A new, highly-sponsored* programme is attempting to produce better start-up teams to generate hi-tech IT businesses – by means of a series of escalating team-building events prior to its 13-week programme, which will culminate in an event enabling some teams to raise funding for their future and some individuals to use their skills in other start-ups.
In December last year, 425 applicants responded online. After two interviews, one with the project’s managers (two people previously at McKinsey, and now running the start-up ‘EntrepreneurFirst’) and one with a pair of investors and entrepreneurs (32 of whom gave their time over 4 days). 33 people (some of whom had already been offered a job out of university) were selected to join this initiative. Entrepreneur-First is a year-long programme of development and support – at no cost to participants, (that seeks no equity,) as it provides no financial support; and is funded by corporate partnership.
Over the course of the summer, they have participated in team building selection and development days, including a 2-day session in which three teams of 5 had to make a 3-minute film on a theme around the Year 2022, and then get as many people as possible to view it – all in two days. The theme of one was that the world would become Apple-ised and another was of interviews with startup founders for this programme.
Two months later, when in early August their university exams were over, they had a fortnight’s residential bootcamp, where they received training and support from entrepreneur mentors on how to build a lean startup. This also required them to test their early startup ideas with customers – a task designed to help understand product communications and the difficulty of getting heard!
The initial part of the programme is a13-week intense accelerator in September, where they have no more than a desk, a chair and wi-fi provided, and they work alongside one another in simple offices in London. Every Friday everyone participates in a catch-up session, where each team gives an up-date on their progress, there are learning sessions with subject experts, and a presentation by someone well-known for having successfully done it before. And they are provided with a mentor whom they meet weekly; and every two weeks with ‘carousel mentoring’ sessions, in which they have 20 minutes with a series of mentors.
During the 13-week period, they have three or four sessions with venture capital businesses at which each team makes a 2-minute pitch, to which they are offered feed-back.
In December, the teams will be provided with an opportunity to pitch for further funding for their embryonic business, mainly to angels but also to one or two venture capital companies, and those for whom this is not right will be helped to find a role in other start-ups.
*The sponsors are Microsoft, Silicon Valley Bank, McKinsey, The City of London and Experia