Create Jobs' Beth Kahn lets us know what happened in final week of Future Startup Now Founders

It’s hard to believe August is here and our first round of Future Startup Now – Founders is over. It’s been a whirlwind, running our first-ever online programme, going from a Zoom novice to spending all my waking hours on it, and most importantly getting to know all the brilliant entrepreneurs in the cohort and seeing them go from strength to strength. I’m going to miss our daily check-ins, but I know that this isn’t the last we’ll hear from this group – they will all be running leading companies (and, hopefully, the country) before too long.

The week was all about the pitches, but we did manage to squeeze in a couple of final sessions before they kicked off. Rodney Appiah joined us to talk about Cornerstone Partners, an angel investment network focused on investing in businesses owned and run by black and diverse founders. Rodney’s insights and experience of the VC world were particularly relevant in this final week, and the group had plenty of questions for him about the world of investing.

We also had a session from Ajay Pabial (Managing Director , Art Clubbers CIC) about Finding Your Funding. Although we wish we could fund every business on the cohort, sadly we only had ten grants to award, so Ajay’s advice on how to find and apply for grants and other funding streams was invaluable as the group start to think about what’s next for them and their businesses.

For the pitches, we split the group in half, and hosted one evening focused on the entrepreneurs working in health, education and social impact, and one focused on the media, ecommerce, big data and fintech businesses.

There had been some anxiety among the Founders about how to possibly fit everything into 4 minutes, but after weeks of refining and rehearsing, we ended up with a series of ultra-slick, polished and impactful pitches that were a masterclass in effective communication.

We were privileged to be joined by a group of amazing judges made up of experts in their field and pioneers who have led the way in diversifying the VC landscape and tech sector.

On the first pitch night, our panel was:

  • Natalie Campbell, award winning social entrepreneur and CEO of Belu Water
  • Ed Biden, Director of Product at Future Learn
  • Michael Berhane, CEO at People of Color in Tech and co-host of #Techish podcast
  • Tom Barltrop, Head of UK & Ireland at online medical platform Zava
  • Dama Sathianathan, partner at Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe's leading early-stage tech for good VC.

On the second evening, our panel was:

  • Andy Davis, Co-founder 10x10 Fund;
  • Saalim Chowdhury, Serial Founder/Venture Capitalist
  • Alex Brunicki, Founding Team, Backed VC
  • Ibrahim Kamara, Co-Founder, GUAP
  • Layla Hatia, Head of Consumer Influence, The Very Group.

We are very grateful for the thoughtful, constructive and specific feedback the judges shared with the group, which will be invaluable for their next steps.

After watching all the pitches and reviewing the judges’ feedback, we had the unenviable job of choosing ten Founders to win a grant of £5k to develop their businesses further. After lengthy deliberations we selected these ten outstanding entrepreneurs to receive the funding:

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Adama Sesay - Seasoned With Salt is a food service business that hosts cooking masterclasses and provides food subscription boxes for students and young professionals.

Ayesha Fatima - Purrygood is your one-stop-shop for a physical copy of a personalised meme.

Deborah Igunma - Clef is on a mission to empower music connoisseurs to monetise their music knowledge.

Elizabeth Blege - EFITTER is a fashion-tech company aiming to solve e-commerce's biggest problems, starting with the issue of sizing.

Jessica Bukenya - Baked Kurls is the world's first CBD-infused, natural haircare brand dedicated to kinky and curly hair textures.

Keanna Williams - Nullus is a social technology company built upon two pillars - to prevent sexual violence and support victims of sexual violence.

Louise Rymell - Brollie is a service for choosing, booking, and budgeting mental health appointments on your mobile. Match.com + Tinder + Treatwell + Beautystack for mental health = Brollie

Samuel Ola - Medified is the world’s first drug authentication and management app, building a world without counterfeit medicine and transforming the way people manage their medication.

Sara Berkai - Ambesa enables children to build the world they want to live in, through our STEM toy kits and workshops.

Tianna Johnson - Black Girls Camping Trip provides tailored outdoor retreats for Black womxn and non-binary people in the UK.

These inventive and varied business ideas demonstrate the levels of creativity, drive, and innovation within the group. I’m really proud of our successful Founders, and of every participant who took part in the programme. It was great to get feedback from those that didn’t get the funding, that they still got everything they wanted from the experience, as they had learned and developed so much over the last five weeks. That was our vision for the programme, so I’m glad to hear it worked!

On the final day of the programme the group shared what they appreciated about each other, and it was lovely to hear more about the friendships, connections, and collaborations formed between the Founders throughout the programme, which I’m sure will only develop and grow from here. I’m excited to see what the future holds for this cohort, and I know that this is just the beginning for this incredibly talented and ambitious group.