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Talk: How corporates & startups really work together

We’re featuring Ellen Donnelly’s talk, Head of Entrepreneurial Investment at tech-accelerator, The Bakery. She’s the person responsible for finding and investing in entrepreneurial people to start new tech companies from scratch for their Start Programme.

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I'm George, I'm on the bootcamp. I wanted to build up my skill set so I decided to do the bootcamp I’m 2 weeks in and really enjoying it. I'm hosting this talk with Ellen, here goes!


Could you give us a quick overview of your career path? 


I studied History, I love thinking, reading & writing but it was difficult to apply professionally the world of recruitment found me I started in executive search. My role was researching white papers for MD’s, it was a rude awakening! 

I loved helping people with their careers, we were hiring for big corporates (Tesco, NewsCorp, going through digital transformation. I was jealous of the people I was interviewing!)

It was harder than I thought. I didn’t have the skillset. I wasn’t a product, marketing or sales person. I’ve read up on where your passion, purpose & mission intersect. I tried being bolshy!

I try not to say lucky because it’s used to disqualify the hard work they’ve put in. I grafted!

I started in client services to understand the goals we launched a new program in January called the ‘Start Program’.

I’m focusing on finding people to make them entrepreneurs.


What really is The Bakery? Without the jargon…


Founders are keeping their heads down working on the product and might not be solving anything.

The Bakery is always focused on the corporate, understanding problems before solutions.

The Start program enables startups to help big corporates solve problems. Corporate solutions can be slow and not led by the best talent. Startups are more agile.


How do you ‘accelerate’ startups?


We help startups scale by unlocking corporate technologies & proprietary tools.

For example, a pharma company or manufacturer hire people to do manual tasks that robotics can do.

There are a few reasons a corporate would come to us…sometimes just PR, mostly problems they need solving we also find opportunities for them. 


Are you seeking out companies & technologies or are you already aware of what you want?


We use learnings from existing clients to understand future problems, we’re pretty sector agnostic, we’re open minded!

We also give startups network contests, we’re also building a fund to invest in companies.


How are you building your fund?


We’re based in Dalston and looking to grow, but our network is global (5,000+), the mentoring I’ve received is to give freely! 


What do you look for in the people you’re searching for? 


The people we look for have an obsessive quality, a determination, creativity, how do they look at problems or what do they think about the world. They‘re normally super smart, young or old, this isn’t the first time they’ve thought about starting a company.

Get in touch via my LinkedIn or thebakery.com/start. People with technical skills are preferable but non-technical too though! 


Let’s talk about the program. Can people come to you with issues they want to solve? or do you give them a framework?


We don’t solve their problems, we help the world of tech is changing so fast so there’s no one-size-fits-all.

We start with the corporate, and what shift current employees have noticed within the cohort, the entrepreneurs use a new mindset, the first 3 months of investment is open to corporate, then the further 3 months is an accelerator, working with the corporate.

At 6 months we have a demo day inviting external investors 


Is there an exit for the corporate?


Exits can be feasible, it varies. Corporates can turn out to be clients. 


Le Wagon exists to up-skill people, what skills are you looking for? 


If you’re a generalist, find a focus / angle if you’re non-technical, give yourself the role and why you’re the perfect fit. Evidence this!

I can’t help you if you don’t know what you want. Have your superpower. It’s hard nowadays to remain relevant, do as many technical courses the better.

You need to have an understanding of tech. Your founder won’t listen if you’re knowledge is all strategy, no product.


What tips would you give to people wanting to work in a tech startup? 


Know yourself, and your sweet spot.

LinkedIn, Twitter, GitHub. Make sure it’s up to date. 


Can you explain the qualities that successful entrepreneurs have? 


Hustle, relentless determination, adaptability is key. Be flexible, scientific and open-minded.


What are the common problems that your being approached with? 


Problems we’re solving aren’t that sexy, the solutions are though!

The cool things I’ve worked on are autonomous shipping, marketing tech etc.


What problems do you predict for the future? 


Automation, and learning what can or can’t be automated.What happens when machines take over our jobs? That’s the opportunity.


Do you seen influx of people that are more entrepreneurial than traditional?


being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone, people who’ve done it multiple times are probably mad!


Where is The Bakery going in 5 years time?


My focus is to build out our network of entrepreneurial people.


How does it work? Once corporates have funded a team, where does it go? 


The corporates get equity but they can’t control too much.


Do you have case studies? I can’t see much online


We’re rebranding so there’s not much public. A lot of our work is not that PR-able.

We can’t account for our clients’ successes, we have only assisted them, historically speaking.

We’re funded by the corporates, like a consultancy fee, to support our startups, we fund their office space and give a living wage.


Who are your main competitors?


Elmarks do similar things to us, then there’s Entrepreneur First, then there’s Founders Factory. 


What equity do you take?


£25k for 8% - we’re talking very early stage.

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