Beyond networking: what UK immigrant founders want from VC office hours

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

    Soft landing introductions can be crucial, but the real value lies in collecting substantive feedback from experienced investors.

    It’s about what your network can teach you and help you gain (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 the first evidence that the trend of VCs offering office hours can deliver real value, especially for immigrant founders entering the UK ecosystem.

    In the second edition, which ran in March 2023, we wanted to continue making useful introductions, but we also wanted to understand more systematically what, precisely, was so helpful about business hours.

    To this end, we developed our sign-up and post-meeting feedback forms to better identify two things: (1) pre-meeting, what founders say they would most like to do with investors after office hours and (2) post-meeting meeting, what do they say they value most? Put another way, do founders end up valuing the aspects of the meeting as they believe they will?

    First, who are the founders who participated in the second round? The 125 applicants for the consultation hour from February 2023 came from 39 countries across six continents and different countries in terms of language, economic development and other factors.

    Countries of origin include places as diverse as Australia and Azerbaijan, as well as Ghana and Germany. The countries with the most 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 how varied the primary sector mix was:

    VC office hours founder topic preferences

    Image Credits: Blue Lake VC

    In terms of gender, applicants were predominantly male: 96 applicants identified as male, 28 as female, and one as non-binary.

    Back to our questions about what these diverse founders are and what they say they want from office hours. Forty-five participants completed both the application form and the after-hours feedback form; we analyzed the responses for this subgroup to compare what they said they wanted to collect beforehand with what they treated and valued afterwards.

    On 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 only 13%. Sales and Marketing, Mentorship and Team all received a small number of votes.

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