Co-founded by Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck, EF operates on a model of investing in technical talent on a “pre-team, pre-idea” basis. The expansion into Singapore follows EF raising a £8.5 million ($12 million) fund aimed to scale up its programme – including backing and mentoring 200 founders per year.
Investors in the fund include Encore Capital, Infocomm Investments (IIPL), and various angel investors including Robin Klein, formerly of Index Ventures, and Alex Chesterman, CEO of UK property portal Zoopla.
In an interaction with TechCrunch, Bentinck said: ““Our focus is more and more on investing in deep tech startups and highly technical individuals.”
She added, “Being able to raise £8.5 million to cover the next 3 years means that we’ll be able to fund more companies with founders from across Europe, and we can support them on anything from advanced deep learning to computer vision to the latest in machine learning. So really this is the first time we can scale significantly”.
EF works exclusively with technical individuals to help them build deep tech startups from scratch, with these aspiring technology founders operating on the concepts over a series of hackathons to forge a team, in what is a highly guided team development process. They collaborate closely with a select group of experienced venture partners to build their startups and prepare for next-stage investments.
According to EF, since 2013 it has worked with 200 individuals and built 50 startups; these have raised in excess of $60 million in venture capital and maintain a capitalisation of more than $250 million.
EF Singapore’s impact
The launch of EF’s international office marks a milestone for Singapore. The city-state is consolidating and restructuring its funding schemes and agencies, to recalibrate the economic focus towards value creation and innovation-driven enterprises.
Clifford, who serves as CEO, said, “When talking about talent, innovation and the desire to create startups, Singapore is second to none.”
“EF’s new presence in Singapore will help catalyse technology innovation to take advantage of the current opportunities in Asia. EF will help individuals with deep technical capabilities and new ideas to translate them into commercial solutions”, commented Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s deputy prime minister, who was present at the London launch event of EF Singapore.
Shanmugaratnam explained: “The current turbulence in financial markets doesn’t displace the longer term picture in Asia: its markets are expanding faster than the rest of the world, and its consumers will increasingly demand quality and innovative products. EF’s new presence in Singapore will help catalyse technology innovation to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Chosen as the first destination for the expansion, Singapore offers a compelling environment and startup ecosystem. Over the next four years, EF Singapore aims to support up to 400 highly ambitious and STEM-inclined (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) individuals to create startups focusing on deep technology.
In an interaction with TechCrunch, Clifford explained that beyond the existing relationship with IIPL, Singapore was chosen due to its being a “rich source of technical graduates” and a burgeoning startup ecosystem, stating that it reminded him of London’s startup ecosystem in 2011.
EF Singapore aims to recruit 40-50 individuals for its pioneer cohort in September 2016. Applications open on 19 January 2016.The programme comprises two 3-month phases. During the first three months, each participant receives a monthly stipend of S$3500.
Should a company be successfully formed after the first phase, EF Singapore will invest a further S$25,000 for an 8 per cent equity stake. This brings the total investment – inclusive of stipends – in each successfully formed venture to approximately S$50,000. The Singapore office will be headed by EF senior executive Alex Crompton and Anne-Marie Droste, as well as a Singapore team.
Zach Tan, the director of IIPLs’ London office, said, “We want to make Singapore a conducive place for entrepreneurs to thrive. Entrepreneur First is part of our ongoing efforts to do that and we invite interested parties to join us. When a group of talented individuals come together in the right environment, we believe magic happens.”