Entrepreneur First Hatches Latest Startups, Partners With Media Power Players

There are plenty of accelerators these days. And it’s commonly known that value created out of Y Combinator is enormous compared to the next nearest competitor in the space, often considered to be Tech Stars. So if you aren’t YC, what do you do?

A couple of years ago Matt Clifford and Alice Bentinck of London-based accelerator Entrepreneur First hit on a different idea. Their “Pre-acceleration” model is based on grabbing the best technical talent before they have even worked out what startup they are going to create. Although it’s appealing to the earliest entrepreneurs, often just out of university, they are also appealing to people who’ve come out of other jobs but never created a full-blown startup.

Each person applies to EF as an individual, pre company. EF then spends 12 months getting each team or entrepreneur to hone their idea, emphasising technical skills, product, speed and iteration. It’s also backed by private investors who are mostly in London – and invests on similar terms as other accelerators. So far it’s been the accelerator behind AdBrain (which has raised $9 million in total from investors including Octopus Investments and Notion Capital) and has also helped spin up Echobox, Permutive, Mavrx, ClickMechanic, Hubble, Prizeo, Code Kingdoms and hardware startups Blaze and SpeakSet.

Since the first cohort in 2013, its 20 alumni companies have raised over $20m and its graduates are worth over $100m. It’s investors in EF include Index, Octopus Ventures and Notion Capital. Even YC has invested in a few of EF’s graduates, (although it has not invested in Entrepreneur First itself). This year’s EF batch is twice as large as the previous two.

Today EF also announced it’s partnering with Advancit Capital and Freelands Ventures to launch the EF Media Stream – a domain-specific stream within EF.

From March, EF participants building media/tech companies will get access to some very senior executives, operators and buyers within the media world to help them supercharge their startups. And we mean senior. The partners at Advancit and Freelands are Jon Miller, Shari Redstone and the one and only Elisabeth Murdoch (yes, of that Murdoch family) — need we say more. Advancit and Freelands will also offer all EF media/tech companies additional funding in the form of an optional £50,000 convertible note.

Here’s a brief run-down on all the startups that demo’d today and what they say about themselves.

The pitches were polished, clear and each start looks pretty interesting. As far as I can tell there isn’t one that isn’t sitting on a very interesting idea.

”B2B sales teams have data overload. Interpretive gives every sales team the power of predictive analytics. We boil all their data down to something any salesperson can use, and push real-time machine learning-driven recommendations directly to sales reps.”

“Pi-Top is a build-it-yourself Raspberry Pi based laptop. It offers a comprehensive learning experience for every part of the computing curriculum. We are the world’s gateway to understanding hardware. We hit $173,000 in pre-orders in October, and we currently have $15,000 in monthly sales revenues.”

“Domini does for big data what spreadsheets did for small data. We provide high-performance tools that enable every person in a company to ask their data questions easily.”

“HowCloud is doing what massive online courses failed to do. We offer a scalable way to teach, and an effective way to learn, by taking the classroom model online. Students enroll in paid-for courses created by teachers in a curated marketplace. Revenues are split 70/30 between teachers and HowCloud.”

“Encore is the UK’s musicians’ network. It’s where they organise their work, and it’s the home of their musical identity. We give every musician a beautiful portfolio profile, enable them to be found through our powerful search, and scalable model the links between them.”

”CaseHub crowdsources legal battles with huge payouts that affect millions of consumers. Harmed consumers rally around a case online for free, and we share the proceeds. Until 2013 it wasn’t easy to finance legal battles for a financial return. Now it is.”

”Kozo makes it fast and simple to build and deploy microservices-based cross-platform applications, taking away the need for manual server and cluster management. We charge based on usage, plus add-on services and service contracts.”

Let’s Gaze
”Sync-watching is an emerging behavior that is changing the way we consume video. Let’s Gaze has a community of users turning sync-watching into a global phenomenon. Sync-watching – watching video simultaneously with other people – is a growing phenomenon. With Let’s Gaze we are building a loyal community through which we will make sync- watching more common than turning on the TV.”

“Converge is the data analytics platform for the internet of things. But we’re not tweeting to fridges. We’re building an end to end industrial solution for existing sensors. Converge is a hardware and software platform that works with existing sensors to store, analyse and display their data, automatically, in real­time.”

“Tyto bridges the gap between therapy sessions for clients with mental health disorders. The goals and tasks clients complete are tailored by the therapist, amplifying the therapist’s influence throughout the week. We charge practices a setup fee for their own white-labeled app, dependent on practice size.”

“Normann offers traders fixed odds financial bets with massive payouts. Most bookmakers need people to lose, but Normann uses a behavioural trading engine to make even more money when people win. If you get 55 of 100 directional bets on a currency correct, we give you back 100x your initial stake. Our technology and behavioural engine allows us to make at least 50% margins on the initial stake.”

“Visual-Wise makes virtual reality accessible to architects. We build tools that allow them to quickly transform designs into virtual reality, making communication in the design process seamless and efficient. We charge a per person monthly license fee alongside additional services and graphical assets through our CAD plugin.”

Solid Steps
”Solid Steps make it easy for SMEs to select, set up and manage their workplace pension schemes. Employers get access to data-driven information, plus a centralised management platform, saving time, money, and effort. 1.3m companies will be required to offer workplace pensions by 2017 under new law.”

”Aimbrain is developing a new form of biometric security. Our first product is a seamless behavioural biometric security layer than can be used on any mobile application. The tradeoff between user experience and security costs payment processors billions. Existing security like 3-D secure is a pain for users, and is a major cause of customer drop off.”

Magic Pony Technology
“Magic Pony Technology delivers a step-change in video compression performance through state-of-the-art machine learning and computer vision techniques. Our technology can achieve at least 50-75% additional compression on top of existing video codecs and deliver better quality HD to 4K upscaling than previously possible.”

“Tractable builds deep learning tools for visual inspection that can perform faster, cheaper and more accurately than humans. Our technology automates an expert’s task at near zero marginal cost. Our technology can automate any expert that’s paid to look at things, in any domain.”