The Kick-Ass STEM Investor: 'A tech career is where you can make a real impact'

Trailblazing STEM investor Alice Bentinck

Join Marie Claire and Entrepreneur First on Friday 12th Feb at 1pm for a special STEM panel in light of National Women and Girls in Science day. Editor in Chief of Marie Claire, Andrea Thompson, and Co-founder of Entrepreneur First, Alice Bentick, speak to a host of successful female founders who are making waves across their industries.


As Marie Claire launches Women in Tech week, we catch up with Alice Bentinck, the trailblazing STEM investor and co-founder of Entrepreneur First and Code First Girls to talk life-changing opportunities in STEM for women

As a STEM investor and co-founder and General Partner at talent investors Entrepreneur First, Alice Bentinck helps ambitious people find their co-founders and build tech startups from scratch.

She started the company with friend Matt Clifford in 2011, and they currently receive more than 1,500 applications a year. In its first four years, Entrepreneur First - backed by Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman - helped 2,000 plus people create more than 200 companies, worth a combined $2 billion.

Following the success of Entrepreneur First and noticing most individuals applying to Entrepreneur First were male, Bentinck and Clifford created Code First Girls, a not-for-profit that has taught more than 20,000 women to code for free. Code First Girls aims to provide skills, space and inspiration to become tech developers for free.

Here Bentinck - who was awarded an MBE for services to business in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours - discusses why opportunities for women in STEM is the way forward.

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Becoming a STEM investor

What inspired you to carve a career in STEM?

"I never thought I'd work in STEM as that's not my background originally [prior to setting up her own companies, Alice worked at management consultancy firm McKinsey & Co]. After teaching myself to code, I founded a company with Matt called Entrepreneur First, supporting technical talent for those who want to build their own tech startup. We mainly take talented individuals before they have a team or an idea, and spend six months getting them to the point where they can take on serious seed funding."

"We’ve built 40 companies over the last three years. As I embarked on this career, it became increasingly obvious this was where exciting, world-changing opportunities were to be found. For anyone who wants to have impact, at scale, a career in STEM is the obvious choice."

Tell us more about the success of Code First Girls?

"Over the last seven years, we have been working hard to address the desperate need for more diversity in tech. As a STEM investor, at Code First Girls, we've taught more than 20,000 women to code for free at universities across the UK and through our online school. Half of those women are from BAME backgrounds. We are proud of what we've achieved but we're also aware how much more work there is to do."

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So what needs to change in order for more women to have successful tech careers?

"We are seeing more and more young women realise a career in tech is the right path for them. One of the things I love about Code First Girls is that it provides women with a network when they join the tech industry. This is so important to help them realise there are lots of other amazing women in tech alongside giving them access to word-of-mouth opportunities.

"We were also worried applications to our Entrepreneur First cohorts would drop during the pandemic, but interestingly applications have risen by 8%, and from women they’ve risen by 37%, which is fantastic. We’re seeing budding entrepreneurs have a real drive and risk appetite and are adaptable enough to capture the pandemic as an opportunity. The best entrepreneurs will earn their way out of the pandemic. They'll work out how to adapt their ideas to be able to make the most of the opportunity."

What future plans or initiatives are exciting you this year?

"I’m excited to be able to help some of the world’s most ambitious people build the most important companies with the help of Entrepreneur First. As a company, we back founders with time, money, resources and a co-founder to build world-changing companies from the ground up. I can’t wait to see what brilliant new ideas 2021 brings. Investors are now more keen than ever to back tech companies that will innovate and enhance the ways we live. Tech is playing a huge role in how the world adapts to the pandemic and there's more demand than ever for tech in the ‘new normal’ we now live in. Investors are on the lookout for world-changing technology, so now is a great time for budding tech entrepreneurs to thrive."

What personal achievements make you proud?

"I'm really proud of the work Code First Girls has done. Tech is such an exciting, fast-growing sector and while the current climate is uncertain for many, I'm confident it will only continue to grow and provide an exciting and challenging career path. I'm so delighted to see so many more women join the industry after being exposed to it through Code First Girls."

Maria Coole

Maria Coole is a contributing editor on Marie Claire.

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