Is Entrepreneur First going to be good for you?

Love island for founders -> A honest and impartial review of my EF experience and tips on how to do it better.

7 min readJan 1, 2023

Who am I to say?

I joined Entrepreneur First (EF) for the most recent cohort, in October 2022. We go for investment with vula (to help African founders and SMEs find funds easier) in 2 weeks, so this article hasn’t been influenced by whether or not we’ll get funding!

London cohort 19 — I think I am somewhere there at the back…

What is EF?

“We select the world’s most talented people to join our cohorts, find their ideal co-founder and build from the ground up.”

In 10 years, they grew a $10b portfolio.

Basically, the attraction is that you will probably never meet someone in your circles that you could build a truly unique company with, a.k.a innovation happens when combining unique specialised edges.

What is the offer?

You get £4,000 (pre tax — we have to do our own tax returns) when you join for the first 8 weeks. At the end of that 8 weeks, you get another £2k.

Also at the end of the 8 weeks, you will be in one of two categories:

  • a team working on launching, or
  • not in a team and beginning your search for what is next.

My cohort started on the 1st of October. At the end of November, around 50% of the cohort left.

Our pitch week is the 2nd week of January. If you are in a team, you go to an Investment Committee (wish us luck!), where you pitch for the £145k for 10% of your company.

If you are lucky enough to get this, you are required to pay for the program. Ultimately receive ~£80k. [VAT is 20% but you can claim the tax back from HMRC and this year EF will loan you that amount until you have been refunded from HMRC].

This will need to last you until your next raise.

What do you get pre-investment?

A group of incredibly fun and talented people with a good variation of skills, who want to build the future. All are raising the bar each week, as will you.

Weekly pitches. Each week, you need to show how you have improved as a group. It is a safe space, but laser-focused on improvement.

Mentors. EF has a large network which they tailor for you with introductions and chats. They are shockingly valuable as support.

Talks from prominent speakers, though I have to say I went to very few (~5).

My tips on how to succeed

Only apply if you want a unicorn business

A good idea for a business is not a fundable business. VCs only want 10x returns on investment. You need to want that massive growth.

Don’t expect to build your idea

If you have an idea, bring it in, discuss it widely, but don’t expect to use it. If you have an idea you are fixed to, don’t come. You’ll waste the opportunity.

Start early

In truth, EF starts well before your first paid day. Teams form after meeting at interview days, at evening drinks that are held before the start, and at kick off weekend — usually two weeks before your first day.

Nic and I teamed up on the first day.

Six weeks before starting, a list of everyone is released so you can start having calls with them. Put the effort in. Reach out. Speak to everyone.

During one of the first talks, Telescope, a success story from a previous EF cohort, told us the best people get snapped up quickly. I am not sure I entirely agree, but it is a good idea to engage with others early.

Find who you admire and team up

I joined with Nic as I admired his energy. He is so positive. We teamed up and started working. It was a bumpy first week, working on an idea that wasn’t going anywhere quickly. He never let up. He always found hope and joy.

Whatsapp and LinkedIn

Whatever your talents, you won’t be leaning on them much in the first three weeks — unless you come up with a clever way to get more calls doing so. Nic and I together had around 150 calls in the first three weeks. It is hard graft but invaluable and will change where you go. Get used to reaching out to people.

View teaming up as a test

You have 8 weeks. Team up early and break it off early if needed. Waiting around for the perfect partner is counter productive.

There is a great culture around team break ups — which helps the breakups form new teams quickly. Most people go through multiple teams.

Combine edges

EF believes each individual possesses edges — things that they are uniquely good at or have experience with.

It is your job to identify yours and discuss them with others in the group and combine them into a vision. Doing this means that you would have an edge over any others who would compete.

For vula:

  • Nic’s Masters at Imperial and work at McKinsey, both focused on deployment of billions of dollars across Africa
  • I have the data science and product skills from dunnhumby and IBM to build what customers need, and the speed to build from founding my own businesses.
  • Together we see a solution using these skills.

Learn more about edges here

Will it be good for you?

There are basically two well defined and one non-well defined end states.

  1. You don’t find a co-founder
    Well at least you have ~6 weeks to figure out what is next, and you get paid £2k to do so.
  2. You do find a cofounder and you raise from EF
    Great, congrats! $80k for two of you. How far do you think that’ll take you? Ready to get traction and start fund-raising?
  3. You do find a cofounder but you don’t raise from EF
    Frankly, you need to workout why you didn’t get investment and start chasing your pre-seed round from your network. Or break up.

The last one is scary sure, but also most unlikely. The other two are good/incredible options. Will you take the gamble?

My (and only my) opinions

My guess of other’s experiences

For myself, EF has been great. Everyone has helped each other. Our ideas have been challenged regularly. We genuinely feel we are on to something.

I would say 60% of the cohort probably feel this way right now (pre-investment decision).

I would guess 20% probably feel like it was good, but the person for them was not in the cohort.

I would guess 20% did not enjoy it quite so much.

[Caveat] I may be way off here.

My thoughts on improvements

First let me say, I overwhelmingly think it is worth applying for. You make your own opportunities and luck.

There are things I think could be better.

Is it that diverse?

A strong reason for coming to EF is that you will find people you could never have met otherwise.

Again, I may be way off here, but I would be interested to test this more.

There was a lot of Oxbridge and McKinsey talk. I would guess around 40%.

There were only ~11% women.

Maybe the cohort represented tech right now. Maybe the cohort should represent what tech should look in 10 years.

Everyone in the cohort was incredibly talented, and sure Oxbridge/McKinsey probably are tightly aligned to success of a business, but I thought the hypothesis is that you ‘could never’ meet them otherwise…

Is it an expensive route?

Maybe part of the diversity challenge is opportunity cost. £2k pre-tax. Easily 60% on rent. Realistically, EF starts many weeks before. You almost certainly need savings specifically for founding (which tbf you should have if you want to anyway).

Then the offer itself ($145k — fees = $80k) is a little unusual too. But you do gain the EF name attached and all the connections that may come with that.

Don’t listen to me

Here are some others:

Should you apply? You’ve only asked half a question. “Should I do X?” is meaningless. A meaningful question is “Should I do X to achieve goal Y?” What’s your goal? Read here

Feel free to message me if you want to talk about it.

Also, I did OnDeck too. Here is my review: