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Graduates raise £15m through Entrepreneur First programme

First 13 Entrepreneur First companies amass a collective £15m

Entrepreneur First is a not-for-profit accelerator programme that welcomes final year students and graduates on to a year-long entrepreneurship scheme.

The first group of companies have now finished the programme and between them have achieved a collective valuation of £15m.

CEO Matt Clifford told Tech City News: “These are students who have turned their back on lucrative career options. It’s been amazing to watch them through the journey and get the validation.”

“EF is not there to be a cheerleader for everyone to become entrepreneurs. It’s about helping those with ambition, skills and talent to fulfil their potential and experience being their own boss” he added.

We spoke to Emily Brooke from Blaze Components, Matt Simmonds from Speakset, Felix Kenton from ClickMechanic and Max Bruner from Mavrx to hear about their EF experiences and future plans.

Emily Brooke, CEO & Founder – Blaze Components

“I like the idea that I own something and that I’m learning every minute of every hour of every day”

Business: Blaze Components

Uses aesthetic, tech products to overcome the problems of an urban cyclist.

Inspiration? The company idea started as Emily’s final year uni project. “The press attention went crazy and so I decided to develop it. EF normally asks for new ideas but I couldn’t leave Blaze alone.”

Product: ‘The Blaze Light’ is a front cycle light which projects the symbol of a bike onto the road in order to alert drivers ahead of the bike of its presence, preventing them turning across its path – the greatest cause of cyclist fatalities.

EF experience: “Valuable, I learnt a lot, the networking opportunities were amazing.”

Forthcoming plans: To become a global urban cycling brand. “After road safety, security is key. We want to develop bike tracking devices mixing hard and software.”
Blaze components will be launching exclusively with top cycling retailer, Evans Cycles, in September.

Matt Simmonds, Co-Founder – Speakset

“We each had interesting job offers on the table and it was difficult justifying leaving them but I just thought this is a chance at success so I jumped”

Business: Speakset
Via a set top box, plugged into the tv, elderly people can use their remote to have conference calls with friends and family.

Inspiration? Matt explained how close the team are to their families. It was personal problem for the guys who reflected on the difficulty of keeping in touch with their grandparents.

Realising they weren’t alone in missing out in special moments with their grandparents, they undertook more research. They paid visits to care homes, spoke with doctors and realised there was a significant problem – isolation and loneliness in the elderly.

EF experience: “This has been the best year of my life. We’ve had a lot of coaching and know what to do when it comes to investors. It’s been fun. Almost like a game.”

Forthcoming plans: About to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise a minimum £15,000 through a rewards-based system which will include family days out, tea and biscuits for the grandparents as well as a free Speakset device.

Max Bruner, CEO & Co-Founder – Mavrx

“EF was a phenomenal opportunity to connect with the London ecosystem and receive regular sanity checks”

Business: Mavrx
Producing autonomous flying vehicles (UAVs) for businesses to provide satellite images of different locations.

Inspiration? The team had a passion for robotics and the UAV development were initially intended to take aerial shots of people doing extreme sports yet “there was always a long term vision to transform aerial data collection.”

EF experience: “Amazing. From the initial 6 months transitioning out of uni and putting the company together to being introduced to people who validate your direction.” Having office space in a prime location was a huge benefit to the company.

Forthcoming plans: Building the platform and testing and demonstrating the product for the mining companies EF introduced them to. In talks with potential investors.

Felix Kenton, Co-Founder  – ClickMechanic

“After boot camp, we just gelled really well”

Business: ClickMechanic

A website connecting a wide network of trusted mobile mechanics to ordinary home owners with repair requests. Consumers get quotes and place bookings through the website . The mechanics then use an app to obtain, update and invoice the customer.

Inspiration? They started as a comparison site and evolved. “Everyone hates car repair. One of the top 10 complaints to the Office of Fair Trading is bad mechanics. People don’t get on with their mechanics and we’re trying to get round this.”

EF experience: “The networking and extent of contacts who EF provided was the top benefit.”

Forthcoming plans: Just released a first version of a mobile app for mechanics and in talks with further investors.