We met the wonderful Emma Cerrone at our last Education startups dinner. She’s the founder of Free:Formers. We found out more about Emma and her startup.
What’s the elevator pitch for your startup?
Free:Formers delivers business transformation, teaching relevant and practical digital skills to everyone from frontline staff to senior leadership teams.
Our ONE:FOR1 model transforms creative passions into workplace digital skills. For every business person we train,a 16-25 year old gets a free workshop. This helps young people into work and creates a digital talent pool for businesses.
What were you doing before you launched your startup?
I was Chief Operating Officer at UK’s leading independent public affairs and communications agency, before that I was working on corporate communications at Sainsbury’s.
In both of these roles I was meeting business people and often hearing the same thing: they wanted to use digital but didn’t know where to get started and they all struggled to find digital talent.
Where did you meet co-founders?
Gi Fernando and I have been friends for years, I actually met him when I lived with his wife at university. Gi is a tech genius and an amazing entrepreneur, I’m pretty sure he was born coding. Over the years I have seen his investment decisions, business successes and his hands-on attitude take ideas into rapidly growing, million-pound companies.
Like me Gi sees potential in young people and the importance of nurturing talent. He is a really positive person, so I jumped at the chance to start Free:Formers with him.
What’s your biggest ‘hindsight’ moment?
I tend not to have regrets because I’m quite adventurous and feel comfortable to take risks. If there is something I would have done differently, maybe I would have started Free:Formers earlier because of the impact we now have. In a few years time I’m sure our impact will be even greater, particularly for the ONE:FOR1 workshops with young people.
What will 2014 bring?
Free:Formers is going from strength to strength this year. There are twice as many trainers delivering digital workshops as when we began. We are set to train over 3,000 people in our business workshops, which means there will be over 3,000 young people getting digital training places for free.
1 piece of advice for someone starting a business in the sector?
Move fast and don’t be afraid to make mistakes, try different things in the early days even if it’s not perfect, get your product out there to test it. But always take the time and perspective to learn from those mistakes.
Convince someone to use your product/service in under 50 words.
If you think digital skills are out of your reach, think again because Free:Formers makes digital easy. No matter your background or education you’ll leave with a better understanding of how the digital world works, the practical tools and confidence to use digital from the very next day.
What’s your favourite startup in the sector (not including your own)?
I really like what Apps for Good are doing to help school kids get creative with digital. They enthuse young people from early years with a very different style of teaching and mentoring, getting groups to work together to identify a problem and create an app idea to solve it.
Some of the apps the school teams create are seriously good, definitely good enough to compete with the apps we buy from the App Store or Play Store.
What’s your favourite London restaurant?
I’m a little bit hooked on the teriyaki salmon salad from Prêt. If I’m going out for a nice meal or some after work drinks with friends I love going to Mew of Mayfair.
Thanks Emma for being part of the evening and to our sponsors Taylor Wessing and Propel London for supporting us.
You can check out our upcoming tables here.