How Centre for Entrepreneurs Uses Beauhurst to Establish New Partnerships
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The Centre for Entrepreneurs (CfE) is the UK’s leading entrepreneurship foundation, working to support the founders driving growth for Britain. It does this through delivering entrepreneurial development programmes (such as NEF Fast Track), researching the state of entrepreneurship, building thriving entrepreneurial communities, and engaging and informing policy makers and the public.
Richard Cull Thomas is deputy CEO and COO at the charity. He’s responsible for shaping and managing NEF’s operations to ensure the programme delivers the next generation of UK entrepreneurs. First established in 2011, this one-year development scheme is for aspiring young entrepreneurs and builds the UK’s top startup talent pool.
We sat down with Richard to find out how he and his team use Beauhurst to establish new partnerships and report on the success of the NEF programme.
Key uses of Beauhurst
- Effectively track the progress of programme alumni
- Source and build business partnerships in record speed
- Identify and approach potential donors
How did you first come across Beauhurst?
I first came across Beauhurst through the bright yellow reports I would see while scrolling through Linkedin, I downloaded a couple that looked particularly relevant and insightful, and then got a message from Ben in the sales team, and we talked through all the ways that CfE could get value from the platform. It was a really positive experience and I was keen to learn more. Actually, every interaction with every member of the Beauhurst team has been really positive—so I know we’re in good hands.
Ben was great. We did a couple of one-on-one video calls, then he came into the office and pitched to Neeta, our CEO, and to our fundraiser, about how we could use the platform more broadly.
How do you use Beauhurst to track the progress of NEF alumni?
Because we’re a charity, we have to file fully-audited accounts and an annual report to meet our statutory reporting obligations. And, as part of the reporting, we produce an impact statement on our charitable purpose and objectives, how we’re delivering and what our future plans are. As well as being statutory requirements, the impact report data is an incredibly powerful marketing tool that demonstrates the positive impact our charity has. So these reports are hugely important for our business.
But there have always been a number of challenges with sourcing the raw data for these reports. While some of our alumni launch businesses when they’re on the NEF programme, others launch businesses post-programme. We now have an alumni group of over 300 people, a good 50% of whom are running full-time businesses, and a high proportion of the remainder are running side hustles alongside full-time jobs. Tracking the individual progress of these entrepreneurs is incredibly time-consuming—in the past we relied on survey responses, which are inefficient and labour-intensive to manage.
But now, every time someone launches a business and it starts to be tracked on Beauhurst, we add the company to a Collection, and can see how they progress over time. That includes growth metrics like an increase in headcount, the opening of another office, or new funds raised.
One of the most useful metrics is the company valuation that Beauhurst calculates. These can often be non-public domain figures which are hard to track down, and while we never disclose individual company results, being able to track aggregate valuation totals has added another useful data point to our impact reporting.
So those alerts are coming in on a weekly basis via email, and giving us a great indication of alumni activity as and when it’s happening. Then, once a year we use the platform really heavily to construct the detailed data set that goes into our annual report. We go back over the Collection of companies, export all the growth metrics we need, and then stitch that together with data on the 5% or so of businesses that aren’t on Beauhurst (because they’re outside the UK).
The whole process has been massively simplified and made more accurate in the last two years that we’ve been using Beauhurst, by the way we collect the data, track it and then look at year-on-year movement. And if the auditors ever want to delve down into the source of our impact data, we have the ability to backtrack and show them how we got to those numbers.essential to my job.
How do you use Beauhurst to source and build business partnerships?
The second way we use Beauhurst is to help source relationships with potential partner companies for the NEF programme. Our entrepreneur development programme consists of a leading-edge learning programme, 12-month placement in a high-growth business, business mentoring, executive coaching support and connections to alumni and potential supporters through a schedule of varied events. We believe that the placement—getting experience from founders and their leadership teams—is a key part of the learning process.
Before we subscribed to Beauhurst, we were forging these partnerships based on existing relationships and from long-form internet searches. A typical NEF cohort has 40-45 candidates, for whom we would need at least 120 solid partner company leads, and two to three times as many prospects, in order to get the right quantity of potential roles to successfully place the whole cohort. So getting all of that right, with the correct balance of volume and quality of leads, was really difficult and a major time investment.
The Beauhurst platform is really, really effective at allowing us to narrow down potential prospects through the Advanced Search. We use a number of filters to find small to medium companies, typically 50 to 250 employees, that are experiencing fast growth, primarily based in London, and we may even narrow down by specific sectors if specific candidates have unique expertise or a particular desire to work in certain sectors.
Then, using the company profile and info on the C-suite employees, we’re able to reach out directly, without the need for mass marketing or advertising.
Once we’ve built a really robust search, we set these to automatically update, and receive notifications when any other companies meet those criteria. So, we revisit that list on a monthly basis, and more frequently when there’s lots of placement activity going on. And that’s how we source 75-85% of our leads, with the other 15% coming from personal connections.
We’ve switched from pure desk-based internet research, and cold-calling with a low return rate, to efficient lead sourcing, targeted outreach and far more meaningful conversations as a result. This has massively reduced the workload of my team, and helped optimise everyone’s time.
How will you use Beauhurst to identify and approach potential donors?
And now, with the help of Ruth in the Account Management team, we’ll be starting to use Beauhurst to find donors—the early-stage investors that are active in the ecosystem and passionate about entrepreneurship. We are optimistic that, having supported previous NEF alumni’s businesses, they see the philanthropic opportunity to support a programme that helps future generations of entrepreneurs to build businesses that are worth investing in.
We think there’s a really good opportunity there, and can take advantage of it by using the People Search function to pinpoint these individuals, rather than trying to follow a long trail of connections based on our existing relationships. This function could be a real game changer for us in the next 12 months.
So what makes Beauhurst such a unique data provider?
I’ve previously used the free version of Crunchbase, but you hit a limit on what you can find out. We could probably have stitched some kind of data together ourselves, but part of the value of Beauhurst is having it all in one place, and it’s easy to find the right data.
A couple of years ago now, we were evaluating an opportunity to launch a new NEF programme in another part of the UK, and were looking for location-specific companies that could assist with the opportunity. The search requirements were more complex and specific than we’d previously undertaken, but our Account Manager got all the searches and Collections set up for us on the platform, and they also introduced us to a fantastic contact in the local Mayor’s office who was looking at local development support.
Although we didn’t end up setting up the new programme (thanks to Brexit), that contact and relationship is still there if we ever want to pick it up again. So taking what we already have here in London, and being able to rapidly translate it to another location where there’s a different mix of companies and circumstances, was a completely unexpected benefit of Beauhurst. If we had done it by hand, that process would have been far longer and less effective, and we now know we’ve got lots more options on a strategic level.
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