Startups to watch

Startup To Watch: Antler

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Chris Apostolou

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Here at Work In Startups, we’re on a mission to champion the best and most exciting startups in the UK. To support this, we’re starting a new blog series highlighting some of the most innovative and fast-growing startups around. Follow us as we interview startup founders and employees across the country and find out more about their goals and ambitions, what the future holds and (for all you startup jobseekers out there looking for the inside scoop) what they look for in a prospective employee.

This week, we’re interviewing Antoine Poirson, a Partner at Antler – a startup generator and early-stage VC that enables the world’s most exceptional people to build global businesses from the ground up. Antler is expanding fast across the globe, building a startup community and on the hunt for prospective founders!

Hi Antoine! What would you say Antler’s mission is? 

To enable highly talented individuals to get started on the entrepreneurial route or their next startup journey. We believe that there are three barriers to successful entrepreneurship:  (1) building the right founding team, (2) figuring out the right idea and validating it and (3) accessing capital. We break these barriers to entrepreneurship and as a result help entrepreneurs succeed and build more solid businesses.

We provide our prospective founders with a pretty structured 6 month startup generator program. In the first 10 weeks, founders will need to be on location in our offices as this is when teams are formed and ideas and businesses are created and built. By carefully selecting a diverse group of people for our programs, we help budding entrepreneurs find the right co-founder with complementary skills and different experiences to their own. We then help them mature their ideas to the point that they become investable. Finally, we provide the capital and invest early on. Alongside our hands on support and strong network, this capital helps founders build an MVP, develop their product/service offering, and get their company to a Seed stage. Beyond this, we help them raise more capital from external investors.

You guys have grown a lot over the past few years! What’s next for Antler in the UK and globally?

We’ve officially set up and launched the first cohort of budding co-founders and we’re recruiting for the next London cohort, which is starting in February 2020. Every 6 months we look for a new cohort of 80 to 100 exceptional people and around 15-20 startups are born from this. 

We also plan to expand our reach, geographically, outside of the capital. London has been our primary UK focus so far for our recruitment activities, but we want to explore other regions such as Manchester, Leeds, Bristol and Edinburgh. Not only is there huge potential there, but we want to build a stronger network within the UK startup community. This is very important to us. 

We’re also going to focus on developing our current investments. We have a lot of prominent angels and top VCs in our network, which is really helpful for the entrepreneurs joining the Antler community. Expect to see our startups growing fast and further developing their business proposition. 

Outside of the UK meanwhile, Antler is expanding! We’re currently live in 8 locations across the globe and will be launching in 5 more in 2020 so people can apply to join in other regions too (Singapore, New York, Amsterdam, Oslo, Stockholm, Sydney, Nairobi). We are building a global Antler community where founders can leverage a worldwide network of investors and advisers.

You’re looking for aspiring entrepreneurs to join your startup generator programme, why should they apply?

They should apply if they are looking to build a high potential startup in the near future with a strong co-founding team. If they want to work with the most driven, successful and ambitious individuals as co-founders and work on something that has the potential to scale globally, then our startup generator program is for them! The support, funding and global network our founders receive when they join the Antler community should be a core motivation for prospective applicants.

What do you look for in prospective founders?

We like to work with aspiring entrepreneurs that have experience: on average our founders have 8-10 years working experience. We also look for proof: proof of greatness, proof of perseverance and proof of drive. We want people who are self-starters and don’t need to be pushed to deliver something. They should always be on their toes and constantly think of ways to do things better, bigger and faster. 

We also look for people with a “spike”. In other words, something that they’re exceptionally good at. This could be a technical skill, deep sector knowledge, or even a soft skill. It’s something that puts them in the top 2% of the talent pool and really makes them special.

We look for tech profiles (full-stack developers, data scientists etc.) as well as business profiles (industry experts, serial entrepreneurs, operations or marketing experts etc.). 

You’ve worked internationally in startups. Do you have any advice for those thinking about taking the startup leap but currently unsure about leaving the corporate world?

Just get started, it’s as simple as that. If you are currently in a job and thinking about starting a business, it seems very risky and bold. What I have observed is that you face a bit of a paralysis. You constantly think that if you get started in 6 months rather than today, you’ll have more savings and be more prepared. However, it actually doesn’t bring much value to wait. The earlier you start the more you will achieve in the future and the more likely it is that you will reach your goals. So I would encourage everyone to get started as soon as possible. 

Secondly, a lot of people think that they don’t have the right idea, but the idea is almost immaterial if they find the right team. I cannot stress enough how important your founding partners are to your success. Ideas are fairly common, but what isn’t normal is when a team is able to execute on that idea. This is what separates the successful startups from the ones that fail.

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Ready to join the hunting game?