Entrepreneur First (EF), the London-HQ’d company builder that invests in individuals “pre-team, pre-idea” to help those individuals found new startups, is continuing to expand internationally. After adding an outpost and program in Singapore, Berlin and Hong Kong, in addition to London, the so-called talent-first investor is setting up shop in Paris. Quelle surprise.
The latest EF expansion follows a $12.4 million funding round in 2017 led by Silicon Valley’s Greylock Partners, which also saw Greylock’s Reid Hoffman join the company builder’s board. The capital — to be used for operational purposes and separate from EF’s multiple investment funds — was raised to enable EF to scale its program in multiple tech startup/academic hubs around the world, and where it deemed the EF “secret sauce” can bring the most value.
At the time of the fund raise, Hoffman told TechCrunch he could see the company builder expanding to “20 or 30 or 40 cities, maybe even 50“. And while EF hasn’t reached anything like that number — yet — and questions remain on how scalable a program like EF is when, by its very nature, it will only be as effective as the people who run it, the pace of expansion and quality of startups coming out the other end is nothing to be sneezed at.
In a call from Paris, EF co-founder Matt Clifford told me the French capital city is a natural fit for EF, given that it has both a high concentration of future founders and a well-established and supportive tech ecosystem. We talked about the Macron-effect, noting that the French president has most recently been on the money when talking about artificial intelligence, which is the kind of “deep tech” that EF excels in.
Unsurprisingly, he was also bullish on the quality of technical education in Paris, which will form a key part of the EF pipeline. Specifically EF is talking up the quality of teaching and research at the country’s science universities and Grandes Écoles. There are also new institutions like Ecole 42, the nonprofit and tuition-free computer programming school created and co-funded by French telecom billionaire Xavier Niel.
Meanwhile, the Paris program will begin in October and will pretty much follow the standard EF format. The sees the company builder fund individuals “pre-company,” recruiting them to the program before they have a team or fully formed idea, purely on the basis of their tech skills and/or domain expertise.
As part of this, EF pays a stipend of €2,000 a month for sixth months — the first three months covering the team forming stage and the second three months to support teams to develop business plans and be ready to pitch for further funding at Demo Day. EF also has a fund of its own, which newly founded EF startups can access.
I’m also told that the EF Paris office will be led by Coralie Chaufour. Coralie joins EF from McKinsey & Company after previously starting her own company and working as a corporate lawyer at Cravath Swaine & Moore LLP, a leading U.S. law firm. Coralie studied at Sciences Po Paris, Wharton and Harvard Law School.
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