Why now is the right time to start a company: A message to the next generation of entrepreneurs

I have no doubt that important companies will be built during this time. Some of the most iconic companies in the world were created during our last economic downturn, including Uber, WhatsApp, Slack, Venmo and Taobao. With these new constraints, comes a huge a new opportunity – and need – for innovation.

Our portfolio companies are already making impressive progress. Two weeks into social distancing in the UK, AccuRx launched over 100,000 GP video consultations to help the NHS screen patients. In Singapore, KroniKare piloted their AI-empowered hardware device to screen for people with fever in crowds. Greywing, meanwhile, are developing a risk assessment tool to assess the threat level of vessels trapped at sea, with some 150,000 crew unable to return home. Their tenacity shown by our portfolio companies has been nothing short of an inspiration to the Entrepreneur First community.

That being said, we’re facing challenging and uncertain times, so we’re here to provide the next generation of entrepreneurs with as much help as possible. Entrepreneur First exists to remove many of the barriers that aspiring founders face. We provide a monthly stipend from day one, so you’re financially supported from the start. We’ll help you meet a co-founder, develop an idea, and build your startup from scratch. We’ve helped over 2000 individuals become founders, so we’re well-equipped to support you in this journey. You’ll receive support from our global alumni community, and will benefit from our valuable network of investors.

– Matt Clifford (CEO, Entrepreneur First)

Preparing to Apply

Is EF still funding individuals during the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes we are. There will be no changes to the financial support we provide during the programme or our investment terms. This also applies to our joint hardware partnership with HAX.

We’ll fund you as an individual from Day 1, and if you form a company, we are your first investor.  To start we will pay you £2,000 per month in London / S$5,000 per a month in Singapore or equivalent in Bangalore / €2,000 a month in Berlin or Paris for 3 months during Form. If you leave Entrepreneur First at the end of Form or Launch the stipend is yours to keep. Check out how the programme works here.

Will there be any changes to the start dates of the EF programmes worldwide?

There will be no changes to any of our programme start dates. Our next cohorts in Asia (Singapore & Bangalore) will start on the 3rd of August 2020, and our European & North American cohorts (London, Berlin, Paris & Toronto) and will commence on the 28th of September 2020. Everything you need to know about application deadlines, cohort start dates, and how to apply, can be found here.

How are you conducting your interview process?

All interviews are currently taking place via video call. If your application is progressed to the interview stage, you will have two interviews; one focused on Ability (what are your skills and expertise? What are you uniquely positioned to do?), and one on Behaviour.(what actions have you taken in the past that display the traits we see in our most successful founders?). Each of these interviews will last approximately 30 minutes.

Can I apply for other EF locations, since the programme is now remote & given travel restrictions?

We still recommend that you apply to the cohort located nearest to you, or where you have an existing connection. If travel restrictions prevent you from relocating before the programme starts, you will be able to take part remotely, but will be expected to relocate when travel restrictions are lifted.

Do I need to live in the EF location in which I will do the programme?

Yes. However, if you need to relocate to take part in the programme, and this is no longer feasible, you can take part remotely, provided you would be able to relocate once travel restrictions are lifted.

Can I defer to a subsequent cohort when the COVID-19 situation improves?

No, we typically do not defer offers or applications. There are two reasons for this; one is that each cohort is carefully composed based on the backgrounds and skills of the strongest applicants we meet during the selection process for a cohort – this means we can optimise for strong co-founder combinations. The second is that we believe in urgency and not delaying building the company you believe should exist. COVID-19 doesn’t change that.

Is this a good time to start a company?

We have no doubt that important companies will be built during this time. Some of the most iconic companies in the world were created during our last economic downturn, including Uber, WhatsApp, Slack, Venmo and Taobao. With these new constraints, comes a huge opportunity for innovation.

We know we’re facing challenging and uncertain times, and we’re here provide you with as much help as possible. Entrepreneur First exists to remove a lot of the barriers that aspiring founders face. We provide a monthly stipend from day one, so you’re financially supported from the start. We’ll help you meet a co-founder, develop an idea, and build your startup from scratch. We’ve helped over 2000 individuals become founders, so we’re well-equipped to support you in this journey. You’ll receive support from our global alumni community, and will benefit from our valuable network of investors.

During the Entrepreneur First Programme

How is the Entrepreneur First programme impacted by COVID-19?

As of February 2020, Entrepreneur First is moving to a remote-first programme. We’ve adapted our programme to be remote-first, building in more support, structure, and contact-time, to ensure you’re fully supported. Our priority is to keep our cohort and staff safe. As this is a continuously evolving situation, we’re adapting our programme at every turn to fit with the current world situation. You can read more here.

What does a remote-first programme mean?

Remote-first means that, by default, our global programmes will be delivered through video calls; co-founder meet-ups will be facilitated through video calls; and in-person meetups will be allowed only in line with government guidance. However, as social distancing restrictions vary location by location, there may be exceptions to this. You can find below a live view of how the programme is currently running in each of our sites.

How will we find a co-founder on the EF Programme if it is remote?

Entrepreneur First is the best place in the world to find a co-founder. There are three key things that we do to enable you to find your optimal co-founder and all of these things remain true for a remotely run programme;

  1. We spend years finding and screening some of the world’s most exceptional people to bring together each cohort. You find your co-founder from this exceptional group of people who are ready and motivated to launch a world class business. Everyone joining EF is making a full-time commitment to start a company.
  2. We provide you with key frameworks to help you evaluate your current and/or potential co-founders through workshops and 1:1 mentoring. These frameworks are based on 8 years of building co-founding teams, and have been adapted to focus on remote co-founder evaluation.
  3. We create an artificial, highly productive and unique environment where you can test out different co-founders. This means you can form and break teams until you find the optimal co-founder.

Will there be any change to how EF evaluates teams for investment during the programme?

Our thesis hasn’t changed – we’re still here to invest in great founders starting high ambitious startups, who are moving with urgency to get customer and product traction. Urgency is going to be even more important, but we know it might take longer to get traction during the current lockdowns being implemented globally. Because of that, we’ve moved to a rolling model of our investment process where your team will be assessed after 12 weeks of existing, regardless of when you formed your team on the program. This gives you more time to prove yourself. We believe the best teams will be able to use that time to build investable businesses in spite of the global situation.

Will there be new restrictions on what I work on & what type of company I can build on the EF programme?

No. Our focus has not changed, we’re interested in building companies which are technically defensible and can become globally significant. We won’t tell you what to work on or give you ideas. We’ll facilitate team-building and ideation, and have several frameworks and tools to help you reach the strongest founder-idea fit.

I’m a hardware founder and I’m interested in the EF-HAX deal. Should I be successful, how will this be impacted, in regards to travel to China?

HAX is open for business and will advise and invest in teams as usual, albeit remotely during the next few months. However, current travel restrictions for foreign nationals entering China will impact teams’ ability to use HAX resources in Shenzhen. We’ll keep monitoring this situation and believe that in the medium term teams should still get the benefit out of working with HAX.

Post-Programme & Investment Support

Is it hard for startups to get funded in this environment?

We anticipate funding for later stage startups to be more affected by Covid-19 as exit activity slows down. As an early stage founder, we remain committed to funding your stipend during Form. If your company is offered a place on Launch we invest £80,000 in London, Paris and Berlin, and S$75,000/US$55,000 in Singapore and Bangalore, in return for a 10% equity stake in your company. We also commit to invest in your seed round where our local fund structures permit – so your future investors know we’re “all in” on you.

We encourage our future founders to think beyond this crisis. There was a comparable slowdown in venture capital activity during the 2009 financial crisis, but the years post 2009 saw the largest boom in venture capital financing. Funding grew again year on year in 2010 and superseded 2007 dollar volume and counts by 2011, for the most part. Starting a company now puts you in a good position to ride a similar economic wave post Covid-19.

There are reports of VC funding rounds being impacted by the market downturn. What support will we receive should we build a company on the EF programme?

EF is committed to helping our founders raise follow on funding from investors after our programme. We have a team of staff, Entrepreneurs in Residence and Venture Partners dedicated to advising you on fundraising and networking with investors on your behalf. We also host a Demo Day where hundreds of investors are invited to watch you pitch to raise your seed round. 

Joining EF gives you immediate access to a wide global network of trusted investors. This unfair advantage is even more valuable in times like this.  

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