years.[9]


Entrepreneur First was founded in 2011 by Matthew Clifford and Alice Bentinck, who had worked as management consultants at McKinsey & Company since 2009. According to Clifford, the model was inspired by a McKinsey project to develop a technology cluster in East London, which would tap "talented graduates" to create startups to bolster the cluster. Believing that the model would best succeed independently, Clifford and Bentinck left McKinsey and started the program themselves.[16] Clifford serves as CEO while Bentinck is the CPO.[19]

McKinsey & Company provided seed funding, and KPMG, Microsoft, and Sky were early corporate sponsors.[11]

Bentinck founded Code First: Girls in late 2012 to address the decline of women working in the tech and digital workforce which has led to a lack of diversity in the sector.[20]

In 2016, after 4 years operating exclusively in London, Entrepreneur First announced its expansion to Singapore.[2]

Clifford and Bentinck were awarded MBEs in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to business.[21]

In 2018, Entrepreneur First expanded to 4 additional capitals: Berlin, Hong-Kong, Paris and Bangalore.[22]


  1. ^ "Homepage". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  2. ^ a b O'Hear, Steve. "London's Entrepreneur First Expands To Singapore". TechCrunch. Retrieved 20 June 2016.
  3. ^ Editor, James Hurley, Enterprise (12 September 2017). "Start-up business puts entrepreneurs first". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 21 November 2017.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ "Linkedin's co-founder investing in a London startup hub". The Independent. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  5. ^ Peake, Eleanor (17 January 2018). "Entrepreneur First is going to Berlin, and it wants hackers". Wired UK. ISSN 1357-0978. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Startup Factory EF to Launch Hong Kong Office". SHACK15 News. 22 March 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Entrepreneur First, the company builder backed by Greylock, expands to Paris". TechCrunch. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Entrepreneur First, the company builder backed by Greylock, lands in Bangalore". TechCrunch. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g O'Hear, Steve (15 July 2015). "Entrepreneur First Raises £8.5M To Find Europe's Best Technical Talent And Invest 'Pre-Team, Pre-Idea'". TechCrunch. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  10. ^ a b c d Weinberg, Jonathan (25 February 2014). "A Tech Accelerator Grows in London". Fortune. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Davidson, Lauren (20 September 2015). "Could this London accelerator be the biggest creator of start-ups in the world?". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  12. ^ "Why Entrepreneur First". Entrepreneur First. 2018. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
  13. ^ a b c Shead, Sam (10 September 2015). "Entrepreneur First: Why it's different to other accelerators and who its latest startup champions are". Tech World. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Entrepreneur First website". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  15. ^ Bateman, Kayleigh (13 September 2013). "Entrepreneur First and Code First Girls". Computer Weekly. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Focus on Founders: Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford at Entrepreneur First". McKinsey & Company Alumni Center. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  17. ^ "Twitter pays up to $150M for Magic Pony Technology, which uses neural networks to improve images". TechCrunch. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Joinef website - FAQ". Entrepreneur First. 2015. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Our Team - Entrepreneur First". www.joinef.com. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  20. ^ "Lessons from running a start-up accelerator". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  21. ^ "No. 61608". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2016. p. B16.
  22. ^ "Entrepreneur First, the company builder backed by Greylock, expands to Paris". Retrieved 17 July 2018.