Accelerators getting more choosy and more targeted

Aside

Accelerators attract quantities of applicants, a number of whom have ideas for new businesses that are very evidently non-starters, some even barmy; many have ideas of limited scope, some of whom present poorly. A few have an immediate appeal as really disruptive, or as having an innovative approach to a big issue, though not necessarily demonstrating outstanding entrepreneurial qualities. How are selection processes trying to deal with these issues?

 

  Accelerator Academy originally opted for a computer-based test for applicants (about entrepreneurial potential) together with application form and interview; but it now relies more on having two of its staff hold Skype-based interviews  with candidates that aim to explore how well the programme suits the candidate and vice versa.

Imperial Innovations’ student Accelerator has adopted a two-stage application process, the first of which is simply a single line pitch and 500 character description, designed to force applicants to think concisely about the problem being solved and who are the potential users. Workshops once or twice a week during the following two months on various topics including funding sources, legal, and perfecting the pitch, and next year also time to work on their products (technical or business aspect) help the students to focus on each area of their business (value, customer relationship, cost structure etc). And then students are invited to complete a more in depth application based around their learnings and using the business model canvas as a framework. Finally the top 20 are invited to semi-final pitches and 5 go through to pitch for funding and intensive mentorship.

Newcastle’s Science City incubator is currently planning to hold sessions at which experts in the field in question talk about topical problems that are ripe for solution – in an attempt to get candidates to tackle issues of significance.

      Bethnal Green Ventures has cast a wider net: regional meetings have been canvassed; and candidates are invited to meet and talk about themselves and their work. Some assessment can then be made of those who later make formal applications about their progress and their entrepreneurial capabilities as well of course as their project.

Biocity in Nottingham runs three-day Bootcamps for aspiring entrepreneurs to develop their ideas for new businesses – that might find a place in the Biocity Incubator, the Nottingham Cleantech Centre and Antenna – two other specialist incubators in Nottingham.

The Royal College of Art’s incubator consciously takes candidates who have identified issues that entail significant engineering or IT Development. Oxford’s Said Business School has provided an opportunity for people to identify commercialisable opportunities from among a portfolio of IP from the European Space Agency and from CERN, in the hope that some of those people will choose to work together, perhaps taking space in Harwell’s Science Park, to develop a business of the IP.

The latest Wayra Lab cohort of 16 were invited, along with as many other candidates, to Wayra Week, where they were helped to identify the special focus of their proposed business and to learn how best to pitch it; and where at the end of the week they made their submissions to the seven assessors.

The 16 who won places in the Accelerator started off with a week’s Bootcamp – of instruction in essential aspects of business, and surgeries with experts. The week included a pitching session with mentors, at which each new team hade 2 minutes to pitch to the hundred or so mentors present and each mentor had 45 seconds to pitch to the teams, after which they were left to make their own contacts. It is the quality of the contacts that seems to be the most valued aspects of Wayra Lab.

Like other Accelerators EntrepreneurFirst (which is sponsored by several leading corporates) whittles its c600 applicants down – to 35 – by a three-stage selection process. But EntrepreneurFirst has adopted a year-long programme of periodic development and support for its potential entrepreneurs prior to its 6-month progamme.

Over the course of the summer, they have participated in team building selection and development days, including a 2-day session in which three teams of 5 had to make a 3-minute film on a theme around the Year 2022, and then get as many people as possible to view it – all in two days. Two months later, when in early August their university exams were over, they had a fortnight’s residential bootcamp, where they received training and support from entrepreneur mentors on how to build a lean startup. This also required them to test their early startup ideas with customers – a task designed to help understand product communications and the difficulty of getting heard!

At the end of  the programme that starts in September, while some teams will pitch to potential funders for ongoing support, others will be helped to find different roles in some of the more successful teams.

 

So who will fund an extended process of this kind?  If the Knowledge Transfer Networks were to take up the challenge of encouraging Accelerators on behalf of their different sectors, they might find that the benefits were worth the cost of providing support of this kind. The TSB has already identified areas associated with social or economic need where emerging technologies are likely to be able to contribute; and has run competitions for significant grants. Perhaps in addition, it should fund Accelerators in each such area.

 

Copyright 2013

John Whatmore                                                                                             May 2013

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity

London

 

 

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Innovation: three new directions

Aside

* The latest of to-day’s co-working spaces take the Incubator to new dimensions (item 1 below).

 

* Experiments in longitudinal innovation in Nottingham add a Bootcamp to an Accelerator to an Incubator – in three different fields (item 2 below).

 

* The Cabinet Office’s three-year contracts to run Accelerators for social enterprises bring Accelerators in that field up to the scale of those of leading corporate innovators (item 3 below).

* And more below.

 

Applied Creativity

Briefings from

John Whatmore at

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity

May 2013

john.whatmore@btinternet.com

 

Join the discussions at https://johnwhatmore.com/

 

 

The latest co-working spaces: what makes them work?

Never has co-working been more popular: new style facilities are taking the incubator to new dimensions: they provide spaces, support and inspiration for the many aspiring entrepreneurs who are frantically seeking to fill emerging niches in a fast-changing world. (http://wp.me/P3beJt-5a)

 Join a Seminar at London South Bank University on 21 May about

        ‘Business Incubation and Universities: the latest trends’, where I shall

       be talking about Accelerators and their impact on innovation in academia.

       (http://www.knowledgelondon.net/campaign.php?q=115720)

 

Three different Nottingham Incubators to run snappy Bootcamps

Three-day Bootcamps to kick off Accelerators – one in IT, another in Cleantech and the third in Life Sciences will aim to help participants to develop their ideas for a business into a fundable proposal that might enable them to take space in an Incubator for developing their business.

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-58)

       I shall be holding a Workshop for a small number of Leaders of

        Accelerators – to exchange experience (under Chatham House Rules)

       about  problems and opportunities – on Tuesday 9 July in Central London.

       If you would like to be a participant, please make contact with me now.

See also ‘Mini Accelerators go global. Tasters but all just a bit different’

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-y); EntrepreneurFirst, with its preliminaries to its Accelerator (http://wp.me/p3beJt-p); and Biocity – an incubator in Life Sciences in Nottingham (http://wp.me/p3beJt-i). See sequel Wednesday 15 May ‘Accelerators getting more choosy and more targeted’ at https://johnwhatmore.com/

 

In a Cabinet Office initiative, a charitable foundation collaborates with a major Corporate Accelerator in the development of social enterprises

One of the winners of a £10mn Cabinet Office initiative to support the next generation of social ventures, UnLtd, which has had considerable experience through its Big Venture Challenge of incubating such ventures, is collaborating with Telefonica’s Wayra Lab, which has the most experience of Accelerators of any corporate in the world, to work together to start up and grow new businesses to meet social needs. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-4M)

See also Bethnal Green Ventures, an Accelerator in social enterprises (http://wp.me/p3beJt-2i) and The Young Foundation – with its programmes of support for SMEs in social enterprise (http://wp.me/p3beJt-4)

 

The Royal College of Art’s Incubator wrestles with its own development         InnovationRCA, the RCA’s incubator, has ploughed a leading furrow among higher education establishments; and is contending with the issues that are raised by an incubator programme that runs in parallel to its academic programme, (which is a post-graduate programme), and that is also a part of the educational process. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-4u)

Business Learning in development programmes will become increasingly personalised

Business learning provisions are increasingly migrating to online, and for very good reasons; so business learning and business development programmes will need to include learning coaches/mentors. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-4P) 

 

Financing start-ups: some current hiccoughs

* How do you structure funding for projects with very uncertain prospects?

* Early-stage investors not taking a long enough perspective?

* How do you manage the processes of funding more effectively?

* Grants as an alternative; but they have their strings.

* What is the logic of some recent very fancy prices for IT start-ups

(Instagram, Summly)

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-52)

 

A Crowdfunding Platform for Emerging Social Entrepreneurs

A new crowdfunding initiative is set to help emerging social entrepreneurs quickly attract seed capital, build a supporter base and raise the profile of their social ventures internationally. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-4Y)

 

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity (a ‘virus for creativity’) carries out research and provides con-

sultancy and peer-to-peer learning for organisations looking to enhance their creativity and innovation.

 

Copyright John Whatmore 2013

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity       138 Iffley Road,London W6 OPE           

Tel: 020 8748 2553                                                 E-mail:  john.whatmore@btinternet.com

 

 

Three different Nottingham Incubators to run snappy Bootcamps

Aside

Three-day Bootcamps to kick off Accelerators – one in IT, another in Cleantech and the third in Life Sciences will aim to help participants to develop their ideas for a business into a fundable proposal that might enable them to take space in an Incubator for developing their business.

A natural sequence for a budding entrepreneur with the opportunity for a hi-growth new business might be to kick off in a 3-7 day Bootcamp, followed by participation in a 3-9 month Accelerator programme, leading on to a period in an Incubator – a pathway being explored in Nottingham.

The three different incubators in Nottingham plan each to run Bootcamps, starting this summer – with supporting funding for two years from Nottingham City Council.

Biocity, the city’s well-established incubator in Life Sciences and healthcare has run Bootcamps for entrepreneurs with new businesses for several years. The one-year-old CleanTech Centre incubator, which specialises in recycling and green technologies, is running its fourth in May. And Biocity, Cleantech and Antenna, Nottingham’s incubator for Digital and web-based businesses are aiming to come together to run an Accelerator Programme later in the year, with Bootcamps as a kick-off.

Each is likely to have a different emphasis from the others: while all will deal with finance, IP and marketing, each field operates under a different regulatory regime, with different technologies, different markets and different business models. While Accelerators have attracted IT startups because of their low start-up costs, easy proto-typing and testing on customers, startups in other fields, most notoriously in Life Sciences, have a much longer and more arduous life cycle.

These low-cost, three-day Bootcamps, also supported with finance by local services and by industry, and economically hosted in local incubators, are a crash course for people up to a year before or after they start new businesses. They aim to help to develop an idea into a full-blown and marketable business concept and one that might find an appropriate place in an incubator.

For up to fifteen people, they combine workshops, exercises, and interaction; starting with a pitch, they also culminate in a Dragon’s Den-type session. The participants meet mentors, advisers and experts who have ‘done it before’ or seen it before, and there is a lot of ‘pointing where to go for help’.

Once incubatees have a fundable proposition, at Biocity they can then pitch for a further period of structured support – on a one-to-one basis for a fixed period of  6-9 months (http://wp.me/p3beJt-i). Their mentor provides guidance and challenge, offering different perspectives, getting the participants to challenge the market, to look for revenue sources, to make a business plan, and to iterate that plan; teaching about investors and shareholdings, helping them to pull together a package for potential investors, and to handle possible due diligence; and then possibly taking a board seat.

 

Evaluating processes for developing young businesses is virtually impossible – because there are so many elements involved in success or failure; and because it cannot be done until several years later. So signs and signals from experiments like these are the stuff of evolution – to be watched with great interest.