A lot of (EF)fing money

A lot of (EF)fing money

Entrepreneur First (EF), the London-headquartered “talent investor” that recruits and backs individuals pre-team and pre-idea to enable them to found startups, has raised a new $115 million fund to continue scaling.

Here's how EF works: twice a year they select hundreds of solo entrepreneurs, and help them find a co-founder, pick an idea, prove the business and raise money.

The fund, led by institutional investors and a number of well-known European entrepreneurs like Taavet Hinrikus of TransferWise, will enable EF to back more than 2,200 individuals (or 300 companies) who join its various programs over the next three years.

Their model goes against all the typical startup advice:

  • Work with a co-founder you know.
  • Work on an idea you have a passion for, or a problem you suffered in the past.

In spite of some critics, the model is working. For the 2015 cohort, there were 16 seed rounds, eight Series As and now two Series Bs. For 2016, 24 seeds and five A rounds so far. For 2017, 41 seeds and two A rounds. And for 2018, 57 seeds and one Series A already.

Courtesy of techcrunch.com and Entrepreneur First

The portfolio is now valued at well over $1.3 billion, and they've had $300 million of exits (most notably, Magic Pony was acquired by Twitter for an undisclosed sum).

But EF isn't the only organization with a talent-first model.

In the heart of Paris, eFounders has been funding talent since 2011. With 24 companies started and $180 million raised, they've produced heavy hitters like Front, Aircall, Forest, Spendesk, Slite and Mention (acquired).

Overall, eFounders companies have:

  • raised $175 million in total,
  • acquired 100,000 clients,
  • hired 500 employees,
  • generated $50 million in revenue.

Not bad.

Along the same lines, but with a different model, we have The Family. This Berlin-born but Europe-based organization has a powerful mission: to build a startup continent by investing in founders through their network and infrastructure. Results speak for themselves:

  • 500+ startups in the Fellowship
  • €1B+ in total portfolio value
  • 1000s of hours of YouTube videos, 100s of articles, dozens of dinners
  • 300+ events with incredible speakers

Why talent-first funding models are beneficial for EuropeTech

Entrepreneurial talent in Europe is equally distributed, but opportunity is not.

The rise of talent-first models leads to an interesting dynamic: an individual or a company takes advantage of a strong tech hub (London, Paris, Berlin), a knowledge-centric community and the immense network of these programs to get off the ground.

Once it the company takes off, founders can leave somewhere else, and take the intangible benefits (network, knowledge, community) with them for life.

This dynamic allows the Europe tech scene to expand and create secondary and tertiary tech hubs across the continent.

Atomico ran the numbers, and there is a correlation between tech community engagement (in the form of tech meetups) and the rate of VC-backed tech company formation.


This flow of "startup mojo", building mini-concentration of people, knowledge, and money in far corners of the continent produces a positive loop.

  1. Talent gets funded in tech hubs
  2. Talent leaves tech hubs and move to secondary cities
  3. Talent in these cities start engaging with each other
  4. Money and talent take notice, and start flowing
  5. More people get funded
  6. Back to the beginning

If you are thinking about starting a company, consider joining these programs. Individuals who went through Entrepreneur First and startups founded under the eFounders wing have only positive things to say about them.

If you are thinking about raising a fund, or starting an Europe-based accelerator, then consider this model. Data says it works, and the accelerator market is saturated enough.