Interview with Ellen Donnelly from The Bakery


The Bakery is a well-known player in the London startup ecosystem: it has over five years’ experience helping start-ups generate revenue from its formidable network of corporate partners (including Unilever, KPMG, Axa and Rolls Royce).

We speak to their Head of Entrepreneurial Investment Ellen Donnelly about the launch of their Start Programme, which helps people create new businesses from scratch, and how she is on the lookout for tenacious programmers to help solve some of their corporate partners’ biggest challenges.


What is the Start Programme? Why did you create it?

Ellen: We spend a lot of our time with our corporate partners helping them to discover what large and interesting problems they face that could be solved with technology: that is our bread and butter (if you’ll forgive the pun).

We’ve noticed there are often no solutions on the market for some of the problems our partners face – which is understandable, given you often require an industry insider to know the problem, let alone a solution.

At the same time, we know that many entrepreneurs spend a lot of money and time developing their own vision for a product to then later discover they haven’t really managed to solve a real problem. A lot of very talented and smart people are therefore misapplying their hard-work in the wrong direction.

We’ve used our experiences to bring together a unique partnership – corporates who have fascinating problems (and the money to experiment) with entrepreneurs who have the technical skills, the hustle and personal characteristics to build great products (but often lack visibility into what kind of thing a business would be willing to pay for or sufficient time or money to find out). It’s a win win.

The heart of the Start Programme is to unlock these corporates’ problems for technical entrepreneurs, giving them a powerful platform on which to build their first product and customer relationship, while at the same time helping to solve our corporate partner’s challenge.

On each programme, entrepreneurs create their own company with the mentorship and advice from a successful corporate as to what big-picture problems need solving. If they build something of value within the 6 months, they are likely to secure that corporate as their first large customer (or even raise investment from them). This starts companies off in a way that helps mitigate the riskiest part of entrepreneurship – lacking product-market fit.


What type of people and skills are you looking for? 

Ellen: We are looking to bring the best technical and entrepreneurial talent available onto the programme.

Our next cohort begins in January 2019 and is focused on gaming, e-sport, digital media and betting so anyone with experience or interest in what this could provide is key.

We are also interested in hearing from sector-agnostic software engineers and developers with a particular interest in mathematics, fraud-detection, artificial intelligence, blockchain, game design and augmented reality (amongst other specialisms with commercial application).

Whilst we have some places available to those with a more commercial skillset, the cohort will be weighted towards those who can evidence deep technical and software engineering skills.


OK, I am a developer, what can I expect from this programme?

Ellen: We’re bringing the best talent together, to form teams of 2-3 to start new companies during a 6 month period of intense learning and iteration, based around the challenges our corporate partner provies.

Those accepted onto the programme can get unrivalled access to large-scale problems and the associated datasets, tools, mentors and design studios to build a business around. The first 3 months we pay you a basic monthly stipend of £1,500 and if after that time we choose to invest in your newly formed company, we’ll continue to provide more support ahead of a demo day to a room full of external investors. Many companies will find themselves securing commercial trials from the corporate too.

This is all happening twice yearly in a dedicated coworking space by Liverpool Street station.

To apply and for more information, visit The Bakery’s website or email [email protected]