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Jazz Shapers

Shapers: Matt Clifford & Alice Bentinck

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Welcome to the Jazz Shapers podcast from Mishcon de Reya. What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however music has been cut or shortened due to rights issues.

Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers, I am Elliot Moss, it is where the Shapers of Business join the Shapers of Jazz, Soul and Blues. My guest today I am very pleased to say is Matt Clifford; Co-Founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First. The leading technology company builder in Europe and South East Asia, soon to be the world I am sure if Matt gets his way. Matt started his career as a business analyst at McKinsey & Co and it was there that he met Alice Bentinck – great name. Inspired by Teach First which takes promising graduates to teach in struggling schools, the pair wanted to see what happened if the brightest graduates started businesses instead of jobs. In 2011 they formed Entrepreneur First, investing in top technical individuals helping them find a Co-Founder, develop an idea and build towards a world class deep technology company. So far they have helped over a 1000 people and created over 200 companies worth 1.5 billion Dollars combined. Matt also sits on the Board of Code First Girls, a non-profit which he and Alice Co-Founded in 2013, teaching young women how to code and increase the number of women in tech. We’ll talk to Matt in a few minutes about all this. His belief established organisations can create artificial limits on what ambitious people can achieve and perhaps we’ll even mention his MBE for service to business. We’ve also got brilliant music from amongst others Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, Aretha Franklin and Ibrahim Maalouf. That is today’s Jazz Shapers. Here’s Donald Byrd with Change (Makes You Want To Hustle).

That was Donald Byrd with Change (Makes You Want To Hustle). When I say it it is probably not quite as good as when he says it. I am with Matt Clifford, he is the Co- Founder and CEO at Entrepreneur First and as you were hearing earlier, they have been a pretty successful bunch since 2011, definitely 2011 Matt and as I said earlier also 1.5 billion pounds worth of value creation. Hello, how are you?

Matt Clifford
I am really well, it’s great to be here.

Elliot Moss
It’s fantastic to have you. Entrepreneur First for those people that don’t know and I was one of those people, tell me what it is?

Matt Clifford
So we call ourselves a talent investor and what we mean by that is we believe that the world is missing out on some of its best entrepreneurs. You know, in Silicon Valley if you are a smart ambitious person it is the most natural thing in the world that you would start a company, that’s not only you know, a good thing to do but it is almost like the default path. In almost everywhere else in the world that’s not true. So it is certainly not true in the UK, you know I think if you think about like what are the most ambitious people want to do in the UK, for a long time that’s been things like you know, financial and professional services. So our job is to change that. Our job is to make starting a company the number one career path for the world’s most ambitious people but doing that requires you to really be willing to make a bet on people at the earliest possible stage. So what we do which I think used to sound controversial and hopefully now that we have a bit of a track record it no longer sounds controversial is, we will literally pay people to become entrepreneurs. So we would say to people ‘you know Elliot you’ve got an interesting background, have you ever thought about starting a company?’ and then you know we would take 50 to 100 people every six months, pay them a stipend to live for three of those months and help them find a Co-Founder from within that group, help them develop an idea and get ready to raise investment. We would invest in the companies that come out of that and hopefully put them on the path to success.

Elliot Moss
And when did this idea occur to you that the world needed an Entrepreneur First approach?

Matt Clifford
As you were saying in the introduction, we were… Alice and I were working at McKinsey in London. We joined in 2009 and you know we had a great experience there, it was a, it was a fantastic place to learn, met a lot of great people but I think there was sort of a part of me that thought it is so strange that places like this, my wife at the time was a corporate lawyer and you know I had lots of friends in banking and we had all these like very like ambitious people competing hard to get these jobs and then when they get there you say you know, ‘why do you want to be a management consultant?’ and almost everyone would be saying like ‘oh I don’t really I just sort of see this as a stepping stone’ which is great and McKinsey is fantastic for that but I suppose there was this sort of seed in the back of my mind which was well what if you didn’t need the stepping stone? What if you could create an institution that people could come to actually kind of maximise the impact they could have in the world through entrepreneurship and so you know Alice and I talked about this and lots of other ideas to be honest throughout the time we were there and then it was as we were coming to the end of the two years which is sort of the typical time that analysts start to think about moving on, we decided to take the plunge and do this full-time.

Elliot Moss
And so far so good. You are 8 years in, there’s another bunch of money you’ve just raised, you’ve got obviously lots of people are going this makes sense. It struck me as I read about this and spoke to a few people about what you do that you have kind of in a funny way corporatised entrepreneurship? I mean it sounds mental but as I was thinking about it, that’s sort of where I got to?

Matt Clifford
One thing I always like to say which is sort of easy to say now, 8 years in, is that like I was totally unqualified to start this business. I mean like just totally unqualified. I was 25, I had never worked in tech, never worked in start-ups, never worked in investment you know kind of like there was like literally no qualifications to start this business. Also you know, we invest in what we call deep tech but my Degree, my first Degree is in Medieval History.

Elliot Moss
It’s very useful.

Matt Clifford
Well what… I am going to answer your question and the reason I mentioned the Medieval History is the one thing studying history gives you that is maybe relevant is a real sense of perspective and what I always like to say is that you know if you take a really zoomed out view like a 1000 year view of like what people want to do with their lives, what careers look like, what is really striking is that whenever technology enables a new way for people to have impact, there is almost like a pre-mainstream phase where that technology looks a bit weird and not many people want to do it and then there is usually some inflection point where it explodes and it becomes mainstream and when I say technology I am using that in a very loose sense, you know I mean I always think of literacy as the first one of these like there was a point where no one could read and write and then suddenly it became really important to be able to read and write to the point where it was just Monks and then it was like everyone and you know what I think about entrepreneurship and I suppose like what we have tried to embody in what we do at Entrepreneur First is we are still in the pre-mainstream phase of entrepreneurship. Exactly as you sort of say like, what we are trying to do is we are trying to make it mainstream, not because we think everyone should be an entrepreneur but because we think that the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur shouldn’t be having rich parents and so having a financial cushion to be able to do it or stumbling on to an idea that just happens to make sense or your mate from Uni happened to want to start a business and so you did too. In the same way that it would be weird if like the only people who became doctors were the people whose like parents were doctors or weren’t the trade kind of stumbled upon cures as in like, there was a pre-mentoring phase of medicine and now we have medical schools and a path and that hopefully is a lot better for the world. We think the world would be a lot better if actually all the people who could be great Founders become that and that’s really our mission.

Elliot Moss
It also strikes me, you talk about qualifications, you said you know very humbly, I had no qualifications, you are not the first person to sit there telling me that. I mean you are right on paper and I am just pulling up the piece of paper now to remind me the first Degree in History and Management as well, Matt – don’t forget the Management.

Matt Clifford
Yeah absolutely.

Elliot Moss
Cambridge Matt will be very upset – History and Management and then the small matter of going over to the US to MIT and doing a Masters in Political Science. As Kennedy Memorial Scholar the reason I say all these things it not to embarrass you and any of your family listening, but they will be probably be glowing with pride, but is to say that that sort of group of qualifications on one level gives you huge amounts and on another level might actually stop you becoming an entrepreneur.

Matt Clifford
Absolutely.

Elliot Moss
And what do you say to the people that, I mean can people get on your course that have done absolutely nothing in the world of academia?

Matt Clifford
Absolutely so we have funded well over a 1000 people around the world. We have funded lots of people with PHDs from places like MIT and Oxford, we’ve also funded 18 year olds who dropped out of high school. So we are not particularly interested in what badges you are sort of bringing to the table except in so far those badges might point to something that you are capable of doing you know, that is interesting to us but ultimately the question we are asking you is like what have you actually done that you know, makes us think that you might have the basis of being an entrepreneur. You know I actually think what you said in the question is really important so we often talk about one of the biggest barriers to entrepreneurship being what we call badge collecting so you know, you get into a great Uni and you feel great about that and then you think well I could get a job or maybe I’ll get a Masters and see and I’ll go and do that and then you are okay I’ll get a job, you go get a job and you think maybe I’ll now start a business but then they offer you a promotion so you think well maybe I’ll do… and you get on this sort of treadmill where it almost becomes, you’ve trained yourself to need the Dopamine hit of the next, the next accreditation and I suppose what we think, what we try and say to entrepreneurs is you should think, it’s great if you’ve got those badges. Certainly you know, would denigrate them. I was a badge collector myself as you’ve, as you’ve pointed out. But I think what people need to do is see those as a safety, a safety net. You know they actually de-risk what you do next. One of the reasons that I felt pretty comfortable starting Entrepreneur First was that it was massively de-risked by the fact that you know if it didn’t work out, I could go back to McKinsey. I think the dangerous thing is to think well I am here and if I don’t take this promotion then you know my life will be, will be over. In fact I think it is the opposite.

Elliot Moss
The other thought though that occurred to me when you were talking is that for all those people that want to become entrepreneurs often, and we are pre-mainstream and I agree with you on that, in your articulation of the phase that we are in but a lot of those people are self-starters, a lot of those people absolutely don’t want constraints, don’t want convention, don’t want structure and then you are finding a group of people that do. Does that in itself inhibit or undermine some of the quality of those individuals who actually do need to think a bit more openly. Like you do. I mean no one, you didn’t have an Entrepreneur First to create Entrepreneur First.

Matt Clifford
Yeah you know this is actually one of the questions that we think about all the time because what we don’t want to do is be the programmed for people that can do it. Which is the danger with anything like this. But I think actually there is now quite a lot of data to suggest this is not something too much to worry about. Both at Entrepreneur First but also at organisations like Y Combinator which I know you are familiar with, it has created over a 150 billion Dollars of value through a programme not totally unlike EF. I suppose the way we would think about it is what we are not here to do is hold entrepreneur’s hands and say you know, start-ups by numbers, first do this, then do that.. In fact the most important thing we actually provide is a community, a set of incentives, a set of cultural norms that are quite different from what people would encounter in the outside world so it is less saying cool welcome to Entrepreneur First here’s the ‘How to’ guide and more saying you are now with people who can amplify your outcome. How can we help you on that journey?

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from my guest Matt Clifford, he will be back in a couple of minutes but first we are going to hear from our partners at Mishcon de Reya with some advice for your business.

There are many ways for you to enjoy all our former Jazz Shapers, indeed hear this programme again with Matt. You can ask Alexa to play Jazz Shapers and there you can hear many of the recent programmes, or if you pop Jazz Shapers into iTunes you can enjoy the full archive there too. But back to today and Matt, he is Co-Founder and CEO at Entrepreneur First, investing in ambitious technologies to help them build deep tech from scratch. I love these aphorisms, they are just brilliant. In terms of you starting this business back in 2011 with Alice and the people that you then had to go to. So you said you had no experience and all that stuff but you quickly assembled a team I imagine and I imagine you had to create some funding as well to put this together. In those first few months did you ever lose the faith? Did you ever think ‘this is a great idea and we are never going to be able to execute on it’?

Matt Clifford
Yeah you know it’s funny, I really have this very, very clear memory of being in the gym about five weeks in and suddenly realising that it could fail and it was weird because you know, we were talking earlier about these idea of like you know, credentialism and just collecting badges and the danger of that mind set in a way is that you think of it as the next rung of the ladder you know and it is always going to be there. I think the exciting and terrifying thing about entrepreneurship is there is no ladder and that hadn’t… weirdly I managed to get through five weeks of running you know this business with Alice without realising that and then suddenly I remember I was staring out the window and I was like ‘oh wow, this really… there is no reason to believe that this has to work out’. There was some very hard times early on like almost everyone we spoke to thought this was a terrible idea. It really does break almost every piece of received wisdom in venture capital invest in people who don’t know each other. We invest in people who didn’t have the idea necessarily before they came to us. We invest in technologists which is very common in Silicon Valley at the time, much less common in Europe and so we were constantly being told ‘yeah it’s really, it’s a really lovely thing, you do that’ but very clearly the subtext being ‘don’t do that’ and you know it took us a long time. I would say it was really three years before it really was working. It took a lot of iteration and so there were some like really tough patches in that but I think you know, what I always say to our entrepreneurs is you can be wrong about nearly everything as a Founder as long as you are right about the most important thing and for Entrepreneur First the most important thing was if you put extraordinary people together in a room, great things will happen. We were wrong about nearly everything else we thought at the start but fortunately we were right about that one big thing, the importance of investing in talent.

Elliot Moss
What you’ve described to me now though is also as much as the intellectual side and the even if the practical thing was wrong and your thesis was wrong accept for the one thing, it’s the importance of managing your emotions and you are a guy that has had incredible badges that you have collected academically and indeed you ticked the big McKinsey box which again I meet lots of people, lots of those people are from Baine or BCG or McKinsey or law or they move into then your thing, emotionally how important is it that you have understood where you are at versus the intellectual thing which almost go well that’s a given he’s going to be able to nail that stuff?

Matt Clifford
We talk to our Founders about this a lot because I think it is very, very hard to manage your emotions as a Founder unless you know why you are actually doing what you are doing. So you know, one of the least helpful things I think for Founders is to make relative comparisons so you know this is an industry where people get rich very quickly, sometimes you feel undeservedly people lose everything very quickly sometimes you feel undeservedly and it is very easy if you are in the business of making comparisons to just have this like you know, kind of heavy weight on you the whole time and so I think having a real sense of mission that is authentic and is genuinely the reason that you get out of bed in the morning and do what you do. For me that’s the ultimate way to kind of get centred around something that is going to be durable. Not like oh this week we raised a million Dollars, next week you know an investor that we thought was going to come in has pulled out. If you are not anchored around something that really matters, then if anything the emotional management side is so hard and for us that was always we really wanted this institution to exist, we really thought if we could build the place that the world’s most ambitious people would want to come. That was something that was going to be important not just for a year or two but for decades and I think that has kept us sane.

Elliot Moss
You haven’t just Co-Founded this business, you Co-Founded, I am going to get the name right, Code First Girls with Alice your partner here. A brilliant idea back in 2013, very simple insight, there aren’t enough young girls and young women going into technology. Where did that come from? Was it a simple ‘well that was the problem, we are going to do something about it’ or was there a bit more to it?

Matt Clifford
Yeah I mean we were in a way trying to solve our own problem so at Entrepreneur First we take applications, anyone can apply online you know, these days we get probably 12,000 applications a year so it has become quite big but you know back then we had a huge problem that something like 80% of the applications were from men and then if you filtered it by applications with a technical background, the vast majority of the people we found it was more like 90 something percent and you know so often people in tech whenever you talk about the massive gender imbalance say it’s a pipeline problem and sort of throw their hands up in the air as though there is nothing you can do about that. Again I think we were too naïve to realise that that was the thing you were meant to say so we decided we would build an organisation to try you know at least play a role in solving it and sort of the insight was there were like fantastically bright and ambitious women up and down the country whether in Universities or in jobs who actually would be fantastic technical Founders for businesses but they just never thought of themselves as someone you know that can do that and so what we said was how about we provide an entry level course that anyone can do, you can do it in a few hours, a week, after work or after classes and by the end of it of course you are not going to be a PHD in Computer Science but two things; one you will be able to build something real, you’ll be able to build something enough that you can build other things and two, you will realise that the apparent barrier of it just seeming this totally closed world has just been removed and so we ran a pilot summer of 2013 as you said, I think we had maybe 20 young women take the course, we did it here in London over in Canary Wharf and it was fantastic. I think of those women, more than half now work in tech which is extraordinary and since then we’ve taught 10,000 young women to programme, it should be 20,000 by the end of next year, partnered with 23 at least, 20 something Universities round the country as well as doing non-University open courses in London and other big cities.

Elliot Moss
Was it surprisingly easy to do once you had actually formulated the idea because again that movement from theory to practice often is the big stumbling block. You’ve made it sound easy or were there proper barriers in the way?

Matt Clifford
I think it was pushing on an open door. You know, the biggest risk to any start-up and we say this to all our entrepreneurs is maybe no one wants what you are trying to sell them. You know if there is no demand then you are kind of stuck. That was never a problem with Code First, it was the demand was extraordinary from day one. I think that said, running it as a not for profit in a very distributed way largely based on volunteers, largely based on the power of that community, the team has done an extraordinary job of like a very complicated logistical and community task and you know we hired a CEO to run that. It started as an internal project at Entrepreneur First, it just became a bit too big for us to run. We had a CEO to run it, we raised some separate funding for it and had an amazing CEO, Marley who has just left after a 5 year stint with us and we have just hired a new amazing CEO, Anna who I think is going to take it to the next level. So I mean no business is easy but I would say it was one of those beautiful businesses where there was never a moment’s doubt that there was real, real need in the market.

Elliot Moss
You talk about mission to me and then you talk about these opportunities and there is a massive smile on your face Matt and I know it is not all you know, here we are talking and you are not in the middle of a problem and you are not in the middle of work and so on and so forth.

Matt Clifford
Sure.

Elliot Moss
But you seem like your temperament is perfectly suited to the lunacy and the ambiguity and the creativity that goes hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship. Have you? Do you get stroppy? Are you… you don’t strike me as…

Matt Clifford
Alice is bad cop. Yeah.

Elliot Moss
She’s bad cop right.

Matt Clifford
No I am joking, I am joking.

Elliot Moss
She is listening and going that’s not true.

Matt Clifford
No I am, I don’t know I mean I think, I mean clearly any sort of business with any sort of scale ends up you know having very challenging situations you know, we employ across the two organisations I guess 120 people. You know these days we are funded by 800 entrepreneurs a year so you know there is enough moving parts that the most challenging moving part on any given day is pretty challenging. But I think what, what this kind of business in particular sort of teaches you is that only optimism really gets you anywhere in that you know the people that, you know we’ve been very fortunate we’ve raised you know around 200 million Dollars of other people’s money to manage and deploy against this strategy and none of them are looking for a safe you know, bond like return. They know the risk they are getting into because of the potential for enormous upside and I think when you have that mind set and you apply it to not just our position as fund managers which obviously we take very seriously but to everything we do. If we say actually the only reason this makes sense is thinking about the up side. The only reason it makes sense is trying to help this entrepreneur do something huge. Then yes you are going to have a lot of friction, you are going to have a lot of things where it is like you know this person is messing you about or this person is just not doing what they said they would do but ultimately that’s not where you are going to make or break the business. You are going to make or break the business on the stuff that really works and so you know, when I think about how I allocate my time I am always thinking is this an opportunity to actually amplify upside or am I just getting distracted by trying to like mitigate downside?

Elliot Moss
I need to think about this in my own life. Final chat coming up with Matt Clifford, plus we’ll be playing a track from Ibrahim Maaloof, that’s all coming up in just a moment please don’t go anywhere.

The super duperly brilliant uplifting and optimistic sound of Ibrahim Maaloof with Essensielles which is a big part of what we have been talking about with Matt Clifford my Business Shaper today; Co-Founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First – optimism and the importance of it. Optimism and upside. You talked about upside before and I like that phrase, a euphemism for making lots of money and also the positive things that will happen. What’s your take on money Matt? Where does it figure in the Matt Clifford world of important things?

Matt Clifford
You know it’s funny in this, in venture capital because as I was sort of saying earlier, one of the weird things about it is that although you know there is hopefully a lot of skill to something like this, equally people make a lot of money when you never expect it and sometimes you can lose money when you don’t expect it and so I think that’s you know we’ve been huge beneficiaries of that. We’ve been very lucky on a number of occasions you know, we had one business with the memorable name Magic Pony Technology, which was only 12 months old you know, barely raised a couple of million pounds and Twitter came in and bought it for 150 million Dollars and you know everyone made a lot of money that day and that was very unexpected and I think what that experience taught me is that if you can’t predict when great things are going to happen and when terrible things are going to happen, financially I mean. You, obviously you need you know we are in a very fortunate position that you know the business is successful enough that it is very unlikely that it will go to zero but I think you just need to be very philosophical about those ups and downs and those variations and I suppose the way I think about money is that we cannot succeed in our mission without money you know, so we need to raise capital in order to fund these entrepreneurs in order to employ the people on our team and the most important thing for us is actually alignment. What we really don’t want to do is build a business where we can make money without our stakeholders making money and what we really don’t want to do is build a business where we can be very successful but then not to make money for those stakeholders. So I suppose the way we think about it these days is that we try to build every part of our business to be aligned in the same direction. So we as a team, our investors, the institutions that put money in our funds and most importantly our entrepreneurs all make money through the same mechanism which is if entrepreneurs build a great business that we’ve helped to support and it becomes something that is very valuable because hopefully it is doing something that people want. Then everyone makes money. If we don’t then we don’t and so like I think one of my kind of core values is just that you really want to be in a world where everyone, everyone knows what they are getting into, there is total transparency around incentives and if everyone is aligned in the same direction it just makes everything much more pleasant.

Elliot Moss
And what happens when this all becomes mainstream because you have got a first mover advantage as it were and there is suddenly six, seven, eight new Matt’s, young, shiny Matt’s…

Matt Clifford
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…coming along saying ‘ah yes but what about this?’

Matt Clifford
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Is that good for you? Does it make any difference? Do you worry about how your business will shape up?

Matt Clifford
I think what’s… there is a few interesting things about that. So one, for the first time we do have copycats which is flattering. It was a very long time in coming so we were starting to wonder if we were doing something wrong. But I think what is interesting is if you look at you know the history of organisations that are trying to do somewhat similar things, sort of take people and try and amplify their outcomes. They are very enduring. I mean we were talking about this in the break, there are Universities that have been around hundreds of years and interestingly the ones that have been around hundreds of years are also the most prestigious ones, the ones that have continued not only to achieve their sense of mission but you know, on any objective mentoring to do well. So I do feel that there is no reason to fear you know, kind of Oxford didn’t become weaker when Cambridge started or when Harvard started you know, I think there is a lot of room but I think there is also something really powerful about the idea of community. So you know, is it… which bits of EF are easy to copy? Frankly most of the mechanisms of what we do are easy to copy. You know we don’t… we are not the rocket scientists that’s the entrepreneurs you know. What we do is in a way fairly simple. The bit that’s almost impossible to replicate the community of individuals that make up the alumni group so as you said, over a 1000 people funded around the world adding to that now very rapidly and what is amazing is the culture of mutual support in that group. So you know imagine that you were tomorrow to kind of clone EF and start. You know you would be able to match us I think point for point on most things.

Elliot Moss
I have been making a lot of notes.

Matt Clifford
Yeah I was going to say… I was going to say.

Elliot Moss
Just watch out.

Matt Clifford
But ultimately what it would come down to is who do the entrepreneurs want to work with and so you know let’s imagine we both make an offer to you know some fantastic young entrepreneur that we really both think is the future, you know you would be able to sell all the benefits of your programme and I can sell the benefits of my programme but ultimately what I can do that is very hard for the copy to do is say ‘and please feel free to speak to any one of these hundreds of people that have been through our programme and will tell you why Entrepreneur First is life changing’ and I think that is just very difficult to replicate and so we believe you know, we are really happy to have other people in the space, it validates the space you know obviously you say one, University one, Medical School one, Venture Capital firm and there will be more than one talent investor but I think hopefully we are the one that everyone wants to be a part of.

Elliot Moss
It’s been brilliant talking to you Matt. Good luck not that you seem to need much luck but I hope you continue to have fun, focus on that mission and remain optimistic. It is all really good to hear. Just before I let you go, what is your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Matt Clifford
So it is Black Crow Blues by Bob Dylan so when I first met my now wife, then girlfriend I had never really listened to Bob Dylan growing up, it wasn’t really played in our house but Emily my wife and her family were obsessed with Bob Dylan and she would play it non-stop and this of course is one of his, I think, best blues tracks.

Elliot Moss
That was Black Crow Blues by Bob Dylan the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Matt Clifford. He talked about making entrepreneurship mainstream and the idea that at the moment we are pre-mainstream. He talked about perspective, take a 1000 year perspective everybody, don’t take a 5 year perspective. He talked about a sense of mission, how important it was to be clear what you stand for if you are going to manage being buffeted around by events and finally and really importantly, if you want to be an entrepreneur you only have to focus on one thing – be optimistic. That’s it from me and Jazz Shapers, have a great weekend.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers. You will find hundreds more guests available for you to listen to in our archive. To find out more, just search Jazz Shapers and iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to mishcon.com/jazzshapers.

Matt Clifford is the Co-Founder and CEO of Entrepreneur First, the leading technology company builder in Europe and South East Asia. Entrepreneur First invests in top technical individuals to help them build world-class, deep technology start-ups from scratch in six locations across Europe and Asia.

Holding degrees from Cambridge and MIT, Matt started his career at McKinsey & Co. where he met Co-Founder Alice Bentinck. Since founding Entrepreneur First, they have helped over a 1000 people and created over 200 companies worth 1.5 billion Dollars combined.

Matt also sits on the Board of Code First Girls, a non-profit organisation he and Alice Co-Founded in 2013, and has been awarded an MBE for services to business in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Interview highlights

We believe that the world is missing out on some of its best entrepreneurs.

We are talent investors.

I was totally unqualified to start my business.

Studying history gave me a real sense of perspective.

We’ve funded people with PHDs from MIT and Oxford, and have also funded 18 year olds who dropped out of high school.

One of the biggest barriers to entrepreneurship is what we call badge collecting.

We don’t want to build a business where we’re making money but our stakeholders aren’t.

It is very hard to manage your emotions as the founder of a business if you don’t know why you’re doing what you are doing.

The exciting and terrifying thing about entrepreneurship is that there is no ladder.

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