Founders Programme Spring 2020: Meet the Cohort

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Our Spring 2020 Founders Programme is well underway with an incredibly dynamic cohort: Kate, Paul, Andre, Markus, Dragos, Shakiba and Toby. We received over 300 applications, and narrowing it down to our final 7 candidates was no mean feat.

Hobbies of the group include using data science to roast coffee, using real-time bluetooth feedback to master slow-cook meat, and professional cake eating ‘#poweredbysugar’, so I think it’s safe to say that we made the right decision.

To the spring cohort - we’re buzzing to have you, and welcome to the FP Family! Read on to discover what each entrepreneur is working on, and what their secret talents are...

Introducing: The Final 7

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Paul Rigby

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Who is Paul Rigby in 1 sentence?

Aspiring offshore yacht racer, retired motorcyclist, keen snowboarder, lapsed skydiver, fun dad and average boyfriend.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

I want to change how we manage the biggest asset any company has; its people. It's the biggest lever any company has to improve their performance.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

A company which spawns the next generation of founders.

What's your secret talent?

If it's a secret talent then it won't be secret for much longer but perhaps not many people know that I once spent months perfecting how to cook various joints of meat utilising all sorts of temperatures probes, gauges, stopwatches and real-time bluetooth feedback from the centre of the joint of meat. As a result, my 24-hour belly of pork is on par with some of the best restaurants out there!

Shakiba Kaveh

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Who is Shakiba Kaveh in 1 sentence?

Shakiba Kaveh is a scientist turned entrepreneur, passionate about solving real problems with science and technology.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

We are powering next-generation skincare and healthy ageing with the most advanced bio-marker platform the beauty industry has ever seen.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

Innovative, disruptive with customers loving our offering.

What's your secret talent?

I don't give up.

Andre John

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Who is Andre John in 1 sentence?

Born and raised in Greenwich, London, Andre studied Physics at the University of Surrey, is a TEDx Speaker and also worked as volunteer English teacher to orphaned youths in Cambodia. After working at Goldman Sachs, Andre found the itch to begin building something of his own design too impactful to ignore.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

Education starts with engagement. But most of the 200+ student information systems or virtual learning environments on the market today are outdated, clunky, expensive, don’t talk to each other and do only one part of the job. So, I decided to build Clustr. A mobile-first platform built to help schools, colleges and universities personalise education engagement. Specifically, we enrich communication, active learning and actionable data insights needed to improve the student journey, retention and outcomes. We do this through our unified platform. Helping data flow more easily within the organisation to get the right message, to the right student, at the right time. Enabling tailored delivery of content, services, schedules and collaboration across all devices, and connect students and educators in ways that make learning fun Again. I am excited to solve this problem due to my personal experience going through what felt like a broken education system.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

Our mission at Clustr is to accelerate the world's transition to personalised mobile-first engagement in education. The current system has changed little over the past 40 years, and continually fails to engage well with today’s students, minority groups and those at risk of dropping out. As things stand, there is no dominant player. So, we aim to be the best personalised mobile OS for education.

What's your secret talent?

Many know me as the Physics guy who’s into banking, but they are always surprised to learn about my secret passion/talent for surfing! Through my love for backpacking, I am proud to have had the opportunity to surf in amazing places like Hawaii and Bali – I highly recommend it!

Markus Urban

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Who is Markus Urban in 1 sentence?

A German architect who realised that efficiency is great, but knowing what people really need from their environments makes all the difference.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

I want to disrupt the way we work. Most companies fail to create great work environments because it is very challenging: They have to understand their people, the places they work at, the tools they use and how they all affect each other. My startup Hey Monday empowers businesses to understand what their employees really need and align their offerings accordingly to create workplaces that get people excited for work - even on a Monday morning.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

Hey Monday is developing an employee experience management platform that combines all relevant data to enable great businesses to create great workplaces. Likewise, Hey Monday should be a place where employees thrive and, together with our clients, change the way millions of people work for the better - in the UK, in Europe, and around the globe.

What's your secret talent?

Other people are great bakers; I am an amazing cake eater. #poweredbysugar

Dragos Stanciu


Who is Dragos Stanciu in 1 sentence?

I'm an entrepreneur, programmer, gym-goer, traveller and always up for a new challenge.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

I'm working on Grayscale AI (officially 1 day old!), which aims to be the top geospatial platform for depicting in real-time the current state of the world whilst forecasting and managing potentially catastrophic natural disasters. The company's name is a reference to Nassim Taleb's black/gray swan theories and not to the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

The next decacorn of course.

What's your secret talent?

I enjoy cold exposure and the weird looks I get from people when wearing a T-shirt in the winter.

Toby Coleman

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Who is Toby Coleman in 1 sentence?

I have a background in data science and engineering and in the past I've spent time working on a range of interesting data problems in the renewable energy sector.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

I'm working on a product to make it easier for data scientists to find and use the data they need. Perhaps a 'GitHub of data' for machine learning. I really hope this would allow data scientists to focus on what they enjoy (analysing data), by taking away a lot of the effort required to get hold of datasets.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

Would love to build a technology company that can both help its customers solve interesting/important problems using data, and is also an inspirational and friendly place to work.

What's your secret talent?

I've been using data science to help roast my own coffee... and hopefully get it to taste better!

Kate Pljaskovova

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Who is Kate Pljaskovova in 1 sentence?

I love solving big problems at scale and I tend to be very convincing at getting people on board to help me.

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?

I’m working on Fair HQ - an international standard and benchmark for diversity and inclusion, think B Corp for D&I. I’m honestly excited about many things, but mostly about the problem, we’re solving for our future clients. D&I professionals’ sole job is to measure and improve workplace diversity and inclusion, but they’re missing the right tools, benchmarks, evidence-based interventions and support! The market is huge and it's growing every year, but the money is mostly spent inefficiently - example of that can be that US companies only spent 8 bill USD a year on diversity training (mostly addressing unconscious bias), which have no proven effect on the level of diversity in these companies (source). So I’m really excited about bringing more clarity and transparency to D&I, the impact we will have and also about building a great team.

What kind of company are you hoping to build?

One that is diverse and inclusive and where people love working, obviously. ;)

What's your secret talent?

My secret talents are that I’m really good at seeing opportunities, asking for them and actually getting them. I once convinced a conference organizer on the day of the conference to give me an empty booth worth £4,000 for free, because an empty spot would reflect badly on them. We then set up a decent booth in 1 hour and got some great leads that day.

Shope is a marketer, writer and headshot photographer. As Brand and Content Manager at Forward Partners, Shope executes on our content strategy and works to build our awareness with early-stage founders. Prior to joining Forward Partners she worked at e-commerce and marketplace startups, initially as a content creator at ASOS, before moving onto support Drover and Common Objective with their communications and content. She has a strong interest in consumer brands and sustainability.

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