Welcome to the Centre for Entrepreneurs Spring newsletter!
We find ourselves in an extraordinary and difficult situation, adapting to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. Usually, at this time of the year, we look forwards positively as we emerge from the UK winter with hope renewed. This year things are very different, and our theme is one of adaptability and resilience.
Our thoughts are with all members of our incredible community, whether you are pivoting your business, making tough decisions to adapt, helping colleagues, friends, family or community, or simply trying to get by.
Class of 2020 goes digital
IAN Conference 2020
Refugee Entrepreneurship Programme Survey
Refugee Entrepreneurship Programme Activity
NEF Fast Track praises its fantastic partner companies: Kantan
NEF alumni doing their part in Coronavirus efforts: Unmind, UpLearn, Docandu, Floe Oral Care
NEF Fast Track Programme Update
Class of 2020 goes digital
Faced with the choice of cancelling or converting our latest workshop on venture funding and pitch training, we made the decision to move to video conferencing to deliver an online version of the class. Thanks to some great work by the NEF Fast Track team and willing and able trainers (Itxaso Del Palacio delivering a workshop on VC funding & Mariana Lucia Marquez on the mindset of pitching) we made the tech changes in under 3 days, getting some great feedback from the cohort. We plan to deliver the rest of this cohort’s workshops digitally, including our 2020 pitch days. This will throw up more challenges, but we’ll rise to them and ensure that the Class of 2020’s experience matches prior years.
Recruiting the next NEF Fast Track cohort & adapting to a fast-changing world
Our recruitment activity for the next NEF Fast Track cohort – the Class of 2021 – went into overdrive in late-February with our first selection day of this year. Our following 3 selection days took a very different turn – moving from face-to-face assessment into video interviews. Again, some sterling work from the team ensured a seamless delivery. In total we met over 100 candidates, and are now finalising decisions and offers for the new cohort. We’re excited about this new group of entrepreneurial talent, and have high expectations for them – they follow in the footsteps of some incredible alumni.
Our recruitment partners Instant Impact completed their second NEF recruitment campaign, delivering another engaging and successful programme, that highlighted their expertise in finding entrepreneurial talent. We also thank our panel of interviewers, who generously gave their time to assess candidates – over  people helped interview this year, conducting over  interviews. This is a crucial part of our selection process, and your expertise and insight are central to this – we thank all of you. As we complete this phase of the recruitment campaign, there’s no let-up in pace – we’re now focused on finding placement roles in fast-growth businesses where participants can hone their business skills.
If you’re looking to hire top entrepreneurial talent, please get in touch with Laura Campbell (email@example.com), our Head of Marketing and Partnerships, who will be delighted to follow-up.
Incubator and Accelerator Network (IAN)
IAN Conference 2020
Our 3rd annual Incubator and Accelerator conference took place in mid-March and was a huge success despite being one of the last events before the COVID-19 crisis. The conference was generously hosted by network member London South Bank University after precautionary measures enacted across NatWest meant that all events in March were cancelled. It is a testament to the strength of the network and the value members attach to the conference that only two attendees cancelled, both due to travel restrictions imposed by their universities.
The emerging crisis also saw one of our keynotes (Erik Boer) and four of our 15 panellists switch to video conferencing due to travel restrictions. We have built the network with video conferencing at its core, so this was not an issue for us. Lively panels and interactive sessions covered working with investors, building diverse cohorts, and learning from the international sphere.
Attendees described the event as ‘the only place that brings value, opportunity, insight and support together’, ‘a very valuable way to share ideas, resources and practical insights with some awesome people’ and ‘extremely beneficial and friendly environment to sound out issues and challenges and how you can solve them’. You can read more about the network here.
Refugee Entrepreneurship Network (REN)
REN Summit 2020
The annual Global Refugee Entrepreneurship Summit is returning for the third time on 26th & 27th October. While we hope to welcome this tremendous network back to the NatWest conference centre in London, in light of the ongoing pandemic, we are also exploring options of hosting a virtual summit.
Invitations will be issued in Spring. Watch this space!
Refugee Entrepreneurship Programme Survey
At the end of February, we launched our Refugee Entrepreneurship Programme survey report. Funded by the Paris-based Fund for Action and Innovation by Refugee Entrepreneurs (FAIRE), the Centre’s global survey analysed 39 organisations across 19 countries and captures the state of refugee entrepreneurship support.
Since 1994, 18,923 refugees have been supported by the entrepreneurship programmes surveyed, leading to the creation of 18,127 paid jobs. 79% of refugees surveyed agreed that the programmes had equipped them with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to start their business.
The report provides insights into various aspects of each organisation’s day to day activities as well as funding model and revealed that 58% of organisations’ income derives from grants and donations.
The report calls for greater collaboration between organisations as well as commitment from the private and the public sector to fund these crucial programmes, which have already allowed a significant number of refugees to rebuild their livelihoods.
Download the report here.
Refugee Entrepreneurship Network activity
The Refugee Entrepreneurship Network connects 45 delivery organisations and 27 supporting organisations across 30 countries through regular video conference workshops and Slack. You can learn more about the network and apply to join here.
Partner company spotlight: Kantan
NEF Fast Track praises its fantastic partner companies
NEF Fast Track is pleased to partner with Kantan. Kantan is building an operating system for trade professionals. The platform helps gas engineers, electricians and plumbers source new leads, manage their customer relationships and manage their business.
Kantan founder, Fouzan Ali, hired Maxxwell Firth (Class of 2020) as operations lead in August 2019. When we asked Fouzan how things are going, he commented, “Maxxwell adds so much to Kantan. Both in his positive, proactive attitude, actioner-mentality and his addition to the company culture. He has been a joy to work with and we wish him well with his entrepreneurial ambitions.” In January, Maxxwell moved into the tech team to work as a software engineer, “it’s been great to utilise my operational experience at Kantan, whilst also taking part in NEF Fast Track. Kantan has been a great environment for me and has supported my learning and development by helping me to transition into a technical role and help ship our app to 3000+ tradespeople. I’m building on this experience by working on Founder Tribe, my NEF venture, where I’m currently focusing my time on building a tech platform for accelerators and incubators”.
NEF Fast Track alumni update
NEF alumni doing their part in Coronavirus efforts
We are really proud of all our alumni businesses doing their part in these challenging times to help people stay physically and mentally well, stop the spread of disease and helping to meet the challenges of home-schooling.
It was great to see Ry Morgan’s (Class of 2013) business Unmind recently partnering with the NHS to offer all NHS staff free access to their mental health platform (with over 10,000 NHS staff signing up in the last few days), helping to do their part to support the NHS over the Coronavirus pandemic. Unmind continues to support mental health wellbeing throughout the stress and uncertainty of this pandemic and their fantastic work should be wholeheartedly advocated.
Another fantastic alumni company helping to stop the spread of disease is Will Welton (Class of 2017) and co-founder Javier Navarro, whose mission-led business, Floe Oral Care, is addressing the issue of dental hygiene and habits on your health and the environment. This is vital at this time of Coronavirus where hygiene and social responsibility in stopping disease are of such high importance. Their subscription-based approach ensures that key products are replenished at the interval recommended by dentists, whilst guaranteeing that toothbrushes are recycled at specialist plants rather than ending up in the oceans (toothbrushes can’t go in the recycling bin, here’s why.)
Floe closed a seed round in 2019 and will be launching the UK in June, to help us stay more hygienic and stop COVID-19 spread. Will said:
“I joined the NEF Fast Track with the ambition of turning an active interest in entrepreneurship and innovation into tangible growth. It has, without doubt, provided some of the critical infrastructure needed to turn a concept into reality. There is no substitute for the energy, breadth of expertise, and purpose that a like-minded community of business owners brings together, and NEF is host to this ever-growing network.”
Javier emphasizes that given current circumstances and the increased need for good personal hygiene, it may be a good time to get rid of bad habits such as placing multiple toothbrushes in the same pot, not washing the bristles thoroughly after use, and storing it in a closed container or cap. He says “it may seem trivial, but there are two important reasons why a toothbrush should be replaced at least every three months: firstly, as a result of mechanical wear, the bristles start to bend, leading to insufficient removal of dental plaque over time. The second reason is the rapid accumulation of bacteria, which tend to grow much faster in moist environments.” For more information pre-launch visit their website and follow on Instagram.
Up Learn founded by Guy Riese (NEF Class of 2016), who has hired another NEF alumnus – Chris Pavlou (NEF Class of 2016) as Head of Marketing, is doing its bit to help keep children in social isolation educated with their fantastic online platform Up Learn. Up Learn, which helps students go up an exam grade or gives them their money back is now proud to be giving access to Up Learn free of charge to children of NHS staff as a “small token of gratitude for the work that the NHS has done.” They continue to flourish with revenue up by 150% and over one hundred and fifty thousand signups this year. This innovative online education platform is building courses that help 100% of users, regardless of their background or starting point, achieve A* results, using technology and use AI and neuroscience to personalise this experience to each individual at scale. Up Learn continues to expand its dedicated team, with the team size increasing year on year to nearly fifty. Their mission is to solve education and at times like this, with schools closed and society normals being redefined, that businesses like this lead the charge of education change.
Petros Pandis, (NEF Class of 2015) and founder of the health platform Docandu, also featured in the news recently for his role in helping the COVID-19 crisis. The Athens Medical Association and the region of Attica in Greece has launched a Docandu-powered component on their web sites for their users to assess their risk of having contracted coronavirus via a series of simple questions about their potential symptoms, medical history and recent movement and contacts. This contributes to the more efficient screening of citizens that feel they might have contracted the virus, reduces the congestion for the Greek NHS of citizens seeking medical advice and offers peace of mind. The Docandu COVID-19 checker has been designed based on scientific analysis and combination of research from publications in the world’s leading journals and guidelines by CDC, WHO, EODY and is entirely free to the public. Well done to Petros and the Docandu team!
We know that coronavirus has created uncertainty and difficult times for many of our alumni businesses. From turmoil comes opportunity as all the entrepreneurially minded individuals in our community know, and we at CFE and NEF hope you can survive and thrive the pandemic and come out stronger than you were before. Whilst many alumni businesses may be on hiring freezes at the moment, if you are still hiring and want to hire a NEF class of 2021 (placements begin in April-September time), please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and she will match you with one of our recently recruited Class of 2021.
To all our NEF Fast Track alumni and everyone else in the CFE community, we say keep going and stay safe and healthy in these challenging times. We wish you all well in these most difficult of times.
As always, our work relies on the generosity of our donors and supporters. We are especially grateful to our long-term donors who continue to support the Centre for Entrepreneurs during this difficult period.
The CFE Team