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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

Followership

Smart

Clarity of thought

Valuable technical knowledge, skills or understanding

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 ‘Clarity of Thought’?

Founders need to be able to communicate complicated ideas in a simple and structured way. This isn’t about charisma.

As a founder, you need to be able to communicate your work – to investors, collaborators, customers, and potential employees or co-founders.

Many conversations about you, your company and your technology will be with non-experts, so you need to help them understand what you’re doing, and why they should care about it.

You need to be clear about what you can do, why someone should work with you or invest in your company, and why your product is valuable.

How do you demonstrate ‘Clarity of Thought’?

  • Give well-structured answers in your application form and interviews.
  • Be clear about what you can do, and why someone should work with you.
  • Speak about your understanding of an industry, and demonstrate the ability to think about and articulate the problems and opportunities for value creation that may exist.
“Be very honest about who you are and what you bring to the table.

I didn’t try to fit into a mold, and was honest about my views (however contrarian they might have been) - and I don’t know for sure if they liked that - but I guess I made it onto the program?!”

Clarity of thought isn’t something you’re born with. It’s a skill that can be cultivated, and it’s something that we help with.

We look at structured forms of communication such as the pyramid principle, but we also help you centre your technology around the wider value it can create rather than its specific features.

Technologists, or future CTOs, should be able to explain deeply technical concepts from their work in ways that non-experts can understand. We want to hear about your technology and any research you’ve done, but we want you to focus on the value your technology can create and the impact it could have commercially.

Commercial, market-minded people, or future CEOs, should be able to take complex problems and break them down into well structured components that they can communicate to the listener.

You might want to practice speaking out loud about you, your experience and your ideas.

It’s a good idea to reflect on how you might introduce yourself to a potential co-founder, investor or customer. It’s important to think about what information is the most important to share, and what might distract from the point you are making. Clear communication is the result of structured and logical thinking. We recommend using the Pyramid Principle to bring clarity to your thoughts.

Clarity of thought comes hand in hand with self-honesty and clarity of mission.

Reflecting on your competencies and areas of understanding is very important. You will not be expected to have profound knowledge about everything; clearly explaining a concept that you do not understand is almost impossible. Demonstrating the self-knowledge that allows you to recognise what you do not know or understand is equally important.

“I honestly thought I didn’t have a shot looking at the calibre of people that EF had already recruited for their first batch.

But the interview was like having a really good chat with a mate on a long hike, talking about everything that got you here and where you want to go.”

To develop clarity of mission, take time to think about what is motivating you to build a company. You should be able to explain this motivation in a couple of lines.

Once you have done the deep thinking, explaining who you are, what you know and why you want to build a company should come naturally.

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Valuable Technical Knowledge, Skills or Understanding