London-based Entrepreneur First (EF) — the self-described “talent first” investor that backs (mostly) technical founders, often straight out of university, “pre-team, pre-idea” — is expanding internationally, setting up shop in Singapore.
The new programme, which will see 400 technical individuals recruited and helped to found startups over the next 4 years, is being backed and run in partnership with Singapore’s Infocomm Investments. The Singapore government-backed venture fund was already an investor in EF.Aside from having an existing relationship with Infocomm Investments, EF co-founder and CEO Matt Clifford tells me Singapore was chosen for the programme’s first international expansion because it has a rich source of technical graduates and a burgeoning startup ecosystem in which EF can make a real difference.
In some ways, he says, Singapore reminds him of London back in 2011 when EF first arrived on the scene, in the sense that ‘doing a startup’ wasn’t considered a first choice career move for the best technical talent. EF’s mission has always been to change that, and in doing so, create value for its investors, the entrepreneurs who go through the programme, and the wider ecosystem.
It’s also why, says Clifford, EF would never consider launching in Silicon Valley (or any other well-established startup hub) since the problem there doesn’t exist. Further European expansion was never really a consideration, either, since the U.K. benefits from EU membership — for now — and as a result EF already attracts talent from all over Europe. Around 50 per cent of EF’s most recent cohort is from Continental Europe.
Meanwhile, applications for Entrepreneur First Singapore open today, with the programme starting in September 2016 and aiming to recruit 40-50 individuals for its first cohort. The Singapore office will comprise Alex Crompton, previously Head of Programme at EF in the U.K., and Anne-Marie Droste, previously Head of European Outreach at EF, as well as a Singapore team.