How we think about diversity and inclusion at Entrepreneur First

Alice Bentinck
5 min readNov 9, 2018


What does diversity and inclusion mean for Entrepreneur First?

At Entrepreneur First this means that we aim to create an environment where individuals of any race, sexual orientation, gender, background, or religion feel welcome and set up to succeed. This is true for both the EF team and the cohort.

Why is it important?

There are a number of stats that indicate more diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams.

Alongside the stats, from a principles perspective, Matt and I strongly believe in the following:

  • Diversity of thought leads to more innovative and creative problem solving
  • As we are producing a significant percentage of the world’s founders, we have a responsibility to build a diverse cohort
  • A diverse EF team is vital if we want to build a diverse cohort
  • Diversity creates a more stimulating and rewarding place to work bringing together different points of view, opinions and life experiences

What are we doing to improve diversity and inclusion at EF?

Diverse recruitment and promotion within the EF team

Who you hire really matters and how you hire has a big influence on which final candidate gets selected.

At EF we commit to:

  • All job descriptions using a bias decoder, such as this, to examine how language affects who applies to the role.
  • Diverse shortlists when hiring. Research shows the odds of hiring a minority candidate were 193.72 times greater if there were at least two minority candidates in the finalist pool.
  • Advertising for all roles, instead of relying on finding people within our network. This doesn’t mean we don’t recruit from our network, this is still a valuable talent pool, but it means that we have fair and open applications for all positions. We support this by sourcing diverse candidates who are underrepresented in the applicant pool.
  • Making the majority of internal positions open for application and conducting an internal interview process.

Diverse recruitment of the EF cohort

With 800 people joining EF each year, we are having a huge impact on the number of founders that are created each year. We have a responsibility to ensure that pool of individuals is as diverse as possible.

Our aim is to have a cohort that reflects the population of the cities where we are based i.e., reflecting the gender, race, ethnicity profile. We still have a lot of work to do here, particularly around gender. Here are some of the things we are doing to work on this:

  • Application targets. We use active sourcing for underrepresented groups to ensure our application pool is as balanced as possible
  • Targeted digital marketing with a range of messages to appeal to different audiences and to reflect our commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Offline events for target groups. We have breakfasts, speaker series and community events to bring target audiences to the EF offices around the world.

There is lots of work to do, but we are seeing progress - half of the teams that pitched at our European 10 Demo Day had at least one founder from an underrepresented group.

The stipend

Those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are vastly underrepresented within the founder community. There are many barriers to this group starting their own companies, but one of the most significant is access to funding to start working on an idea. EF pioneered a new form of venture capital to enable people of different backgrounds to have the time and space to experiment. We pay every individual at EF a stipend for 3 months to cover their basic living costs. We’re delighted to see other players in this space copy this model, making entrepreneurship accessible to a whole new group of people.

Diversity and inclusion working group

We have an internal working group that meets regularly to ensure we are continuing to make progress improving our D&I, including metrics tracking. This also includes providing access to diversity and inclusion training to the EF team.

Cohort Code of Conduct

Our cohorts are a blend of many different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs. Each cohort member signs up to a Code of Conduct when they join the cohort and we have a number of reporting mechanisms for incidents that go against that code. You can read our Code of Conduct here.

Resource Groups at EF

A Resource Group assembles a community around a common affinity or element of one’s identity. For instance many tech companies have groups to support age diversity, people of colour, people identifying as LGBT, women and other gender identities, people with disabilities, parents etc. Anyone within the EF team or cohort can set up a Resource Group with budget support from EF to cover events and meetups. For example, two members of LD10 set up a Jews in Tech community in London. They brought together members of the Jewish community who did and did not work in tech for networking over beer and bagels.

Giving back to our local community

At our London office we work with Wandsworth Children’s Services to host work experience students from local schools who wouldn’t typically get access to startups or venture capital.

Code First: Girls

Diversity and inclusion is part of Entrepreneur First’s founding DNA.

In the first year of setting up EF we were shocked at the lack of gender diversity in our first cohort. We were targeting technical individuals and less than 10% of of the applicant pool in our first year were women. To address this problem, we set up Code First: Girls.

Code First: Girls offers free, part-time, eight week courses in universities and cities across the UK.

Code First: Girls in action

We ran and grew this organisation for two years, getting it independently funded and scaling it to universities across the UK. It was so successful we span it out of EF as its own not-for-profit, now run by Amali de Alwis.

It’s set to teach 20,000 young women to code by 2020. To put this into context, only 7,600 women start a CS degree each year in the UK. An incredible feat and a significant contribution to changing career choices of a vastly underrepresented group in tech. Matt and I remain on Code First: Girl’s board and are huge fans of what the organisation is achieving.

Starting Code First: Girls was just the beginning — we continue to be committed to improving diversity and creating an inclusive culture within both the EF team and the cohorts that we work with.

What next?

We know that there’s lot of work to do on this at EF and that there always will be. We hope that by talking about this publicly it will help us, and others, to do better.

The whole EF team are pushing hard to make our community be the kind of place that makes anyone feel welcome, we hope that you will support us in this endeavour.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Please give us feedback on this, either through email or global slack :)

Alice & Matt

EF Co-founders

How can you learn more about diversity and inclusion?



Alice Bentinck

Co-founder of EF (@join_ef) and Code First: Girls. We pioneered a new model of talent investing where we support world class technologists to build startups.