EF: We’ll Pay You to Launch a Startup

Tricia Levasseur
5 min readFeb 23, 2018

Calling all Hackers:

There’s a new kid on the block in Berlin and they’re here to facilitate the next German unicorn.

Entrepreneur First (EF) is a company-building accelerator that turns strangers into startup co-founders. Launched in London in 2011, EF later expanded to Singapore and they’re now on the hunt for hackers in Silicon Allee.

Why Berlin:

Berlin is a entrepreneur’s market that attracts all kinds of talent from around the world. Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2017 found that Berlin has the world’s second highest percentage of immigrant founders ranking only behind Silicon Valley. Forty-three percent of the city’s founders are foreign born.

Berlin Lead Zefi Hennessy Holland speaking at EF’s launch event — Factory Mitte, 22 February 2018

Entrepreneur First’s Berlin Lead and a graduate of EF’s first cohort in London, Zefi Hennessy Holland says the type of founder Berlin attracts is different from London. He believes that in London big tech startup founders often hold Oxford or Cambridge (Oxbridge) degrees and that this ambition is very ‘establishment’. But in Berlin, you find almost the opposite. Founders tend to be anti-establishment rebels not afraid of going off the beaten path. Indeed Berlin is a hub of cryptocurrency and other decentralized technologies and EF wants to tap into the city’s edgy subculture.

“Entrepreneur First can help super ambitious people start companies.”

- Zefi Hennessy Holland, EF Berlin Lead

Accelerators in Berlin are as diverse as the startup founder’s themselves: some are specialized by industry, others focus on high growth tech companies only and some will help any founder with a promising idea. About 60 accelerators are already operating in the city according to Berlin Partner for Business and Technology, an official organization that helps grow business. What’s different about Entrepreneur First’s offering for Berlin is that they back extraordinary people who haven’t found their idea or team yet and facilitate the birth of genius. They start with individuals rather than existing companies.

How Entrepreneur First Works:

For anyone already familiar with Entrepreneur First, the model for Berlin is not the same as its London or Singapore programs. As already mentioned, the focus is on finding talent and helping founders discover their teams. The Berlin program will focus on elements like team building and securing potential business partnerships.

Snapshot of the EF Berlin process:

  • Apply for April 3rd start date
  • Attend interview
  • Join the cohort and get paid €2,000 per month during the program
  • Participants find co-founders from the cohort
  • If a founding team and business concept is identified, the pair will then be eligible for investment from EF’s fund
  • Participants that don’t want to continue to the next step get to keep the full stipend paid for being on the program.

Entrepreneur First’s Mission Statement:

To create the world’s most important companies by creating the most valuable career path for the most ambitious individuals.

EF Founder’s Persceptive:

Current London cohort (EF9) member Dr. Raphael Holca-Lamarre explains that most participants in his program have a tech or product management focused background but there aren’t many people with business management experience.

Holca-Lamarre (left) speaks at the EF Berlin launch along with Berlin Lead Zefi Hennessy Holland (right).

As for Raph, he has a PhD in computational neuroscience and machine learning from Technische Universität Berlin and through EF he’s co-founded Mimica Automation.

He believes the EF model of resource based ambition works if entrepreneurs keep an open mind and remain flexible in the pursuit of success. As for where Raph’s at now on his journey, he says he’s having the time of his life and looking forward to his first Demo Day in about four weeks time.

“Entrepreneurship is not good for work-life balance. You have to give it up for a few years at least if you think this is exciting.”

-Dr. Raphael Holca-Lamarre, co-founder Mimica Automation

Entrepreneur First — The Data:

EF believes they are the best place in the world to find a co-founder and build a seed-funded startup from scratch. Founded in 2011 by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck, EF now operates accelerators in London, Singapore and Berlin. The founders both joined McKinsey as fresh graduates in 2009 and the EF concept was born while on the job.

McKinsey & Company provided seed funding, and KPMG, Microsoft and Sky were early corporate sponsors. Last year Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock, led a $12.4 million (USD) investment that included the co-founders of Google’s Deep Mind into Entrepreneur First. As part of the investment Reid also joined the board. With regards to Berlin, Reid says “Berlin is a capital of entrepreneurship” and he explains EF is in Berlin to generate even more.

EF says it has built 80 companies which have gone on to raise over $100 million (USD) in venture funding since its first cohort in 2012. Three of their startups have already exited; Represent, Avocarrot and the largest Magic Pony Technology which was acquired by Twitter for $150 million in 2016. And finally, EF figures show their portfolio is valued at over $1 billion.

EF Berlin launch event at Factory Mitte — 22 February 2018.

Berlin Deadline:

Zefi Hennessy Holland says that Berlin’s first cohort is 80% full so interested entrepreneurs should apply soon because applications are decided on a rolling-basis and will close as soon as places are filled. Zefi also says that his team considers all applicants not just those from techs or product managers, so business types should also feel encouraged to apply. The EF Berlin cohort will begin their adventure on Aprill 3rd, 2018. More information on the program and how its funding works plus the application can be found on EF’s website.

You can read more about Germany’s 88% increase in Venture Capital funding from my Medium article: “Germany’s Got Funds: Investors are Going for Deals in Deutschland”.

If you liked this post please click and hold the 👏 button below.

Follow me on Medium and Twitter @CambridgeTricia
Visit me at www.ShowMeMyCustomers.com
Cambridge MBA | Marketing Consultant | Speaker | Author | Ghostwriter



Tricia Levasseur

Healthcare Exec combining Storytelling & Digital Technology. Patient Advocate. Former Bloomberg Journalist. Cambridge MBA. amazon.com/author/tricialevasseur