Finding outstanding founders with Funding Lab.

May 2, 2023

Our mission at Forward is to give founders their best shot at success. We believe that sharing our learnings and expertise with the broader founder community not only opens great conversations with potential investments, but it also puts us top of mind for future investment conversations. Funding Lab aims to provide more entrepreneurs with the information they need to progress their businesses, whilst growing the ecosystem as a whole. 

The Funding Lab programme.

To that end, in 2022, we launched a new, highly selective programme for founders, Funding Lab. An evolution of one of Forward’s previous founder initiatives, the programme is designed for founders who already have an initial version of their product and are looking to raise their first round from a VC. 

Diversifying dealflow. 

Where many VCs favour referrals from their existing portfolio and trusted networks, we believe that ‘open’ programmes, that require no warm introductions, are important to level the playing field. Such initiatives provide opportunities to a wider, diverse pool of founder potential, whilst enabling us to find more stand-out entrepreneurs early in their journey. 

We received 300 founder applications for our first Funding Lab programme. To ensure that we had a strong, diverse pipeline of founder candidates for Funding Lab, we worked closely with a number of network partners:

  • Universities, such as Imperial and London School of Economics, to find fresh talent and businesses with strong technical and scientific roots. 
  • Founder networks, including NEF and Spice Startups, to attract more founders from non-traditional backgrounds. 
  • Venture capital funds, like Capitalex and Bethnal Green ventures, to widen the net of potential founders in new and exciting sectors. 
  • Specialist networks for under-represented founders, like our existing partners Colorintech, to ensure that we attracted founders with a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds.
Applicants - Diversity.

Accelerating progress. 

Funding Lab comprised of three key elements:

  • A full day of seminars and workshops at our London HQ, hosted by our team of VC investors and Studio team, as well as a Q&A session with the founders of our portfolio companies Up Learn and Silico
  • 3 hours of one-on-one mentoring sessions with our VC investors to help the cohort apply the learning to their pitch decks and improve their investment narratives. 
  • A final pitch event, where we invited the cohort back to pitch to our investment team, with each participant receiving feedback from our investors and the other members of the cohort.
Applications by Technology Type

The outcome. 

We welcomed a diverse group of 12 entrepreneurs to Funding Lab in July 2022, who are building businesses across a range of B2B and B2C industries including Web3, construction, healthcare, childcare and hospitality. Of the 12 participants, our investors progressed 2 founders to a first meeting stage, the first step in our investment process, almost double our average rate of conversion.

The feedback from our cohort was overwhelmingly positive with an overall attendee satisfaction score of 9.5 out of 10. In 2023, we aim to build on the initial success of this programme by running two Funding Lab events each year. 

Hear what our last cohort had to say.

Funding Lab was an amazing experience to be involved in. We were part of a group made up of some brilliant start-ups and mentored by some of the best investors in their field at Forward Partners. In such a short space of time, there was a wealth of knowledge shared by investors and start-up founders alike. Knowledge and experience that will be carried through to what Orders Made Simple is doing now and into the future. Stephen Scurr, Founder and CEO of Orders Made Simple
Funding Lab provided real, actionable pointers on how to go about structuring my pitch and fundraise. I found the Funding Lab sessions incredibly helpful, and also appreciated the supportive and collegiate atmosphere among the Forward team and fellow founders! Cherie Yang, Founder And CEO Of Visualist

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May 2, 2023