Springboard’s latest Accelerator illustrates six trends

Speedier and speedier innovations: Springboard’s latest embodiment of the Accelerator illustrates six trends

*         Accelerators are an expanding market, with an established viability.

*         There is widening interest in them from corporates.

*         Accelerators are increasingly topic- and technology-specific.

*         The forms they take are becoming more closely defined.

*         The roles of mentors are beginning to become clearer.

*         Organisers of Accelerators are becoming more established.

      As I write, Springboard Mobile’s ten teams (all working to develop businesses involving mobiles) are six weeks into their 13-week Accelerator programme at the Google Campus in Tech City, Shoreditch, London. This is Springboard’s third Accelerator – Jon Bradford’s first was in Cambridge; his second finished recently – in London.

Springboard’s Accelerator is a 13-week programme for around ten teams – selected by competition, each with ideas for creating a new business, to come and work alongside one another, in an intensive atmosphere, to develop their ideas into a viable concept; managed by a programme leader and supported by a large number of mentors. Each member of the team is funded to the extent of £5k and the team is provided with working space and a regime designed both to help in the development of the business and to support more general learning about business. At the end of the 13 weeks, each team has the opportunity at Demo Day to pitch its business to an invited audience of venture capital investors. In return, each team gives up 6% of its equity. (For more, and for some fun footage, see http://www.f6s.com/springboardmobile2012)   

This particular Springboard regime includes four new developments:

1. The contributions of mentors are becoming more structured. The first six weeks, the weeks in which teams work with mentors, are interleaved with ‘Sprint’ weeks – weeks for the teams to develop their ideas in response to their encounters with mentors. In the first week, they have had 20 minute sessions with each of ten mentors per day; followed by a ‘Sprint’ week; and then in the third week, they meet for forty minutes at a time only those mentors whom they opt to meet again or who have sought to meet their team again because the mentors felt that they had something to offer them (about thirty of the hundred.) This is followed by a second ‘Sprint’ week. And then week five is dedicated to further meetings with mentors. (Mentoring is seen as about feed-back, advice and contacts. Most of the mentors are people who have ‘done it before’ and the rest are there for their technical or professional expertise; the qualities most valued in mentors are: empathy, and honesty – as knowing it and telling it for what it is.) 

2. By week 8, teams are expected to have a substantive business model, so that they can spend the ensuing weeks in trying to build a customer following. Because of the small pool of early-stage capital that is available in the UK compared with the amount available to small businesses in the US, Jon Bradford is looking to place the emphasis on starting a business by the end of the programme – more than on having arrived at an investable proposition.

3. Springboard is now concentrating less on very early stage businesses. Among this cadre are some teams that already have funding for their continuing development but have sought to join the programme not for the money but for the benefits it brings to their business; and in return for 3% of their equity rather than Springboard’s usual 6%.

4. Springboard Mobile has been funded by ten Angels. (Springboard 1

    was funded entirely by Nesta; and Springboard 2 was funded by five

    Angels together with some funding from Nesta.)

Springboard’s caravan continues to roll: it has just announced a new programme to be started next year for businesses developing hardware, this one with funding from corporates Unilever, ARM – chip developers, and Raspberry Pi – manufacturer of a basic computer on which to learn coding. Two of these are new to this kind of enterprise and do not as yet have management structures for handling open innovation collaborations (among issues will be rights to products developed in the Accelerator: whereas Telefonica sees its Accelerators as an important source of new products and requires a first option on products developed in them, IBM does not make such a stipulation). For this programme, Nesta will be making a small contribution because of the programme’s potential benefits to Nesta’s interest in the Internet of Things (how the monitoring of monitors can be used in personal health and wellbeing, energy use and the green agenda.)

And Springboard is in discussion about an Accelerator in social enterprises.

(For up-to-date information about Accelerators across Europe, see http://www.startupfactories.eu/)

Springboard is aiming towards running programmes end to end (one each in IT, Mobiles and hardware) over the course of each twelve month period, and each one tapping a different bank of funders, rather than running programmes incidentally – one by one; and this would enable it to become a more established organisation.

 

 

 

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A striking initiative in turning IP into new businesses

With the support of funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Oxford’s Business School hosts a week-end focused on devising ways of commercialising publicly funded IP.

           Said Business School in Oxford recently hosted the launch of a ‘Future Business Pre-Incubator’, for which the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Oxford Centre for Entre-preneurship and Innovation and Silicon Valley Comes to the UK provided funding. Some eighty people (scientists, business people and venture capitalists) came together for a week-end, to work on a number of selected patents (chosen from the patent portfolios of ESA and CERN), with the objective of finding ways in which to commercialise publicly funded IP.

Meeting together on Friday evening, some dozen selected pieces of IP were presented, and members of the assembled company were invited to form small groups, each to work on an idea of their choosing. There was a deal of mingling between groups; there were mentors whom you could book to meet (based on their mini CVs); and there was food and coffee; and evidently plenty of hard thinking. Each group had to pitch – to a formal panel, once on Saturday, a second time on Sunday; and then with a final pitch, in competition, at the end of Sunday. Teams would split into sub-groups, each with a different objective; members would adopt different roles; and each sub-group would form its own agenda.

        The winner won an automatic place to pitch for funding to a future Demo Day event; and its members, each taking a percentage in the equity, incorporated a company on the very following day! The second team has met a number of times since, and is expecting to pitch to a group of venture capitalists during December.  

        Hopefully, the process is the harbinger of a full-blown approach to developing a Future Business Pre-Incubator. (For more, contact: mark.evans@oxfordnanosystems.com)

 

 

Innovation needs Government funding – in the right places

Nesta proposes that the government invest some of the proceeds of its 4G spectrum auction in a ‘generous venture capital co-investment fund’. If the UK’s investment in innovation has fallen over the course of the last decade, and behind our competitors, there could be no better place for BIS to be putting its money than into Accelerators. And into Accelerators in those fields in which we excel, such as bioscience, social enterprise and the creative industries; here are some more examples. 

 Applied Creativity
An E-/Bulletin from 
The Centre for Leadership in Creativity
Edited by John Whatmore                        
November  2012

  
For its success in turning ideas into innovations – in Life Sciences, BioCity’s incubator is fed by its own Bootcamp and its own Accelerator 
http://goo.gl/iRF5A
 
A new Open Innovation incubator – in bioscience (just beside GSK) 

http://goo.gl/6jLPl
 
…holds Open Innovation Day 
http://goo.gl/8SqXp
 
Three pieces of Pixie Dust: Bethnal Green Ventures ‘accelerates’ six out of six new social enterprises: what is its Pixie Dust? See 
http://goo.gl/65UGi
 
But with few Accelerators yet in existence, there are not enough potential leaders for them  
http://goo.gl/65UGi
 
I visit a uniquely successful Open Innovation incubator – in the Arts

http://goo.gl/fHcjP
 
TV’s MasterChef: another version of the Accelerator – whose differences suggest other applications 
http://goo.gl/NvhLk
                                   

          *                        *                        *

 For its success in turning ideas into innovations – in Life Sciences, BioCity’s incubator is fed by its own Bootcamp and its own Accelerator 
BioCity, a public/private enterprise Incubator in Nottingham, has grown opportunistically and organically over the last ten years to support the evolving changes in the life science industry; and has plans to expand its contribution further. http://goo.gl/iRF5A
 
A new Open Innovation incubator – in bioscience (just beside GSK) 
I visit a huge bet on backing young businesses – by putting together a collection of them to work beside one another, and in this case beside a big pharma. The Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst will provide follow-on accommodation for a number of young businesses – which are in the process of being carefully selected; but without any of the systematic review points enshrined in the accelerator model and adopted by its immediate neighbour, GSK. Read more at 
http://goo.gl/6jLPl
 
…holds Open Innovation Day
The Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst attracted a big audience from all parts of the industry in its role as an open innovation incubator, and enabled them to meet and exchange their interests. It is looking to fill all its spaces by early next year.  

http://goo.gl/8SqXp
 
Three pieces of Pixie Dust: Bethnal Green Ventures ‘accelerates’ six out of six new social enterprises: what is the Pixie Dust?
More intensive and more pervasive mentoring; the proximity and interactions between the teams much closer (‘the kitchen a vital place’); and the pressure to deliver something of value within the given period. A concoction of these three seem to make up the Pixie Dust. For more about Bethnal Green Ventures see 
http://goo.gl/MBClN
 
But with few Accelerators yet in existence, there are not enough potential leaders for them
Empathy, experience, contacts with top people who have ‘done it before’, willingness to force issues, regular meetings and support, and ‘getting people to interact on their own terms’ – all of this in a quietly understated style (‘self-effacing facilitation’): probably a rare collection of skills. See 
http://goo.gl/65UGi
 
I visit a uniquely successful Open Innovation incubator – in the Arts
If innovation is of the essence to the performing arts, the ’Studio’ of the National Theatre – which has a unique reputation as a powerhouse of creativity and innovation – seems to be a playground of collaborative experimentation – like no other. As a semi-curated space for creative collaboration, by artfully managing to bring together those who might in some way contribute to one another, it readily attracts people who can benefit from the simple safe spaces that it offers in which to experiment, ‘to dream, to work, to sweat over ideas that aren’t ready and to hone stuff that is nearly there’ – a vibrant, active, welcoming place for unexpected and interesting things to happen for a wide range of artists in the nation’s performing arts. See
http://goo.gl/fHcjP
 
TV’s MasterChef: another version of the Accelerator – whose differences suggest other applications
The return to the screen of TV’s MasterChef looks like just another embodiment of the principles of the Accelerator – a small carefully chosen group of people working intensively together over a short period of time, with the help of iterative feed-back and advice – but MasterChef is different: it is divided into a number of separate sessions; and of course there is only one winner (for that is what TV requires). So how about using Accelerators for learning;  for helping people back into work; and for making awards or letting contracts.  (See also Related Posts below this post.) (
http://goo.gl/NvhLk)
 

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity (a ‘virus for creativity’) carries out research and provides consultancy and peer-to-peer learning for organisations where creativity and innovation are vital. 

 The Centre for Leadership in Creativity    
138 Iffley Road,London W6 OPE           
Tel/fax: 020 8748 2553            
E-mail:  john.whatmore@btinternet.com