What’s Holding You Back? By Entrepreneur First

You may not yet have The Big Idea, you may not have your team in place, you may not even know what sector you want to be in – but being an entrepreneur can start here. The Entrepreneur First team are dedicated to rooting out fresh talent, and have rather gloriously decided to share some of their wisdom with us. What should you consider when contemplating a start-up? Isabel Bescos tells us… 


As part of the Entrepreneur First team, I have been roaming the country recently in search of the young startup heroes amongst UK’s brightest and most talented graduates. Yet, many of them are indecisive; frightened of going off-piste and unsure about missing out on a good job opportunity in order to create something big, bad and bold. Their worries revolve around finding the right co-founder, securing funding, entering the right network and ending up in the death valley. And to be fair, they have a point. So let’s lay down the foundation of this venture and point out the important pillars of this career path.

1. Find like-minded people

At Entrepreneur First, we keep hearing that finding a brilliant co-founder is one of the major troubles for young entrepreneurs. Nearly everyone faces that issue. So one of the key aspects of our scheme is to help our founders built teams. By taking on like-minded, highly talented graduates, chances are you will find someone with a similar mindset to yours. One of our founders was saying recently;

“One of the greatest things that EF provides, is that you are not making your first steps on your own – you always have other people around you that are in the same situation and are willing to hear you out, support you or kick your ass if that’s what’s appropriate at that time.”

Alex Loizou, EF Cohort 2012

So if you’re facing that same issue, join entrepreneurial networks, go to a Startup Weekend or a Hackathon, and go talk to other young people who work within this same space.

2. Get the idea right

We also find that recent graduates have a number of ambitious ideas, but they’re not sure which one has legs, or whether it is scalable. Strong and lasting companies are founded out of an acute understanding of a specific problem or pain point. There’s no magic to it, if you can find a problem that people experience strongly enough that they are willing to pay to have it solved, then you have a business. At Entrepreneur First, we’ve found that giving founders an opportunity to discuss real-world problems with major organisations, mentors and serial entrepreneurs, offers them better access to actual, tangible problems. Finding a real and relatable problem should be the core of your entrepreneurial venture.

3. Get funding savvy

Securing funding is another of the main fears. The UK’s reputation seems to suggest that we have very few angels and VCs in the country. But when looking at companies started by graduates pretty much straight out of uni, it looks like funding is within reach. Unruly Media, for instance, announced a $25m series A round in January 2012, and Groupspaces, which was started in 2007 by two Oxford grads, also secured $1.3m in June 2010 from Index Ventures and a leading angel investor consortium. Knowing the right people and building a trustworthy reputation is crucial. This is why Entrepreneur First values its external community of entrepreneurs, investors and partners so much. A strong network will become the backbone of your venture, but it’s hard to build: having a pool of talented, experienced industry leaders on tap when you need them saves you the struggle of getting a foot in the door and gives you access when you most need it.

4. Make it scalable

And finally, let’s make sure we’re creating businesses that will make a difference to the economy. Almost 300,000 businesses are started each year in the UK, but only the six percent of firms that have grown the quickest have generated over half the new jobs in the UK. It’s important to believe in building businesses that will make a difference to the economy, not just making a job for yourself, but contributing to job growth on a wider scale. This means building a disruptive, high growth, scalable business that challenges the way an industry currently operates. Think of AirBnB: they started offering rentals to convention attendees who couldn’t find hotel rooms nearby and are now challenging the underlying premise of the hotel industry as holiday makers reassess their accommodation choices and buying habits.

You should consider all of these points without fear and you’ll be ready to start up. At Entrepreneur First, we strongly encourage you to do so and if you feel like you have the stamina it requires, feel free to contact us at [email protected] or apply here to enter the scheme.

by Isabel Bescos

Enterpreneur First

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