Entrepreneur First

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Entrepreneur First
Company typePrivately held company
IndustryHigh tech startups
FoundersMatt Clifford
Alice Bentinck
Area served
North America, Europe, Asia
Key people
Matt Clifford, Executive Chair
Alice Bentinck, CEO

Entrepreneur First is an international talent investor, which supports individuals in building technology companies. Founded in 2011 by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck, the company has offices in Toronto, London, Berlin, Paris, Singapore, Bangalore and San Francisco.[1][2]

Entrepreneur First has had more than 3,000 people go through its programme to create more than 300 companies worth over $10 billion as of 2022.[1][3]


Entrepreneur First was founded in 2011 by Matt 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.[4] Clifford serves as CEO while Bentinck is the CPO.[5]

McKinsey & Company provided seed funding, and KPMG, Microsoft, and Sky were early corporate sponsors.[6]

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.[7]

In 2016, after four years of operating exclusively in London, Entrepreneur First announced its expansion to Singapore.[8][9]

Clifford and Bentinck were awarded MBEs in the 2016 Birthday Honours for services to business.[10] In 2017, it was announced that Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock, was leading a $12.4 million investment into Entrepreneur First.[11] As part of his investment, Hoffman joined the board.[12]

In 2018, Entrepreneur First expanded to four additional capitals: Berlin, Hong Kong, Paris and Bangalore.[13] The company closed its Hong Kong office in 2019,[2] and opened a Toronto office in 2020.[14][15]

In 2021, it announced a partnership with Tezos Foundation to launch a platform for building Web3 startups in London, which will begin in October 2022.[16]

In July 2022, Entrepreneur First announced the raise of a $158 million Series C.[17][18] Investors in the round included John Collison; Patrick Collison; Taavet Hinrikus; Reid Hoffman; Matt Mullenweg; Tom Blomfield; Nat Friedman; Demis Hassabis; Mustafa Suleyman; Elad Gil and Lachy Groom.[19]

In October 2023, Entrepreneur First opened a San Francisco office and held its first startup demo day there in April 2024. This commenced a new chapter in the company's history wherein all startups from London, Bangalore, Paris and New York would be obliged to relocate to San Francisco and incorporate their companies in the US.[20]


Entrepreneur First runs a 3-month long program, called 'Form', which recruits talented individuals to meet co-founders and build technology companies from scratch.[21] Over the course of the program, individuals are encouraged to test co-founding partnerships with other participants, while developing and testing initial company ideas. During this time, participants are paid a stipend to cover their living costs, .

At the end of this 3 month period, participants pitch their companies to Entrepreneur First's 'Investment Committee' to receive a first 'pre-seed' investment. Entrepreneur First invests £80,000 in each startup in Europe,[22][23][24] C$100,000 in Canada[25] and SG$75,000 in Asia.[26][27] In return, it claims a 10 percent equity share.[28]

Among its successful startups are Tractable (valued at $1 billion as of July 2021[29]), Cleo, Omnipresent, Aztec, Hertzwell, Transcelestial, Airbank, and Magic Pony Technology - who sold to Twitter for a reported $150m only 18 months after the founders met on the program.[30][31]

Application process[edit]

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.[6] The program looks for candidates who have either recently graduated, or have a few years of industry experience.[32]

The program receives roughly 10,000 applications per cohort, and accepts between 50 and 100 of them depending on the location.[33] 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.[28] 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".[31]

Entrepreneur First differs from other accelerators such as Y Combinator and Wayra in that it works with individuals rather than companies.[34] 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.[31]

In July 2015, Entrepreneur First announced the establishment of an £8.5 million fund, backed by Encore Capital, 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.[31]


  1. ^ a b "Homepage". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  2. ^ a b "Entrepreneur First, the 'talent investor,' pulls out of Hong Kong". TechCrunch. 15 October 2019. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  3. ^ "Stripe founders back Entrepreneur First in latest $158m fundraise | Sifted". sifted.eu. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  4. ^ "Focus on Founders: Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford at Entrepreneur First". McKinsey & Company Alumni Center. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  5. ^ "Our Team - Entrepreneur First". www.joinef.com. Archived from the original on 19 September 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b 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.
  7. ^ "Lessons from running a start-up accelerator". Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  8. ^ Shead, Sam (20 January 2016). "Singapore is paying this British company to help build its startup scene". Business Insider. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  9. ^ Yap, Shiwen (17 January 2018). "Global venture builder Entrepreneur First unveils second Singapore cohort". DealStreetAsia. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  10. ^ "No. 61608". The London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 2016. p. B16.
  11. ^ Editor, James Hurley, Enterprise (12 September 2017). "Start-up business puts entrepreneurs first". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 21 November 2017. {{cite news}}: |last= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Linkedin's co-founder investing in a London startup hub". The Independent. 11 September 2017. Retrieved 21 November 2017.
  13. ^ "Entrepreneur First, the company builder backed by Greylock, expands to Paris". Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  14. ^ Joyner, April (3 July 2021). "A Canadian tech pioneer tells us why this Toronto accelerator, backed by Reid Hoffman, is a game changer". Business Insider. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  15. ^ O'Hear, Steve (23 September 2019). "Entrepreneur First, the 'talent investor,' to launch in Toronto, Canada early next year". TechCrunch. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  16. ^ Butcher, Mike (15 November 2021). "Entrepreneur First launches partnership with Tezos to spin up Web3 startups". TechCrunch. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  17. ^ "A who's who of founders-turned-investors pump $158 million into London's Entrepreneur First". Tech.eu. 29 June 2022. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  18. ^ "Entrepreneur First raises $158M at a $560M valuation, adding Stripe's Collison brothers to its list of backers". TechCrunch. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  19. ^ "A who's who of founders-turned-investors pump $158 million into London's Entrepreneur First". Tech.eu. 29 June 2022. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  20. ^ "Entrepreneur First hosts first demo day in San Francisco after US move". Sifted. Retrieved 18 April 2024.
  21. ^ "About Us". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  22. ^ "Paris - Getting funded". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  23. ^ "London - Getting funded". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  24. ^ "Berlin - Getting funded". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  25. ^ "Toronto - Getting funded". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  26. ^ "Singapore - Getting funded". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  27. ^ "Bangalore - Getting funded". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  28. ^ a b Weinberg, Jonathan (25 February 2014). "A Tech Accelerator Grows in London". Fortune. Retrieved 1 October 2015.
  29. ^ "How we built an AI unicorn in 6 years". TechCrunch. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  30. ^ "Twitter pays up to $150M for Magic Pony Technology, which uses neural networks to improve images". TechCrunch. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  31. ^ a b c d 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.
  32. ^ "What does EF look for?". Entrepreneur First. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  33. ^ "Joinef website - FAQ". Entrepreneur First. 2015. Archived from the original on 11 May 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  34. ^ 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.