Alice Bentinck MBE
With Entrepreneur First (EF), Alice Bentinck is trying to change how business ideas are born and backed.
“When we started,” she says, “the status quo was to invest in teams with ideas. Everyone thought it was crazy to invest in individuals, particularly those who didn’t have a solid idea.”
EF, which she co-founded with Matt Clifford in 2011, seeks to turn that equation on its head. Its accelerator programme recruits not established teams with business plans but high-potential individuals — from PhD-holders to top talent at global tech and consulting firms — who it supports to develop both business ideas and partnerships.
Participants are given an initial three months to settle on a concept and form a team, after which the successful new ventures are backed with seed capital, and mentored for another three months before pitching to major venture capital funds.
EF’s focus on future potential has already yielded significant returns, with 75 companies having been formed by its graduates, valued at a combined $350 million.
EF itself raised $13 million last year, allowing it to enlarge its annual cohort from 30 to 200. It is now expanding beyond London, with a new office opening in Singapore for an initial cohort of 50.
For Alice, the work of EF is part of the wider role that the digital economy has to play in society. “Tech companies, particularly tech start-ups, are the source of the major innovations that improve people’s lives, from improving healthcare to creating jobs. These high-growth companies are a vital part of society.”