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Beyond Networking: What UK Immigrant Founders Want From VC Office Hours

Juanita Gonzalez-Uribe is co-director of Financial Markets Group and is an associate professor of finance at the London School of Economics.

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For immigrant founders in the UK, office hours with VCs are rocket fuel

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Lyubov Guk is a founding partner of Blue Lake VC. Support early stage international founders working in the UK

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For immigrant founders in the UK, office hours with VCs are rocket fuel

Robyn Klingler-Vidra is Associate Dean of Global Engagement and an Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship and Sustainability at King’s Business School.

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For immigrant founders in the UK, office hours with VCs are rocket fuel

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

Presentations for a soft landing can be crucial, but the real value lies in gathering substantial feedback from savvy investors.

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

We ran the first release of Blue Lake International Office Hours in 2022, which showed early evidence that the trend of VCs offering office hours can offer real value, particularly to immigrant founders entering in the UK ecosystem.

In the second edition, which took place in March 2023, we wanted to continue making useful introductions, but we also wanted to understand more systematically what, Exactly, it was so helpful for office hours.

With this in mind, we developed our post-meeting feedback and application forms to better identify two things: (1) before the meeting, what the founders say they want out of business hours with investors, and (2) after the meeting, what do they say they appreciate the most? Put differently: Do founders ultimately evaluate aspects of the meeting as they think they will?

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

Source countries 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 applicants. “Other” was the largest single category (22), followed by fintech (18), marketplace (17), clean tech (15), and deep tech (14).

Here is an example of how diverse the primary sector mix was:

Preferences on the topic of the founder of VC office hours

Image credits: Blue Lake VC

In regards to gender, applicants were predominantly male, with 96 applicants identified as male, 28 as female, and one as non-binary.

Let’s get back to our questions about what these different founders and what they say they want out of office hours. Forty-five participants completed both the application and the Post Office Hours feedback form; we analyzed responses for this subset to compare what they said they wanted to collect upfront with what they covered and evaluated later.

In the application form, when asked about the aspects they considered most valuable, 60% answered “introductions/network”. The fundraising strategy received the second most responses, with only 13%. Sales and Marketing, Mentoring, and Teams all received a limited number of votes.