First Mile

An illustration of a race start line, with various animals running together
Illustrations — Olf de Bruin

A programme for first-time founders who are building businesses with creativity and values at their core.

For any creative business the first steps are often the hardest. We know because we’ve done it, and now we want to help the next generation of founders in the UK do the same.

We’ll give you 12 months of mentorship and personal support from ustwobies and our Adventure community — with anything from tech troubleshooting to building a long-term strategy. You will also get a £10,000 cash injection to help cover costs, and part-time deskspace in our studio, if you need it.

Applications now open

Deadline: April 6th — Start: April 20th

Apply now

For dreamers and doers

We want to help kick start a new wave of creative leaders — people who understand the value of design, culture and long-term thinking, and who want to enable others to do the same.

We don't want to rapidly scale you up to be the next digital unicorn. Instead, we'd rather equip you with the belief, network and tools to build purposeful businesses, from the inside out.

In return, we’d like you to pledge to pay it forwards at some point within three years, to help future participants on their way.

An illustration of a runner jumping over a log while smiling.

What you get

  • 12 months of structured support
  • £10,000 to help you grow
  • Advice and expertise from over 40 mentors, with a variety of skills
  • Regular meetings with the Adventure team and ustwo founders
  • A personalised learning journey, built around your aims and ambitions
  • A framework for creating impact, informed by our B Corp certification
  • Hotdesking space in our London studio, if you need it
An illustration of one hand passing a baton to the next

Paying it forwards

We won't take equity or a board seat in your company. Instead, when you come on board, we ask your business to give back £10,000 to the programme within three years. All of this money goes straight back into First Mile to continue helping new businesses get off the ground. We'll also ask you to be a mentor to these future companies.

Criteria

To be eligible for First Mile, you need to be starting a business for the first time, which must be set up as an entity in the UK before the programme starts. We're looking for participants that care deeply about creativity and impact, who are authentic, and for who the programme will be a real help.

At ustwo we celebrate diversity, and the creativity that it generates. We are proud to offer equal opportunities regardless of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, age, disability, gender identity, family status, and any other ways that people identify. We welcome applicants from any background and any part of the UK.

Sound like it's for you?

To apply to be a part of our First Mile programme, please fill out the form and we’ll get back to you shortly after the application deadline. Don't forget to also read our FAQs below.

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FAQs

How many placements are available?

Each First Mile cohort will take on a maximum of four participants.

Who are the mentors?

Our Adventure team of Justin, Mills and Neef will be your main points of support on First Mile. As well as this We’ve compiled an amazing mix of over 40 mentors from across the ustwo network. This includes ustwobies from our studio and games teams, founders and employees from other successful start-ups we’ve invested in, as well as folks from the wider Adventure community.

We’re always on the lookout for new mentors to join us. So if you know anyone who might be interested, ask them to get in touch at hello.adventure@ustwo.com.

Why do I have to pay the funds back?

We want First Mile to be a fully sustainable programme. By asking you to pledge to pay it forwards it means we can help people, just like you, build great businesses for years to come. Think of it as an interest-free loan to help get you started.

Do I have to work from your office?

It’s up to you. All participants have the option to come in and work from our London studio for up to three days each week. But it’s by no means compulsory. And we make all our support remote-friendly when it can be.

Do I have to be based in London?

Absolutely not. Location isn’t important (lots of the mentoring can be done remotely and the £10,000 can be used to cover travel costs). Passion, enthusiasm and a great business idea is.

What if I don't have a company formed yet?

You need to have a limited company set up to be able to sign the pledge and receive the £10,000. But if you’re almost there beforehand, we can help you get it over the line.

What happens after the programme is over?

Once you’re a part of the ustwo community, you always will be. So after the year is up, we’ll still be here to help, if you need us. However, you’ll no longer get a committed amount of time with anyone from First Mile.

How much time will I get with mentors?

At the start of the programme, we’ll match you with up to three key mentors, who will spend at least an hour a month with you. These are people with relevant skills or experience who can help you develop and strengthen your practice, and who will be setting goals with you over the course of the year.

On top of this, you’ll have access to 40 ‘on call’ mentors. These are a hand-picked bunch of creatives who you will support you in bursts to help with specific problems. The Adventure team will act as a kind of matchmaker for these mentors. But there’ll also be a directory available to everyone on the programme.

What is the £10,000 for?

We've included £10,000 as part of the programme to help with a number of things. First up, it’s for helping your business grow and develop over the year. So you might use it to invest in products, services or people, or to enable you to spend more time on the business than you currently are. It’s also there to cover any travel costs while on the programme.

How soon will I have to pay back my pledge?

As long as your company is still going then we ask you to pay back the pledge within three years. With a few exceptions, we’ll leave you to choose when you want to do this.

The exceptions are:

— Selling your company

— Raising over £500,000 of investment in a year

— Earning over £250,000 of revenue in a year

If you hit any of these milestones before the three years is up, we ask you to pay back £10,000 at that time.

How different is this from an accelerator?

Hugely. We’re not in it to help you raise vast sums of capital or create an industry-dominating business overnight. So if that’s what you’re after, First Mile probably isn’t the right programme for you. Instead, we want to help you develop the tools and knowledge you need to build a meaningful, lasting company.

In fact, we like to think of ourselves as more of a decelerator. From the get-go, we’ll spend a huge amount of time with you working out what kind of company you want to create. Then work closely with you to help achieve this. So if scale is what you’re after, we can help you work towards that. Equally, if staying small is a better approach for your business, we can suggest ways to make that happen too.

It’s also worth mentioning that we don’t take equity in any of the companies on the programme.

What do you mean by creative company?

Creativity can be interpreted in lots of different ways. For us, it’s the way you go about doing things. Free-thinking, a thirst for design, a passion for brand. A creative company uses all or some of these traits to produce original and unusual ideas that break the mould and push boundaries. We're agnostic to the business-model you choose.

Will you help me find investors?

We know first-hand that every business needs different things to help it succeed. If financial investment is what you’re after, then we can help you work out how best to achieve this in a sustainable way.