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Entrepreneur First

Posted: 15 July 2016

EDIT: This post has been elaborated on. I will walk you through the entire process of my EFSG interviews. It might change in future. I’ll be writing my opinion of each stage, since I think it’s what most people will be looking out for.

STAGE ONE

The first part of the application begins with a really simple form. Just fill it up as best as you can. Nothing too hard about this.

STAGE TWO

If you get through that part, you will then be invited to submit a video of yourself that answers 3 questions:

  1. Tell us a bit more about the most impressive technical thing you’ve built. Why do you think it’s impressive?
  2. Tell us about a time when you’ve been relentless to achieve something you wanted. How did you do this?
  3. What do you think you would like to work on at EF? What skills do you have to build this?

Think about these questions from EF’s perspective. Question 1 is about assessing your technical capability. Question 2 is about assessing whether or not you have the determination to do a start-up (being an entrepreneur requires a lot of tenacity!). Question 3 is perhaps not really an assessment but more of just finding out if “what you want to build” is backed by “what you can build”. Or maybe it’s just for fun, since you will probably change your idea through the course of EF.

How do you do well in this then? Every individual has different experiences. This part is really about “bragging” to the best of your ability. Find something that “wows” them! More often than not, technical people will find that the stuff that they built is not very impressive (I’m guilty of this myself). Ask around for opinion, and see what others think about what you have built. If a majority thinks it is impressive, then perhaps it’s something good.

STAGE THREE

I got the interview for EF on a Thursday in early June 2016. I was happy and excited for it. There were three parts to it. Technical Interview, Founder Interview, Technical Test. One part of the interview struck me though: A Technical Interview - demo something that you’ve built. I’ll talk more about that later.

On the day of the interview, the EF people were really nice. They tried their very best to make you feel comfortable. Remember: they want you to do well as well. I first had a coffee and a quick chat.

STAGE THREE: TECHNICAL TEST

For programmers, it’s not too difficult of a test (given enough time). However, you’re given 1 hour to solve 3 questions. And in most cases, your solution needs to run in a certain time complexity. For competitive programmers, this will be an absolute breeze for you. I found it pretty challenging to complete in such a short time. You might ask what’s this test for? Two reasons. One, if you don’t do well in the other parts but absolutely destroyed this portion, it signals that you are extremely technical and could perhaps be a good fit. Two, EF needs to see if you can code I guess?

So how do you do well in this? For those with a CS background, practice practice practice. For those without a CS background, EF may not be looking at this a lot.

STAGE THREE: FOUNDER INTERVIEW

This part is really about assessing whether or not you have the tenacity to be an entrepreneur. The interview was mostly about “demonstrating a time when I really wanted something”. The EF mascot is a “honey badger”, which is some really aggressive badger that is “known to chase away young lions and take their kills” (wikipedia). There have been many famous EF “honey badger moments”, where founders wait at offices for days just to meet that one guy and take the lift with him. Stuff like that.

So how do you do well in this? Talk about a time where you really went out of your way to get something that you wanted.

STAGE THREE: TECHNICAL INTERVIEW

Back to this now. It struck me because I was in a fix. I can’t demonstrate my work in my day job. I had to come up with something that is impressive within a short amount of time. My interview was next Wednesday.

Time is short. I had to build on my strengths and solve an interesting problem. What are my strengths? Well, I have been working on mostly Computer Vision and Deep Learning in the past few months. I would say I am above average in this area (I can’t compare to the Masters and PhD students for sure). I shall solve a problem that can be solved with CV and DL. What problem shall I solve? Well, anything that makes the world more efficient.

An idea came to my mind. I have always thought about making self checkout counters at supermarkets more efficient. Barcodes were invented quite long ago. Why are we still using it? Why do we need a cashier to scan every single item? Can we simply have a conveyor belt, where customers put their items on the belt in a certain orientation, and let it pass through a black box, similar to what we have at airports? I decided to work on this.

I spent 8 hours on Saturday, 8 hours on Sunday, 2 hours on Monday, and 2 hours on Tuesday, and built a little demonstrator within 20 work hours.

So how do you do well in this? I guess this part is perhaps similar to Stage Two. You could demonstrate what you talked about there. For me, I demonstrated something entirely different from what I talked about.

STAGE FOUR: DEMO

This is the final stage of the selection process. My batch had 30 people and they were cutting half. I’m not sure if there’s going to be a hard cut off next time, so don’t extrapolate based on what I say here.

The day began with breakfast and interaction with the others. EF makes it a point that “this is not a competition”. They really want your honest opinion, as you are going to be working with the other people. Don’t grade someone really really badly just because he is super awesome and you want to bring him down. That’s not a very nice thing to do. Be honest about it.

Following that, it’s a series of technical demonstrations. It’s probably what you did in the Technical Interview in Stage Three. Based on your demonstration, your peers will review you. It’s a few simple questions if I’m not wrong. Nothing too hard about that.

And you’re done!

CONCLUSION

If you pass all this, your journey has only just begun. Congratulations, you’re on EF!