Reflections on a remote programme – Europe

11 September, 2020

Just under six months ago, we were welcoming our next cohorts in Bangalore, London, Paris and Berlin. But our programme wasn’t going to run as normal. 

With the global pandemic, local restrictions were enforced, offices closed worldwide, and as the world moved to a new way of living, we made the swift decision to make all of our programmes remote.

We welcomed our new cohorts online, with people meeting their potential co-founders for the first time over video calls. Unrestricted by circumstance, they’ve formed founding partnerships, built companies, and are now preparing to pitch to investors at our Virtual Demo Day.

As they do, our General Managers reflect on leading our programme through this period, and how our founders have dealt with the circumstances to build companies with extraordinary potential.

Jonny, General Manager, Entrepreneur First London

When we first made the call to go to remote working, there was no doubt it was the right thing to do, but it felt like an extreme, temporary measure. Now it’s hard to believe it was even a decision we had to make. 

I was blown away by the adaptability of our founders. At the end of the first week, 90% of them were in teams despite not having met in person. We’ve seen teams getting to revenue quicker than ever before, securing pilots with major european banks and signing up tens of thousands of users in less than two months.

We’ve of course had challenges along the way – figuring out how to build meaningful connections and collaborate effectively when you’re not sitting in the same room was not straightforward – however, I’m constantly impressed by our founders’ generosity in sharing their learnings with each other to overcome these hurdles.

Our teams work at an incredible pace normally, but under these circumstances it’s been something else. I really can’t wait to introduce you to the teams at our Demo Day, and show the scale of how much they’ve accomplished in the strangest of times.”

Philipp, General Manager, Entrepreneur First Berlin

“Building companies from scratch is difficult and emotionally demanding in ideal circumstances; add one of the most unstable global circumstances we’ve ever seen, and there was every chance it was all going to go wrong.

But it didn’t. Just as our founders do, we saw a problem and we built solutions – moving our program online, taking on the role as a virtual facilitator for individual founders spread all over Europe in lockdown or quarantine, and offering a closer collaboration with founders to navigate the difficult circumstances.

With these measures in place we were able to launch our programme as we would, and bring these people together – even if they were physically separate. Our teams rented holiday apartments together, organized social meetups in smaller circles or some even built companies without seeing each other, with one founder in New York and the other one in Berlin or even between Iran & UK. One of the highlights was a session where all the founders shared their individual high & lowlights during lockdown and remote team building. This became a very personal and intimate experience.

We even had wins that we might not have had if it weren’t for this new way of delivering: We allowed pan-european team building where individual founders were able to team up with other individuals in Paris or London where cohorts were running synchronously and were able to leverage expertise from experts in the EF network from Singapore and other locations.  

I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved, and I know that the 3 new companies we will present to you are at Demo Day are too. I can’t wait to see where these new businesses go next.”

Thomas, Interim General Manager, Entrepreneur First Paris

Switching to a remote-first programme was always going to be challenging. Our team put in a huge amount of work to ensure that our cohorts could have as close an experience as possible to our ‘in-person’ cohorts.

It’s testament to them, and to our founders, that we have moved from 54 individuals beginning the programme, to having 8 companies to unveil to you at Demo Day. These companies have been built on resilience and determination. Covid could have been seen as a barrier, but these entrepreneurs turned it into a massive opportunity, addressing new markets in a novel way.

Leading the cohort through this time has not always been easy. The team had to switch a program that has been historically run physically in our Station F office, into a fully digital one in a matter of days. 

The process and programme, has, however, been a success. We don’t know how the worlds of entrepreneurship and technology are going to change next – but I do feel confident knowing that we can rise to the challenge.”

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