We know that communicating your founder ability isn’t an easy task. To help you, we’ve outlined exactly what we look for in applications, so you can decide what you want to focus on in your application.

Challenges convention

Drive to achieve


Smart, with clarity of thought

Technical Knowledge, and Applicability or Commerciality

Our criteria shouldn’t be read as a checklist, and they’re not designed to select people out. It’s extremely rare for someone to score highly on every criteria.

We want people with a variety of backgrounds. We’re looking for outliers, who have done unusual things. Typically, our founders are particularly strong on a couple of criteria, but not all.

What do we mean by ‘Challenges Convention’?

We’ve spent ten years learning to spot exceptional founders before anyone else. One of the things many of our founders have in common is that they challenge convention. They tend to have taken unexpected actions or made surprising decisions in their life, especially when compared to their peers.

It might mean they’ve taken a surprising path to get to where they are, or they’ve taken multiple high risk choices, or perhaps they’ve found ways to disrupt the status quo.

Great founders often intentionally put themselves in uncomfortable situations in order to grow or achieve something. Often, that means doing things that are completely unrelated to their day to day, i.e. outside of their normal work or education.

How do you demonstrate that you ‘Challenge Convention’?

  • Tell us about how you’ve shaped your own trajectory, e.g. by going out of your way to build or learn something, or putting yourself on an unusual path.
  • Help us understand why you’re different to your peers, or those around you – what have you done that’s surprised your peers? How have you behaved differently?
  • What have you done that would seem odd or counterintuitive to most people? What unusual beliefs do you have?
  • What are you obsessive about? And what have you done to cultivate this obsession?
  • Tell us about a time (or several) when you challenged rules or got around barriers or social norms in order to do something.
  • Tell us about something surprising that you’ve done just for fun, or to learn.

Harry Conor Lucas (CTO, Phasio) built an SaaS product for vineyards to predict grape yield and raised a AU$100K seed round – while still at university.

Bas de Vries (CTO, Limbic) consistently worked on side projects throughout his teen years, teaching himself to programme, and launching his first website and business by the age of 16. He left university after his first year to co-found a peer-to-peer payment app he built himself and his friends, which grew to be the best rated in the Netherlands.

Alice Pelton founded The Lowdown to challenge the status quo in contraceptive healthcare. She began the platform, described as ‘trip advisor for contraception’, alongside her job in the media to give users more information and open a new conversation about reproductive health. She left her job to focus on the company full time, and join EF.

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