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New-wave startup accelerator Antler expands in London with new hires

Edmund Heaphy
·Finance and news reporter
Antler CEO and founder Magnus Grimeland. Photo: Antler
Antler CEO and founder Magnus Grimeland. Photo: Antler

Antler, a global startup accelerator programme that aims to turn “exceptional individuals into great founders”, has expanded its presence in London with a spate of new hires, including Monzo co-founder Gary Dolman.

The accelerator, part of the early stage venture capital firm founded by Norwegian entrepreneur Magnus Grimeland, quietly opened up shop in London earlier in 2019, when a cohort of more than 70 people began Antler’s six-month programme in the city.

Dolman, who left Monzo in February after serving as chief financial officer for more than four years, joined Antler last month as a venture partner.

Former Goldman Sachs partner Edward Knight also recently joined Antler, as did former VMWare executive Andy Hunt.

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Antler is part of a new wave of startup accelerators that focus on turning talented people into founders, rather than expecting a group of entrepreneurs to arrive with a pre-baked idea.

The accelerator now operates in eight locations across five continents — a global reach that is virtually unparalleled in this sphere.

These new-wave accelerators run counter to the perceived Silicon Valley wisdom, which would have you believe that you are either born a founder or you are not.

"It's not so much a prevailing logic, but a prevailing myth,” Magnus Grimeland told Yahoo Finance UK.

“If you ask the general public, there's sometimes a perception that an entrepreneur will fall out of bed one day and get extremely passionate about a specific area and a specific idea and sell their house and pursue that idea relentlessly — which is typically not how it happens.”

Grimeland has been there and done that: he co-founded Zalora, an Asos-like online clothing giant in Asia, and raised more than $200m along the way.

He therefore knows a thing or two about what it takes to build a company from scratch.

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“You go through an iterative process where you test various things and, as you get closer and closer to something that you feel is solving a real problem, you get more and more passionate about it, and you start building it.”

“That's the history behind Microsoft, Facebook, Google – almost all big companies,” he said.

The iterative process, to Grimeland, is something that encapsulates what it is that Antler allows founders to do.

Noting that the accelerator’s programme was not “prescriptive”, he said it was really just about helping talented people to get to know each other in the hopes that they will form teams and come up with an idea that could change the world.

Antler’s vast global network of mentors, investors, and founders also does not hurt.

Selected founders get a stipend of £2,500 per month during the first two months of the programme — another new-wave element that shocks most venture capital firms, who do not tend to give away money without getting something tangible in return.

Companies formed on the programme also then have a shot at £120,000 in investment from Antler, in return for giving away 10% of their companies.

“We can't turn someone who wouldn't be a great founder into a great founder,” Grimeland said, “but what we can do is enable great founders to do things much faster.”

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