Beyond networking: what immigrant founders in the UK expect from VC office hours

After facilitating more Over 300 office hours for immigrant entrepreneurs entering the UK market, what have we learned about who these founders are and the challenges they face?

IPOs for a soft landing can be crucial, but the real value lies in garnering substantial feedback from experienced investors.

It’s about what your network can teach you and help you get (eg an opportunity to pitch), not just how many connections you have.

We ran the first version of the Blue Lake International Office Hours in 2022, which showed early 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 took place in March 2023, we wanted to continue to make useful introductions, but we also wanted to understand more systematically what, Exactly, was so helpful on office hours.

To that end, we’ve developed our post-meeting application and feedback forms to better identify two things: (1) before the meeting, what do the founders say they most want to achieve outside of office hours with investors and (2) after the meeting, what do they say they like the most? In other words: do the founders finally value the aspects of the meeting as they think they do?

First, who are the founders who participated in the second round? The 125 candidates for office hours as of February 2023 came from 39 countries on six continents and varied in terms of language, economic development and other factors.

The countries of origin included places as diverse as Australia and Azerbaijan, as well as Ghana and Germany. The countries with the highest number of applicants were Ukraine (33), India (11) and Turkey (10). There was also a mix of 12 different primary sectors identified by the candidates. “Other” was the largest category (22), followed by the fintech market (18), cleantech (15) and deeptech (14).

Here is an illustration of the diversity of the composition of the primary sector:

Picture credits: blue lake resume

Regarding gender, the applicants were predominantly male, with 96 applicants identifying as male, 28 as female, and one as non-binary.

Let’s get back to our questions about what these various founders and what they say they expect from office hours. Forty-five participants completed both the request form and the post office hours feedback form; we analyzed the responses for this subset to compare what they said they wanted to glean beforehand with what they covered and rated afterwards.

In the application form, when asked which aspects they would find most useful, 60% answered “presentations/networking”. The fundraising strategy received the second highest number of responses, with just 13%. Sales and Marketing, Mentoring and Team all received a small number of votes.


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