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 ‘Valuable Technical Knowledge’, ‘Applicability’ and ‘Commerciality’?

EF is for people who are excited about making an impact with their talent. We believe the most scalable way to have an impact is by using technology, primarily software, to bring value to your customers.

We’re looking for valuable technical knowledge or skills (if you have these, that would most likely make you the CTO), or a deep understanding and appreciation of particular technologies (if you have this, you’re probably best placed to be CEO).

For CTOs in particular, we’re interested in how you can directly leverage your valuable technical knowledge or skills, and use your technology to solve big problems – your ‘applicability’.

For CEOs in particular, we want to know that you can discuss how you can create value and then capture it across different industries and within companies, with a focus on the customer – your ‘commerciality’.

Future CTOs

How do future CTOs demonstrate ‘Valuable Technical Knowledge or Skills’?

When assessing potential CTOs, we’re looking for rare technical skills or knowledge. You might be part of a handful of individuals with a particular set of skills, or recognised as a top performer in your field.

If you’ve developed or scaled a technical product that’s impacted a considerable number of users, or is recognised as technically novel, that could make you a great fit for EF. You may also have a proven track record of building ability, which differentiates you from others in your field.

  • Show that you’ve been recognised as a leader in your space, e.g. by a professor, through published research or with achievements in corporate research.
  • Tell us about what you’ve built – in your work, but perhaps more importantly, in your spare time.
  • Give examples of when you’ve prioritised customer needs, or impacted a number of users with your technology.
  • Tell us about how you’ve refined your technical knowledge or skills, e.g. competing in hackathons.

For example, Shivani Shah (CTO, Samp) holds a PhD from the French Nuclear Research Institute CEA, where she worked on developing solutions for applying Machine Learning to large datasets. This experience uniquely positioned her to build digital twins based on these datasets, which she was able to apply when building at EF.

Siddharth Bhardwaj (CTO, Beatoven.AI), had specialised expertise in applying AI to sound and music. He had won first place in a hackathon with a sound engine enabling users to create soundscapes based on certain rules. Alongside this, he had begun his professional career building music generation using AI. He applied this ability at EF with co-founder Mansoor Rahimat Khan to build Beatoven, an AI powered music creator tool for content creators.

How do you show that you can apply this?

Alongside your knowledge and skill set, we want to know that you can see and articulate ways your technology could be applied outside of research and academia.

You don’t need perfectly formed ideas – we’re more interested in what factors you’re considering when thinking about how your technology could be applied more widely.

  • Tell us about various use-cases for your technology, across multiple disciplines – where are there opportunities for impact?
  • Show us that your technology is viable, and that there’s commercial demand for what you could create.
  • Show us how your technology can solve real-world problems.

We don’t assess the applicability of your technology, rather, your ability to articulate where and how your technology could be applied in the real world.

Prior to EF, machine learning and robotics expert Sanjay Thakur (CTO and co-founder of Rydesafely) had been researching the problem of hard-to-see failure modes of neural networks at MILA and McGill University. He had already demonstrated his ability to apply this research, including to an off-road vehicle, and at NASA.

Trisha Chaterjee (CTO, immunito.AI) is a specialist in AI and machine learning. Following her Master’s degree in computer science, she worked in industry applying AI and machine learning to real-world problems, such as in logistics and advertisement.

Future CEOs

How do future CEOs demonstrate ‘Technical Understanding’?

CEOs who are a good fit for EF are usually technically conversant. They always have an interest in, and think critically about, how technology is being applied in industries they know, and are curious about how it will be applied in the future.

Many of our best CEOs might not have a formal technical education, but will have gone to great lengths to upskill themselves or surround themselves with technologists.

  • Show us that you’re excited about technology – how have you built up your knowledge and understanding of particular technologies?
  • Give examples of when you’ve worked with great technical teams, and what you achieved together.
  • Tell us about products you’ve worked on, or helped to scale, especially in your spare time.

Drew Ologunebi, (CEO, LottieLab), had a background in user experience design in Silicon Valley and London, before leading a team of 20 as Product Manager at a startup. While not a developer or engineer by trade, he taught himself data science, machine learning and the theoretical aspects of computer science, researching late into the night so that he could build tools to solve problems and support his teams.

Alex Boussommier (CEO, ImVitro), developed a range of technical skills during her PhD at Imperial and postdoc at MIT. She also spent time building a microscope from scratch during her Marie Curie fellowship learning some software development, CAD, PCB design and 3D printing along the way.

Rob Bishop (CEO, Magic Pony) had a degree in Electrical Engineering andwas the first software engineer at Raspberry Pi, meaning that he and his CTO Zehan were able to ideate the core technology together. While his primary focus as CEO shifted to creating a route to market for the product and fundraising, this shared technical understanding continued to be valuable throughout their journey.

How do CEOs demonstrate ‘Commerciality’?

We want to see that you can think boldly and creatively about business models in order to create and capture value.

Commerciality, for us, isn’t necessarily about having commercial experience or a sales background. Rather, it’s about being market-minded and customer-obsessed.

  • Tell us about how value is created within different companies or industries, e.g. explain different business models and how you might apply them, as well as how you might get ROI.
  • Provide examples of how you’ve created or captured value in past work or projects.
  • Explain how different products impact the customer and improve their lives, and provide examples of how you’ve done this in your own work or projects.

Some of our most commercial founders haven’t had commercial roles, but are able to demonstrate that they’re market-minded.

Zeena Qureshi (CEO, Sonantic) had wide ranging experiences prior to joining EF. As a founder she had raised money from renowned investors, but we were even more impressed by her market mindedness and ability to identify opportunities for impact in areas from overseas aid to the energy sector.

Barney Hussey-Yeo (CEO, Cleo) had worked at Wonga, a prominent fintech startup in London, but spoke compellingly about how value was left on the table in the credit scoring industry, and how he might be able to capture it.

Zaraif Ayaat Hossain (CEO, Retail Pulse) became Head of Marketing at Pepsico’s first snack franchise operation in Bangladesh just a few years into his career. Having experienced first-hand the challenges of disorganised traditional retail markets, he recognised the potential for cutting-edge AI to support manufacturers and stores in developing markets.