Kieran Hill is no stranger to the world of venture, having earned his stripes over the last few years first on the operations and now leading the investment team at Ascension Ventures. Industry insiders credit Kieran as the mastermind behind the lauded Debut Sessions that have started to chip at the old guard of the investor ecosystem by promoting a new open-sourced paradigm for startups. The totally transparent system allows everyone to have sight of the applications and participate in the process by engaging with their favourites, bumping them up the selection ladder, and championing them from the sides as they run towards a seed investment finish line. Amongst the first few submissions was the enterprise talent orchestration startup Adadot, founded by Startup Leadership Programme participant Alex Harris, and others (see below).
The initial announcement was met by a bevy of support on VC Twitter, including Diversity.VC cofounder and Ada Ventures GP, Francesca Warner. Even Harry Stebbings of 20MinVC fame was a part of the early list of “active investors” touted by the project.
Kieran, himself a successful angel in the likes of the recently crowned Unicorn, Hopin has remained a fan of reaching out to entrepreneurs over Linkedin and other social channels. He managed to score an investment into Johnny Boufarhat’s billion-dollar baby back in 2019, through a cold approach via Linkedin. And so it comes as no surprise that Kieran is advocating for greater transparency for all involved in the process, and making venture financing more accessible to all.
In 2021 Anthony Rose, the founder of Seedlegals and the self-acclaimed “man behind the BBC iplayer”, revealed that Seedlegals would be helping facilitate retail or angel/other co-investment into the DS2 (The second round of the Debut session) with as little as £5,000. This was significant in that technology was being utilised to support rapid investment through the debut session. As a one-up on crowdfunding psychology, the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) for retail investors could be even more palpable than ever before. We would be remiss if we did not warn armchair angels at home that startups are an illiquid and risky investment that can result in loss of capital.
With just a few weeks left for the upcoming final. Voting is underway for the next finalists.
ERLY caught up with Ben Legg, founder of The Portfolio Collective (TPC), earlier this week for a discussion on their journey and why they had decided to apply to the debut sessions. The startup which is squarely focused on “helping professionals land and sustain portfolio careers” is a hot favourite already, having garnered a 7 x greater number of votes than the startup in the second position.
Legg who cut his teeth first in the Army and then at McKinsey & Company, CocaCola and Google, has worked across the world from Delhi to Boston and started The Portfolio Collective after having spent significant time over the Pandemic advising others on their careers. He initially tried out a Zoom plugin that allowed him to charge per career counseling call he organised, he soon found himself doing 4-5 sessions a week with volume building steadily. Legg found his cofounders Fiona Chorlton Voong (CMO) and Jesus Inesta (CTO) on Workinstartups.com. The team of merry builders has set up what he refers to as the “largest online library for portfolio careers”. Within just seven months, TPC has already signed up around 1000 customers and delivered a heady 4.4 score on Trustpilot. The end goal is to help portfolio people find work. Legg likes to quote the OECD statistic around half of the working professionals will morph into portfolio professionals in the near future. The Debut sessions are a great testbed to see if the crowd and the investors will support the Civil Engineer and his team in helping build other people’s careers. On being asked why the Debut Sessions, Been told ERLY:
“It’s a great opportunity to hustle and see how much love you can get for your startup in a short period of time. It’s great to be able to get the first £100K from investors like Ascension Ventures, with possible co-investment from others too. The dream would be to close the round, all in one go!”Ben Legg, Cofounder, The Portfolio Collective