December 19, 2022

What do founder photos say about society? Sifted’s competition is back

You thought you’d seen the last of us, didn’t you?

Georgina Ustik

7 min read

Founded in 2017, the startup is still in bee-ta. Get it???

After publishing three viral (well, depending on your definition) editions of our founder photo takedown, we’re back with our competition where we pick apart the PR photos of startup Europe’s greatest minds. These competitions are based off of completely arbitrary, yet somewhat scientific, criteria — so don’t @ us if you don’t like the results.

If you want to read the ever-changing rules, take a look at one of our earlier editions. If you can’t be bothered to read them all, the takeaways are that inflatable unicorns are always a good idea and that Klarna should change its category to Win Now, Win Later. *ba-dum tish* (it’s because founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski won twice, get it?)

You know, these competitions aren’t just for fun — they’re also for serious. And by for serious, I mean these founder photo articles have real-world implications. They’re a barometer for society, for how we do business and live our lives. I’m tearing up just thinking about it. Sniff.


Let’s learn a bit about what the latest batch of startup photos say about our society.

The boy band isn’t dead

If founders are rockstars, then that would make a founding team a boy band, right? (Yes, I’m saying "boy" because sexism exists, founding teams are still predominantly male and that’s not looking to change anytime soon.)

And if those cofounders were, say, a London-based healthtech that specialises in clinical research in psychedelic therapies, what kind of music would they make? And how successful would they be? 

Luckily, we can look to Clerkenwell Health for answers. This year, the company raised £2.1m in seed funding, a chunk of which presumably went towards taking this photo:

Clerkenwell Health
Your man on the left is a folksy singer-songwriter, whose acoustic version of "Poker Face" got big on TikTok. The guy on the right is a house DJ who will only perform with an accompanying seizure-inducing light show. And the guy in the middle is "cool" Christian rock (some of his songs have swear words)

Quite honestly, it looks like all three of these men are in very different bands. But none are winning Grammys.

Unpaid internships have gone too far

It’s no hidden secret that internships are often an exploitative form of labour, where young talent is underpaid (or not paid at all), for the work they produce.

While Sifted disproves this wholly, it makes for a damn great photo. Meet FreezeM, an Israeli agritech that wants to make insect farming simple, sustainable and accessible for all. 

Because that’s what everyone really wants: more bugs.

FreezeM. Three cofounders in lab coats stand around a person in a dark coat and a full-size fly mask
Founded in 2017, the startup is still in bee-ta. Get it???

In this photo, we see FreezeM founders standing behind an adult-size insect in an oversized suit, which leads us to only one conclusion: they’ve been experimenting on the intern.

Evangelism works

Imagine you’ve had a long day at work. You drive home — traffic was bad, so it took you an extra half an hour. You pull up your driveway, and you see THIS:

Hometree. Two cofounders sit on a doorstep in front of a bright yellow door
It's giving: "Excuse me sir, do you have a moment to talk about Jesus Christ?"

Two guys sat on your front step, waiting for you with the scariest smiles you’ve ever seen. Do you run? I would.

But hey, the founders over at London-based energy startup Hometree are just trying to make installing boilers more efficient — and that’s not such a bad thing amid an energy crisis. Even if they’ll break into your home while you’re out to do it.


The eyes are the window to scary stuff

Eye contact evokes power, it evokes confidence. Sometimes, it evokes a cry for help. 

Meet French startup Crispy Fantasy, which are trying to bring healthier, yet still tasty, breakfast cereals to the market.

Crispy Fantasy
Is the guy on the right ok?

The startup claims to be “junk-free, hassle-free” — and if you don’t agree, the guy on the right appears with a sharp spoon.

For another example of intense eye contact with a different flavour, look to Portuguese Smartex, a fashion tech startup looking to tackle textile waste

Again, I have to ask: Is the guy on the right ok?

 This actually looks a bit like a Renaissance painting. But what’s under the fabric?

Becoming one with nature

In his famous poem The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less travelled by.” I’m here to tell you that Mr Frost was speaking explicitly about startups.

As a founder, you have to make many decisions that lead you down different paths. Some take a path into nature, like Basecamp Research, a London-based startup that designs protein products, like medicines and dairy-free milk, based on those found in biodiversity.

Basecamp Research
After raising a $20m Series A round, the founders went on a celebratory hike, and were never seen again.

Another startup that took a path less traveled is Dinoski, a UK-based startup that makes eco-friendly ski suits for children.

Their path led them on top of a bus.

The founders of startup Dinoski.
There’s only room for one at the top

You know when you take a photo of you and your friends, and one of them is closing their eyes or just looks terrible, and you share it on Instagram anyway because you look great? That’s the vibe these founder photos are giving off.

First, is London-based vegan food delivery startup Planty, which has raised a total of $1.8m in funding over three rounds. I bet you the guy in the middle takes all the credit and refers to his cofounders as “interns” behind their backs.

The founders of London-based vegan food delivery startup Planty.
Being a founder is cut throat. The same attitude was brought to this picture selection.

And they’re not the only ones. Constellr is a German space tech startup that makes technology that can monitor land surface temperatures from space. That’s pretty impressive.

The founders of German space tech startup ConstellR

Did the guy in the middle pinch the other two right as the photograph was taken? Genius.

Which brings us to our winner….

Xceed, the Spanish B2B marketplace for gig listings and going-out venues.

The founders of Xceed, the Spanish B2B marketplace.

And how can they not be our winners? Cofounder and CEO Mattia Franco is essentially using his cofounder, Davide Villano, as a camel, which not only makes for a great photo, but also a potentially genius pivot into going-out transportation!

And thus ends our fourth-ever founder photo competition. Like this and want more? In the name of science and healthy competition, tweet @Siftedeu with your favourite founder photos.