Interview with the team behind Entrepreneur First
I have managed to get an interview with the team behind Entrepreneur First (EF). EF is a new graduate scheme, designed to encourage entrepreneurship amongst graduates. Here's what they had to say.
1) What inspired the scheme to be launched?
Year upon year, thousands of graduates with the potential to start their own high-impact ventures ultimately decide against pursuing them, in favour of more established careers. EF’s vision is that more of these talented graduates embark on a career in entrepreneurship. We want to do this not just by raising the profile of entrepreneurship amongst graduates as a viable career option, but enabling the very best of them to succeed through the programme itself.
2) Is there a growing trend from entrepreneurship amongst graduates?
Entrepreneurship at universities is thriving. NACUE (the umbrella student entrepreneur organization) alone represents 40,000 entrepreneurial students across 85 universities, whilst almost a quarter (23%) of recent graduates reported running money-making enterprises whilst at university or are in the process of starting up now [Hiscox 2012 http://www.hiscox.com/news/press-releases/2010/23-07-2010.aspx] We hope to enable the most talented of these students to start-up their own scalable business when they leave university.
3) How does this differ from the traditional graduate scheme?
Like most other graduate schemes, EF considers itself responsible for the formal development of its participants via an extensive training program. But the comparisons end there; from Day 1 participants are expected to be their own boss, have the drive operate in an unstructured environment and take full advantage of our support whilst dedicating most their time to building their ventures. The process will likely be much more challenging than most graduate schemes, particularly as most participants will be bootstrapping for the first few months. However, the experience will consequently be among the most stimulating and rewarding available.
4) Do you need to have a business or business idea to apply?
No – but you probably need a good “hunch” that we can help you develop into a great idea. As we don’t take a stake in your idea or company, we are more interested in you than the immediate viability of your ideas. We’re sceptical that any idea is worth much until it’s been proven and executed well. So, to be selected, what’s important is to convince us that you are passionate about the generation of ideas and have the determination to execute them.
We also appreciate that the best teams need a balance of complementary skillsets amongst their members. For every great business idea developed on the program, we’ll need participants with a mix of technical and non-technical skills make up the teams that own and execute them.
5) What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Perhaps the number one thing that entrepreneurs fail to do enough of early on is speaking to customers. There’s nothing worse than an extremely well engineered product that no one wants! At EF, we will relentlessly push you to gather customer feedback and to modify your offering based on what you hear. Be prepared to make some critical early-stage pivots on the basis of this research, and not get too hung up on the original idea. After that, it’s all about execution – and that requires personal determination, the quality and skills of your team and the right network around you. Good luck!
6) Do you feel the state of the economy can be repaired through entrepreneurship. If so, are there going to be more schemes such as this one, and what other initiatives do you think should be taken to encourage aspiring entrepreneurs?
EF has recently teamed up with McKinsey & Co. and Silicon Valley Comes to the UK to write a report on the impact of entrepreneurship on the economy. Research from NESTA shows that over half of new UK jobs are created as a result of the activities of the fastest-growing 6 percent of businesses [NESTA]. Government, universities and members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem should focus on initiatives that encourage and facilitate the development of this small segment of high-growth, high-impact start-ups. Our report highlights a number policy, educative and supportive initiatives that have worked internationally to support this.