The press conference commenced at 9:30 on the morning of Thursday 5th April. The Entrepreneur First team were joined by a healthy number of the UK’s leading press people for the announcement of the first ever graduate cohort.
What is Entrepreneur First?
When the press conference began, Matt Clifford - Entrepreneur First’s CEO - explained the genesis of Entrepreneur First.
Matt explained that Entrepreneur First was the ‘national graduate scheme for aspiring entrepreneurs.’ Entrepreneur First came about because the buzz around student entrepreneurship was more voluminous and impassioned than anyone had first expected. However, even though the student-entrepreneurship scene was ablaze, this level of interest and engagement wasn’t being sustained after graduation.
Students were, and still are, dissuaded from becoming entrepreneurs after graduating due to the risk involved with taking the leap. What Entrepreneur First aims to do, is to de-risk the process of becoming an entrepreneur.
Introducing the first of ‘Graduate Cohort’
Alice Bentinck, also of Entrepreneur First, took to the floor to explain the project. She told us that there were over 400 applicants at the beginning of the process, a number that has since been whittled down to 34. The final ‘cohort’ of 34 was decided after a succession of telephone interviews, face-to-face meetings and a rigourous final selection process.
The final 34 have already met, and two have already decided to combine their ideas and to work together! In August the cohort of 34 will undergo an entrepreneurial ‘bootcamp’ in Cambridge. During this fortnight in the ‘shire they ‘will begin the process of turning their ideas into innovative, fast-growth businesses.’
All of the cohort members will be in touch with Entrepreneur First every week. Their progress will be observed and supported.
Sponsors and Guests
To help usher in their new project, Entrepreneur First gave their sponsors and friends the opportunity to speak from the Club Workspace stage.
Pete Smith, the COO and CoFounder of Songkick, was first to speak. He was one of many entrepreneurs who aided Entrepreneur First in the interviewing and selection process. A poignant nugget of advice that Pete shared was that ‘there is no ‘time of life’ when you’re ‘ready’ to run your own business, you just have to jump in.’
Tamara Rajah, Associate Principal at McKinsey & Company praised Entrepreneur First’s efforts. She was sure that the scheme would increase the number of graduates who made the plunge and leapt straight from matriculation into entrepreneurship. By providing student-entrepreneurs with a network and with contacts, Tamara explained, Entrepreneur First were enabling them to make the transition with fewer risks.
Oscar Jazdowski, the Head of Organisation for the Silicon Valley Bank UK, spoke next. Oscar was an enigmatic speaker who explained that the SVB were not ‘just another bank’, they want startups to succeed! And that’s not PR-friendly altruism either, if startups succeed, then they succeed too. Simple!
Microsoft’s man from Senior Corporate Affairs gave the penultimate address. Stephen Uden provided an excellent sound-bite, ‘the future and growth isn’t about big businesses, it’s about small businesses’.
Before handing back to Matt to round up, Stuart Fraser of the City of London Corporation rounded-off the sponsor talks. Stuart began, ‘well, we were a startup about 160 years ago... it’s been going rather well!’ On a serious and interesting note, Stuart spoke about connecting the city to the startup space - ‘we’ve got everything you need in the square mile, we want to share that knowledge with entrepreneurs!’
It was an absolute pleasure to have Entrepreneur First back at Club Workspace in the Clerkenwell Workshops. We met a lot of new faces today, and we would be delighted to welcome any of them back if they’re ever in the area in the future.
All the very best of luck to the Graduate Cohorts!