Dreamstake, the free website for aspiring entrepreneurs

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Dreamstake, the free website for aspiring entrepreneurs which measures their progress, is growing, and expanding its offering; and it has done some diagnostics

Dreamstake is a free interactive startup platform for entre-preneurs which has a rating feature that acts as a marker of their progress. Membership is growing fast and has increased from 6,000 in April 2012 to 10,000 now. It is has added regular educational events at Google Campus in Tech City; and enables its members (and others) to see how well they are making progress by comparison with other members. And some recent statistical analysis reveals aspects of their businesses.

 

Dreamstake acts a bit like an online Accelerator by taking startup founders through a process to get them ready for investment and then introducing them to potential investors.

An algorithm enables each member to keep track of the progress of his or her startup, by measuring team size and mix, progress with the product, fund-raising, number of pivots and other key measures of success. The speed with which this measure progresses also acts as an indicator of the dedication of its entrepreneurs. All of this is available for potential investors to see.

Dreamstake has introduced regular educational workshops for startups – at Google Campus, where it is now the largest provider of events. They take place every Monday evening and there are funding-related events on a monthly basis; and all of these are provided free. For those that sign up for a full Accelerator programme – weekly academy, monthly bootcamps, performance review and mentoring – Dreamstake charges a success fee upon successful introduction to investment.

The data which has been input by the entrepreneurs has revealed some interesting analysis. Social media is a dominant theme and that for some 70% of its members their vision is their primary motivation – followed by the concept of a product – for 25%, and money for a mere 5%.  Forty percent work from home, 25% from an office and a third say that they are in co-working spaces. (Over half had English as not their first language, the vast majority of them European.) Among their technical skills, HTML comes top, followed by web development, PHP and CSS. Of the kind of businesses they are developing less than 20% are described in terms that are other than IT related; over 60% are clearly internet or mobile related.

Progress is hard to interpret in a fast-growing community like this, but the statistics show that nearly a quarter have had one pivot, and about a third of the total have had two or three pivots (a quarter have as yet had no pivot at all). Eight percent are at the idea stage, 58% are at the prototype or beta stage, 17% have a full product, 13% are in revenue, and 4% are profitable.

Dreamstake offers universities and their ilk an attractive  and low-cost way of supporting their aspiring entrepreneurs.

Universities being dragged into more commercialisation of their research

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A small but elite conference brought together by new publication Global University Venturing indicated areas of progress as well as areas of obduracy, but added urgency to the task.

Conceived and run with his usual flair by James Mawson, 16 October saw an outstanding small conference on Global University Venturing, a new publication launched earlier this year, which brought together top people in this field from all over the world to offer in a tightly packed agenda their perspective and to talk about their successes in various fields of venturing.

James sees the commercialisation of university research as a likely source of rescue for the financial squeeze faced by universities. And while delegates saw some signs of changing attitudes in university departments, they also mentioned many of the obstacles still to be tackled if universities are to make real progress in the commercialisation of their research.

The emphasis was certainly on the selection of investments, and the making of deals, and on funding gaps – more than it was on the supporting of investments. Evidence suggests that venture capital organisations are being increasingly attracted to the university sector and a number of strategic partnerships are being formed (among them for example, a leading edge partnership – mentioned in the publication – between the Mayo Clinic and Arizona Furnace, an Accelerator programme, of which Arizona State University was a founding member).

The plethora of small group sessions at the conference provided frequent opportunities for delegates to meet leaders in other sectors and cadge from their experience.

Global University Venturing has chosen a long road to hoe, but if it moves the field forward as fast as Global Corporate Venturing did with corporate ventures, it will have provided a remarkable service.

Profiting in times of extreme uncertainty: an analogy from the turf

We asked some expert punters how they would make money in horse-racing if:

  • race courses and races were changing from day to day (ie the business environment changing rapidly);
  • there were many more horses in training (ie more competition);
  • horses were strikingly more ‘trainable’ (ie innovations becoming more common and more radical);
  • owners and trainers were preoccupied with trying out new ways of getting the best out of their horses? (industry increasingly preoccupied with innovation).

Their answers included:

  • bet on more horses (ie increasing one’s chances by spreading one’s risk);
  • bet your money on trainers (ie backing skill/expertise);
  • invest in a horse transport business (ie services to participants);
  • buy a bookmaker! (ie services to backers).

(Originally published in Applied Creativity, May 2010, and still more relevant!)

‘Supporters’ becoming more integral to Accelerators

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Advisors, Speakers, Mentors and other specialists are getting more and more involved in Accelerators; but generalists, polymaths or iconoclasts should not be excluded

Discussions at the Accelerator Exchange Forum that we held recently in London showed how ‘supporters’ were becoming increasingly involved in Accelerators (see http://wp.me/p3beJt-5W), so it was no great surprise to read in a recent e-mail how Wayra Lab was defining these different roles.

“The role of the Board Advisor is to act as in an advisory capacity for a specific team or project. We ask Board Advisors to be active participants in the acceleration of the specific team; being available on an ad-hoc basis, attending Board Meetings and facilitating network opportunities.

The role of the Masterclass Speaker is to provide inspiration, expert knowledge and opinion on a specific subject matter.

The role of the Mentor is to be available to act as a sounding board for the start-ups, pitches and new ideas.

The role of the Surgery Mentor will be to run at least one half-day open surgery per year on a specific theme/topic to which the project teams can book face-to-face consultations.”

Among the most popular speakers are those who tell the story of their adventure in their own early-stage business – whether it was a miserable disaster or a grand success.

The analysis above omits one role that is capable of lifting the whole process, of breaking the mould, of creating genuinely disruptive innovations: that of presenting ways of looking at similar problems in different contexts, epitomised in EPSRC’s Sandpits – by sessions with poets, ethicists, IT experts et al, but also for example by people who simply work in different fields such as theatre, sport or art (‘Ideas via Intermediaries’ is a collection of nineteen brief stories about breakthroughs of this kind – available on request).

Moreover, some would say that there are several different roles for mentors: one is to provide regular ‘supervisions’; another is to act as confidante; a third is to be available for his/her particular knowledge and skills; and the fourth is to be able to provide contacts and introductions. And different roles have different places in the course of Accelerator programmes as the business concept reaches different stages of evolution.

Another correspondent tells me that he became concerned that as a mentor he was simply being used by a certain Accelerator. There clearly has to be some give-and-take, and the ‘take’ must consist of opportunities to invest (or for paid work/ advice).

So it also comes as no surprise that providing just the right support from moment to moment to entrepreneurs with their ever-changing needs is a sophisticated management role: detecting their needs and organising to meet them is like tending the growth of a very fragile plant.

Jw/October 2013

Small, elite university incubator launches into new space

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Focusing on a small number of technologies that are ripe for commercialisation, and a small number of students or alumni with an interest in entrepreneurialism whose careers it seeks to advance, the Incubator of Cass University Business School has a new home which is unique in having alongside it a co-working space where students and alumni have the opportunity to be matched up with Tech City entrepreneurs.

On 21 August, Cass University’s Business School Incubator launched its new space in Tech City. ‘The Hangout’ is a start-up space for City students and alumni, providing an interactive environment where ‘talent meets tech’ ie where students and alumni from City University have the opportunity to be matched up with Tech City entrepreneurs. Sharing space with The Bakery, a small, private 8-week brand and marketing Accelerator, each has about 20 places, with a mixture of desk spaces, conversation area, small meeting rooms, a table tennis table and a kitchen area.

The founder of Cass’s Incubator, Leo Castellanos, then working for one of the big four ‘accounting’ firms, happened four years ago to be interested in some of the work of the Technology Transfer offices, and was induced to run a pilot. It had an enviable early success rate, and now the resulting Incubator has no difficulty in recruiting some twenty interns in a new programme every six months.

The Incubator has three strands: it seeks to work with a small number of technologies from its related University Technology Transfer Offices that appear to be ripe for commercialisation and so accelerate the launch of innovative products and services; it seeks to provide internships in entrepreneurship for a small number of students and alumni who have the necessary technical and commercial skills and the potential to become the managers and directors of the future; and its third strand is the provision of consultancy to high growth companies – for whom it also offers meeting space.

Every six months, the programme starts with a six-day business learning programme; and the interns are put to work on the task of commercialising specific technologies drawn from the parent universities – in the fields of journalism, informatics, design, and finance. Run by Leo, whose passion is the development of new businesses, with the help of four or five other people, and the occasional introduction of a mentor, its interns move on at the end of their time, with some 70% going into existing SMEs, and the others into their own startups.

 

 

 

Applied Creativity Sept 2013

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The task of bringing innovations into widespread use needs to have as much emphasis as the development of new technologies or their new products

Processes of innovation do not attract the interest that new products and services do, so we should celebrate the new Level39 at Canary Wharf, a fast-expanding hub of creativity focusing here on financial services and retail, but a model that could find a place in other ‘clusters’; and Angel investing continues to thrive and expand, as do start-ups and Accelerators.

The UK rates highly as a centre of innovationism, with well-identified technological foci and a strongly developing entrepreneurial culture. But while we are plagued by new offers, new deals, new apps, we remain desperately slow to bring major innovations into being, such as HS2, new sources of energy, new airports, new systems (eg in the NHS and in government). Leaders say that innovation is their top priority, but they don’t seem to deliver.

 

 

 

 

 Applied Creativity September 2013

Briefings from John Whatmore at The Centre for Leadership in Creativity

 

 

 

 

john.whatmore@btinternet.com

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

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Level39, Canary Wharf – a throbbing new Innovation Centre

This unique tailor-made innovation eco-system has been carefully designed to meet the varied needs of those who are looking for innovations and those who are seeking to develop them in this part of London; and to bring them together in successful collaborations. What it does and how it does it might have some useful lessons for all those involved in innovationism.

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-65)

Angel investing taking yet more steps forward

Now far from its origins as a side-line for rich single investors, angel investing is becoming a collaboration between different contributors and the UK Business Angels Association – a major supporter of fast-growing young businesses.

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-5S)

 YCombinator a unique experiment

A recent article in the Times (27.7.2013) about YCombinator – as an archetypal Accelerator, emphasises some of its seemingly nuttier aspects; so what do they tell us? (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6d)

Managing to-day’s Accelerators

At a recent Workshop I ran with people involved in Accelerators, it was clear that Accelerators are becoming more institutionalised. They are no longer one-offs, they are part of continuing programmes; they are working with more established entrepreneur ‘teams’; Accelerators are no longer being managed by just one or two individuals but by teams; and they are involving a wider cohort of followers. Moreover they are developing fast. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-5W)

‘Supporters’ becoming more integral to Accelerators

Advisors, Speakers, Mentors and other specialists are getting more and more involved in Accelerators; but generalists, polymaths or iconoclasts should not be excluded. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6f)

Managing Bubbles

The government would like to discourage ‘bubbles’ caused by overheating, but to encourage others where they are the green shoots of the future. How can they do so? (http://wp.me/p3beJt-61)

Calibrating my Raspberry Pi – my own ‘Outrage Meter’

I don’t need the Press any more: I have found a computer which I can programme to deliver just the items I want that will give me my regular dose of outrage instead of reading the media! (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6h)

 

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