Entrepreneur First (EF), the company builder and “talent first” investor, has just held Demo Day for its eighth London cohort, seeing 14 newly formed startups pitch their wares onstage to investors, press and other actors in the European tech scene. What’s particularly interesting about EF is that it backs individuals “pre-team, pre-idea” — meaning that, as far as I understand, none of these companies existed just six months ago. Taking the stage at King’s Place in London’s King Cross area, EF founders Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck sounded in particularly buoyant mood as they introduced the pitching startups, hot on the heels of the company builder raising $12.4 million in new funding led by Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners.
That fundraise — which is for operational costs and separate from EF’s investment fund — sees Greylock partner and co-founder of LinkedIn Reid Hoffman join the board. In a call earlier this week, Hoffman described EF, which along with London also runs a program in Singapore, as a “great model for creating new, deep tech companies on an incubation basis.”
To date, EF says it has helped more than 500 individuals on its program, who have built more than 100 companies with a total (mostly on paper) valuation exceeding $1 billion. As far as I know, it doesn’t break out additional numbers regarding the fundraising success rate of its startups or how many, if any, no longer exist to this day. Now into its sixth year, the program has been running long enough to make that data interesting and potentially quite meaningful, although it is also worth keeping in mind that EF has iterated and grown quite a lot since those humble cohort one and two beginnings.
Before we introduce the companies that pitched today, here’s a quick reminder of how EF works: The company builder targets technical and domain talent, both recent graduates and also people already working at tech companies, and invites them to apply to its six-month program where they find co-founders and in turn found startups.
The program includes financial support in the form of a monthly stipend for living costs while founders find their co-founders and decide on an idea. This is then followed by pre-seed funding, in addition to office space, legal and administrative support, and mentoring and advice from the EF team and external entrepreneurs from the wider startup scene. There’s also a separate follow-on fund to co-invest in alumni companies at the seed and Series A stage.
As ever — although it’s hard to really judge these things based on 3-4 minute presentations alone — the pitching startups were impressive, with lots of emphasis on so-called deep tech. A definite theme this year was the potential to mix hardware sensors and machine learning to make predictions that solve specific industry or societal problems at scale and in a way that isn’t possible by humans alone.
My wholly unscientific picks of the bunch were Mobilus Labs, because bone conduction communication is just cool; Kiroku, which has the potential to solve the patient record keeping overhead faced by medical staff, starting with dentists; and Sensum, which is building a software platform coupled with off-the-shelf hardware to detect and prevent premature childbirth.
See full list of presenting teams here.