Beyond networking: What immigrant founders in the UK want from VC office hours
After facilitating more than 300 office hours for immigrant entrepreneurs entering the UK market, what have we learned about who these founders are and the challenges they face?
Introductions for a soft landing can be crucial, but the real value lies in gleaning substantive feedback from experienced investors.
It’s about what your network can teach you and help you obtain (e.g., an opportunity to pitch), not just the number of connections you have.
We ran the first version of the Blue Lake International Office Hours in 2022, which showed initial evidence that the trend of VCs offering office hours can deliver real value, especially to immigrant founders entering the UK ecosystem.
In the second edition, which ran in March 2023, we wanted to continue making helpful introductions, but we also wanted to more systematically understand just what, exactly, was so useful about office hours.
With this aim, we developed our application and post-meeting feedback forms to better identify two things: (1) ahead of the meeting, what do founders say they most want to get out of the office hours with investors and (2) after the meeting, what do they say they appreciate most? Said differently: do founders ultimately value the aspects of the meeting as they think they will?
First, who are the founders who participated in the second round? The 125 applicants to office hours from February 2023 came from 39 countries across six continents and varied countries in terms of language, economic development and other factors.
Countries of origin included places as diverse as Australia and Azerbaijan,as well as Ghana and Germany. The countries with the greatest numbers of applicants were Ukraine (33), India (11), and Turkey (10). There was also a mix of 12 different primary sectors identified by applicants. “other” was the largest single category (22), followed by fintech (18) marketplace (17), cleantech (15) and deep tech (14).
Here’s an illustration of just how varied the primary sector mix was:
Gender-wise, applicants were predominantly male, with 96 applicants identifying as male, 28 as female, and one as non-binary.
Back to our questions about what these diverse founders and what they say they want from office hours. Forty-five participants completed both the applications and post-office hours feedback form; we analyzed the answers for this subset to compare what they said they wanted to glean beforehand with what they covered and valued afterwards.
In the application form, when asked about the aspects they would find most valuable, 60% answered “introductions/network.” Fundraising strategy received the second highest number of responses, with just 13%. Sales and marketing, mentorship, and team all received a small number of votes.