On Friday, we had some YC Alumni friends down to Google Campus for a panel discussion on the tech challenges in startups. They were:
Kieran O'Neill, founder of Thread, Playfire, PlayStation Universe, and HolyLemon.
Peter Nixey, founder of Copyin and Clickpass.
Hiroki Takeuchi, founder of GoCardless.
Zefi Hennessey Hollande, founder of Kivo and EF2012 Alumni.
We'll be posting longer transcripts of the insights over the next couple of weeks, but here are some key quotes:
Hiroki: The advantages of working at a big company first? Absolutely zero. There’s advantages to working in a startup. Working in a big corporate, you’ll learn very specific skills. You’ll only learn how to start a business by starting a business. It’s not a waste of time, but if you want to optimise for being successful in tech entrepreneurship, it’s not the best idea.
Hiroki: Try to meet cofounders now. The longer you’ve known the person, or the more intense the way in which you’ve known them, the better. Work on a project, come up with ideas, hacks, and then execute them. Create something out of nothing: that’s how you learn how to build startups.
Peter: I just want to say that EF attracts an unusually high calibre of people. I only think in analogies and metaphors, and I remember when I did an internship and I left work late at night looking for a taxi. I saw two taxis as I came out so I thought, ‘it’s fine, I’m not going to run: I’ve just seen two taxis. There’s bound to be more’. So I got to the strand and I waited for about two hours because there were no more taxis. The smart people that you see in EF are those two taxis. EF is an unusually high local maximum of intelligent people. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there will be more taxis coming because there are lots around you now.
Kieran: The danger is that excellence always looks like ‘better than what you’ve seen before’. You don’t have a scale that goes from ‘the best in the world’, you just have what you’ve seen. You end up saying, ‘if they’re better than what I’ve seen before then they must be excellent’. But your scale will often be wrong unless you’ve worked with people at a top level.
Zefi: Your startup is only as good as the people as you get in your team and EF is a selector for them being as good as they can be.
Kieran: 5 years ago, it would have been a bad idea to start a company in London. That’s changed. We’re at the stage now where if you don’t succeed, it cannot be because you were in London. There are loads of investors, loads of startups, and there is EF. If you’re tenacious and smart and hungry and have a good idea, it will work here.
Peter: I sometimes think of the difference between investors in the Silicon Valley and investors in London as the difference between the Great Barrier Reef and the Channel. You can support a lot of different fish in the Great Barrier Reef, most of which, if you threw them into the channel, would die. That’s essentially Silicon Valley. It’s interesting, but very soft. If you get the fundamental parts of your company right it will work there and it will work here. But out there you can also build something less solid, and it will just about stay alive.
Zefi: The best way to get what you need from both is to build your team, build your model here, and then if it’s really necessary set up commercial operations out there six months before you need to raise funding so that you can call on that network. YC and the network it created was incredibly good, but we could never have done that unless we’d set up in the UK and gone through EF.
Keep checking back for a more detailed look at the discussions.
Dozens of sheets, countless error messages, unwieldy formulae and a lot of stress. Recognise these Excel headaches? Chris Ashby and Fraser Atkins from Slate
are all too familiar with them.
A pair of Cambridge Engineers, they have dealt with virtually uninterpretable spreadsheets at two major oil and gas firms. Chris - who worked on engine behaviour modelling - and Fraser - who modelled oil production - want to fix this. The two met on EF2013 and bonded over their Excel experiences.
"EF has provided a great platform to launch and grow a startup and the level of mentorship and advice has been incredible”,
To really understand the core of the problem, they interviewed a significant number of heavy Excel users. From there, the solution became apparent.
“Essentially, almost all the problems people have with Excel come from not being able to understand the sheet. By showing it in a clear, graphical way, any issues are much more apparent”
, says Chris.Slate
is a time-saving tool for Excel that visualises the structure of a spreadsheet in an intuitive, flow-chart manner. It is great for error-checking your sheets, interpreting the spreadsheets of others and presenting your work in a visually clear manner and has just launched on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter
You can check it out and support it here
EF2012 Alum featured in Daily Telegraph
Alex Loizou and the team from StreetHub are featured in the Daily Telegraph Tech section today.
combines geo-location technology with proprietary live inventory data to help shoppers find out what is in their nearby shops, reserve what they want online and then pick it up in-store.
The idea is to use technology to drive shoppers back onto the High Street and into independent shops. Users can simply select their chosen neighbourhood and then browse local homeware and fashion shops from their mobile, tablet or laptop."
Read the full article here
Last week we were lucky enough to host Joseph O'Sullivan, founder of Google Books, at the EF office. we selected 70 exceptional students to come and listen to his story as part of our Founder School series.
Check out this awesome video
he showed us of an early robot they tested to turn and scan pages. "It was a cool intern project, one of the millions of possible ideas we considered when making all the books in the world searchable. Probably 2003 or so."
Startups are the trendy career path at the moment. Startup land is hot property and everyone wants to build their own 50 story skyscraper. But thinking about it, for me there is a clear reason why building a startup is the ultimate way to start your career.
It’s pretty simple. In no other environment will you learn so much in such a short space of time. Yep, you’ll become a generalist, but you’re young, you’re fresh out of university and how many of us actually know that marketing/accounting/strategy is our ultimate calling in life age 21?
Every day as a startup founder you’re faced with new challenges, ones that university and school will not have prepared you for. To be honest, two years as a consultant didn’t prepare me for a lot of them either. But the beauty of it is that at a startup, you are forced to learn on the job as quickly and efficiently as possible. No sitting in lengthy PowerPoint presentations teaching you best practice for [insert useless skill]. This is on-the-job training at its best.
And that’s why Entrepreneur First attracts such bright and brilliant people. They want to learn and they see that a startup is one of the most efficient ways to do this. They’ve often been teaching themselves new skills in the past so that they can work on particular projects. Founding a startup full time takes this to the next level.
OK, so you’re not going to have a fancy (but useless) training programme, but the community has blossomed into the ultimate distributed learning organisation. Whether it be through paid courses at Makers Academy, or through the plethora of free events every night where you can learn from those who have been there and done it.
Or of course, you can join Entrepreneur First and you get the best of both worlds. At Entrepreneur First, we provide a year of support for graduate entrepreneurs, including (useful) training. Apply now
Zefi and Leo met on EF2012 and co-founded Kivo
. Kivo takes the power of GitHub and brings it to the masses. Hear from them about why they found Entrepreneur First so useful. Kivo
was funded by Y Combinator and has raised significant seed funding.
It's now month 2 of the full time EF2013 programme and the 30 founders have now formed their teams and are working on validating their ideas. It's pretty busy in the run up to the first seed funding in November, but we thought we should give you a glimpse into what life is like at the EF office...
You can see the full album here
or you can check out a video here
Founder School is a free conference for exceptional students and recent graduates interested in building their own high growth tech startups.Run by Entrepreneur First, the UK's leading graduate accelerator, Founder School gives you an amazing opportunity to learn from CTOs and tech founders, including Joseph O'Sullivan, founder of Google Books.
Tickets are free, however, places are filling up fast and only the best applications will be successful. We are looking for talented students and graduates who think they can build the next big thing. We'll consider applications from people from all academic backgrounds, but we think the event will be particularly interesting for people with strong technical skills.
Friday October 25th 2013 // 6pm // Google Campus, London
Unlike every other accelerator programme, at Entrepreneur First we select individuals without a team and without an idea. Typically, these are the two key requirements to get into an accelerator and when we started out we were told that building teams ‘artificially’ would never work. After building eleven startups now valued at over £20m we beg to differ. We are now working with our second cohort, EF2013, to build their teams.
We start with 30 individuals and hope to end up with somewhere between 10-12 teams. So how does this work? And what advice do we give them? In this blog post, I’m going to share how you go from 30 brand new friends, to your one or two co-founders.
Introducing the team building funnel Now excuse the art work, I was never that good with a paint brush, but this funnel is a really simple way to explain the hurdles that a person must get through to become your one true co-founder.
Fraser is one of our 2013 cohort members, and he won an impressive list of prizes at the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs awards ceremony at the end of last term: he was nominated Young Entrepreneur of the Year and won the Best Pitch award. Also, the startup he founded while at uni, MyTeech, was nominated software startup of the year.
Read on to find out more about this exceptional founder!