I’ve just finished watching Entrepreneur First‘s sixth cohort’s Demo Day in London. The event, held at Facebook’s UK HQ, saw 21 newly outed startups pitch their wares on stage to investors, press and other actors in the European tech scene.
But before I give a run down of the presenting companies, including our top 3 picks, here’s a quick reminder of how EF works and what has made it the new darling of the UK startup community.
Founded back in 2011 by Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford, the so-called “talent first” investor targets the best technical graduates in Europe and beyond to put them through a six-month program where they form teams and in turn found startups.
This includes financial support in the form of a monthly stipend for living costs while founders find their co-founders and decide on an idea. This is then followed by £10,000 in pre-seed funding, in addition to office space, legal and administrative support, and mentoring and advice from the EF team and external entrepreneurs from the wider UK startup scene.
It is this “pre-team, pre-idea” approach that sets EF apart from other accelerators — and something that initially left the rather conservative European VC industry grossly underestimating its potential — while the emphasis on technical talent is producing some very interesting results.
Not least, EF’s biggest (albeit only significant) exit to date: Magic Pony, sold to Twitter for a reported $150 million and creating a huge return for EF itself and the 1-year-old startup’s other early investors.
EF has also raised two funds of its own, having just announced its £40 million “Next Stage Fund” to add to £8.4 million raised last year. The new investment vehicle, which is majority backed by the UK taxpayer-funded British Business Bank and also counts LPs such as Imperial College, Sir Charles Dunstone’s Freston Ventures, and Isomer Capital, will co-invest in graduating companies at the seed and Series A stage.
Our top 3 picks from EF6 Demo Day
Calipsa describes itself as automating traffic video surveillance using Artificial Intelligence. Its computer vision and big data technology claims to be able to tap into a city’s existing CCTV infrastructure (no new hardware required) and crunch all of that data on a per vehicle or item level, including counting cars!
And, ‘Big Brother’ tendencies not withstanding, the resulting efficiencies have a lot of potential to improve city security, traffic control and planning. Or, in the words of the team pitching, to make our cities smarter.
Accurx is tackling the problem of eliminating inappropriate use of antibiotics, which is a major contributor to the diminishing effectiveness of antibiotics. Basically, antibiotics are dramatically over-prescribed and, due to bacteria resistance, are becoming less effective.
To help physicians make better decisions regarding appropriate use of antibiotics, the startup is building what it describes as a “supervised, linked, person-level dataset, to provide empirical diagnoses free from human biases”.
In practice, this translates into much better data, linking medical history, presenting symptoms, treatment given, and, most crucially, clinical outcomes. By crunching this data and providing supporting tools, the idea is to remove human bias from the antibiotic prescription process.
Admittedly more frivolous than most of the ideas being pitched today, Drafter is an inbox assistant that automatically drafts email responses based on your previous interactions.
It’s initially aimed at sales people. Why? Because — or so the pitch goes — a speedy response to a sales enquiry, of, say, 5 minutes, dramatically increases the chances of closing a sale.
In fact, the first to respond is invariably the person who wins the deal, yet response times are on average 10 hours. And so much of sales involves a very repetitive workflow.
Eventually, however, Drafter, wants to apply its tech to any kind of email, eliminating the times you begin composing a new email only to think, “I’m sure I’ve written this exact same response before”. Welcome to my world, people.
The full list of presenting teams (in their own words)
- Accurx – Working to eliminate inappropriate antibiotic use by building a supervised, linked, person-level dataset, to provide an empirical diagnoses free from human biases.
- Bloomsbury AI – Building a platform to enable everybody to program. It provides web services that enable everyone to rapidly create, train, use and share models online.
- Brolly – Brolly’s mission is to re-define how customers experience insurance. Brolly is a mobile app that brings all insurance into one place, across understanding, buying and managing.
- Calipsa – Calipsa’s mission is to automate traffic video surveillance using Artificial Intelligence.
- Crypto Quantique– Working to develop a hardware based cybersecurity solution that simplifies, improves, and reduces cost of performing authentication and encryption in a (wired) local network. Our appliances benefit from cutting edge secure quantum communication technology, and can be integrated into current existing infrastructure.
- Cyra – Aiming to make the hiring process simpler and cost effective for the employers of small to medium businesses, by providing an inexpensive, easy to use and smart Artificial Intelligence based recruiting assistant.
- Eblur – The company’s mission is to bring about a revolution in the highly competitive and popular eSports game genre, by providing access to an online AI coaching companion
- Flexciton – The company’s mission is to revolutionise industrial automation in the process systems and energy sector.
- Intelligent Robots – Its mission is to democratise the use of mobile robots for industrial applications, by developing robots equipped with cheap sensors and controlled by cutting-edge deep learning algorithms.
- Keypla – Its aim is to build a 360° view of all for-sale properties in UK, to reduce the cost of house viewings. With advances in hardware, the cost of 360° tours can be reduced by 90%.
- Kheiron – Kheiron is developing and building tools to help radiologists with their various everyday professional workflows
- Loop Perfect – LoopPerfect’s mission is to streamline the development of C++ code, by using a just-in-time compiler, which allows the user to update their program logic without closing the running application.
- Neurofenix – Aiming to make rehabilitation more autonomous, enjoyable and accessible to stroke victims
- Petagene – The company’s mission is to make genomics data cheaper, faster and better. The cost of storing and transferring genomic data is rapidly outstripping sequencing costs.
- Quotable – The company aims to drastically simplify the purchasing of bespoke goods and services, by providing a cheap, cloud-based solution that automates most of the quotations process and pro-actively provides market insights to both buyers and suppliers.
- Neo AI – Neo AI develops a technology that makes using machine learning cheaper and faster, enabling new applications around different industries and making complex computations available to more customers.
- Drafter– is an inbox assistant for sales people. It suggests responses to messages based on how you’ve responded to similar messages in the past.
- Sanctum Technologies – Working to eliminate the sound of planes for households and companies near airports, by providing a 360% aviation noise cancelling device.
- Suits Me – The mission is to develop the most personalised lifestyle assistant in the world; starting with fashion. The immediate problem SuitsMe is solving is to bridge offline with online shopping in terms of customer experience, by making it equally comfortable.
- Alpha I – The company’s mission is to bring research into the heart of quantitative investing, by applying advanced multivariate Bayesian models together with cutting edge computing platforms.
- Xihelm – Working to ensure that street surveying for utilities are more reliable, cheaper and faster than before, by visualising current and own augmented data from multiple sources, showing where likely assets are, in a user friendly format.