The Entrepreneur First Programme

Finding a compatible partner can often induce an influx of panic. Previously undetected cocoons hatch releasing a flurry of butterflies in your stomach. You’re suddenly acutely aware of the positioning of your feet.

And whilst you may not have concerned yourself with any of these feelings as the first week of December passed, it’s guaranteed that a certain group of 30 young adults did.

It’s widely acknowledged that the location of a first date ranks ‘up there’ priority-wise. The cinema doesn’t exactly accommodate a smooth conversation. A fast food trip is very unlikely to suffice. But Buckingham Palace? Perhaps a little OTT.

But it was this unexpected scene that played a perfect host to a serious entrepreneurship event, organised by the Duke of York.

However, far from young adults craving a new love interest just in time for the festive season, these 20-somethings were all start-up technology entrepreneurs made up of current and former participants of ‘Entrepreneur First’.

Closely resembling a pressurised first date scenario, the young entrepreneurs (though they were in pairs) had 20 minutes to pitch their companies or start-up plans to a group of business leaders and investors. And of course, Prince Andrew himself.

If the hatched butterflies were at any stage dormant, prying questions and an intense interest exerted by the prince were certain to evoke a flight of frenzy during the young entrepreneurs’ time with the panel.

Not particularly renowned for hiding his opinions or passion, Prince Andrew told the BBC he was keen to host the event because it was “another step along the road” of helping to boost entrepreneurship in the UK.

He further applied his opinion concerning the country’s entrepreneurial state, stressing the need for the UK to work harder to encourage people flirting with the idea of setting up their own companies.

Coining himself as “just a different kind of entrepreneur”, Prince Andrew’s advice was simply “just go out there and try it.”

The programme, Entrepreneur First, is open to college graduates, of which only 30 technology start-ups are chosen annually. The programme is evidently in very high demand, as this year’s course had 600 eager applicants.

Only in its second operative year, Entrepreneur First is considered the brain child of Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford, former management consultants.

“We put young, highly talented ambitious people together, typically computer science graduates, and help them build technology start-ups,” MS Bentinck explains.

“It is all about the calibre of people. They don’t have to have an established idea. Instead, they are asked to work collaboratively, typically in pairs, to come up with ideas and then take them forward.”

Mr Clifford adhered: “We wanted to help boost the number of tech start-ups in the UK by bringing such like-minded people together.”

Entrepreneur certainly has credentials that connote success, claiming that 11 companies were formed from its first crop of participants, which now has a combined value of £22m.

Thanks to the thriving programme, two young entrepreneurs, Leo Anthias and Zefi Hennessy Holland, founded the software business ‘Kivo’, who said they “couldn’t have done it without Entrepreneur First.” 

By:Sam Greenwell

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