A Spanish bank has started to run its own Accelerator


A Spanish bank has started to run its own Accelerator – as a training ground for its own staff, and as a means of shifting its culture towards greater innovation; but startups will have reasons to be wary of corporate Accelerators which can limit their possible outcomes.
Banco Sabadell in Barcelona is among the first banks to run its own Accelerator. It has so far run two cohorts of startups through its 6-month programme, each cohort of five small businesses; and it plans to continue to run two cohorts per annum.
The bank believes that like Barcelona’s Football Club, it will be better if it has its own junior academy rather than have to buy in stars later – at a much higher price! An important motive behind the programme is that of shifting the culture of the bank towards greater innovation.
Candidates can be a one-person business, but the business must have at least one full-time employee, or it or it may already be a team; it must have a minimum viable product; it will very probably already have some sales; and it must be capable of rapid development. The first call elicited 400 responses, of which some 40 were shortlisted, and 5 selected.
The bank provides no funding, so candidates will already have a viable business – on a small scale; but it takes an equity stake from participants of between 6 and 10% depending on the valuation of the business.
The bank works with a partner organisation, and has a close relationship with Telefonica’s Wayra Lab, whose Accelerator in Barcelona works with earlier-stage businesses, but runs to a similar timetable.
Participants may either stay where they are already located or they may come to Barcelona, where they would receive closer mentoring. The partner organisation provides five professional mentors, and some twenty are made available by the bank, involving all sections of the bank. The bank is aiming to increase the number of workshops it provides itself, and to involve more of its own employees in the Accelerator programme; and to involve its entrepreneurs increasingly in internal conferences and similar activities of the bank.
From these first two cohorts, two of the businesses have come into the bank; one has successfully gone its own way; the bank is helping some others to find further funding; and about half have failed.

Jon Bradford of Springboard and Techstars pointed out in a recent note that corporate Accelerators may well be less attractive to startups (unless of course the corporate represents a unique market for startup’s product, or else is simply an investor) than independent Accelerators for several reasons: the programme director may have less experience; corporates will have a narrower range of mentors; they will have little interest or experience in introducing the SMEs to the VC community; and their equity stake and rights may muddy other funding opportunities and limit the SMEs market for future funding.


A new Accelerator – in retail


John Lewis, the latest corporate to launch a technology incubator
Organisations of many kinds are increasingly looking to incubators for their innovations – new products, services, processes and business models, but incubators from which they can quickly elicit something useful. Accelerators like this one – to be held at Level39, Canary Wharf’s innovation centre – are becoming increasingly specialised – to sector, such as this one in retail.
John Lewis is to launch a technology incubator called JLAB that will give one start-up a £100,000 investment in return for an equity stake in their company, and they’re hosting the programme at Level39’s Innovation Quarter, in Canary Wharf, where innovations are nurtured in a menagerie
of Hackathons, hatcheries, Accelerators and Incubators.
This development follows in the footstops of Finovate and Fintech Lab London, the former a programme that invited a large number of SMEs with technology that might be of value to the big banks to come and make the briefest of pitches – all in one day. Fintech Lab London brought together a small number of carefully selected SMEs to enable them to introduce their products to the big banks through a 13-week programme in which chaperones from the banks helped them to meet relevant people in the banks.
John Lewis has partnered with entrepreneur Stuart Marks, who invests in companies specialising in big data. “There are one or two retailers that have their own in-house development teams. The one that comes to mind is Tesco, who have developed Huddle internally. But there is no one in the UK that has done what we’ve done – this is not a corporate venture fund, this is about inviting companies from the outside to come in but with a very John Lewis centric approach that is unique”, said Stuart Marks.

A new co-working space right beside its patron


Traveltech Lab – a new co-working space for startups
Traveltech Lab simply positions a new co-working space for startups alongside a travel firm’s team of travel and tourism specialists, enabling its participants to have close access to expertise and experience, and the travel firm to have close access to any valuable emerging businesses
Technological innovation is transforming every aspect of how we travel and experience new places. Spring 2014 will see the opening of a new facility in London that provides a global springboard for startups working in these areas.
Located at a spectacular riverside location with views over Tower Bridge the Traveltech Lab offers a high-specification workspace for 35 people on the same floorplate as London & Partners’ team of travel and tourism specialists. The Traveltech Lab is being designed and managed by The Trampery, creators of London’s premier innovation spaces with acclaimed buildings in Shoreditch, Clerkenwell and London Fields.
Disruptive startups in travel, tourism, hospitality and events have been invited to apply for membership of the Traveltech Lab. As well as a superb location and a beautifully-designed working environment the selected startups will be supported with privileged access to senior industry executives, investors, mentors and media through London & Partners unrivalled network. Whether you’re looking for investment, alpha customers, promotion or resellers there’ll be help at hand. The package will be rounded out with regular socials and a programme of events bringing leading figures in to offer advice and inspiration.
You might be building a social platform that helps users pick a restaurant with their friends, a seat pricing algorithm that increases an airline’s profitability, an augmented reality app that raises a visitor’s enjoyment of a city, a network analysis tool that introduces conference attendees to each other, or any one of a million other innovations.
Members will pay a simple monthly fee based on the number of desks they need. All facilities and utilities will be included in the price. Bursaries will be available for especially innovative businesses if they can’t afford the full rate. Members also gain discounted use of a panoramic event space with jaw-dropping views over the river and full TV broadcast facilities.

May 2014

A variety of seed-beds is helping banks to confront change


The internet has thrown transactions into a cauldron of change

In a world in which innovation is mandatory, corporates are using and creating opportunities to explore new technologies that could influence their business models and even change their culture. And banking is in the spotlight.

The financial world is facing an earthquake of disruption as mobiles begin to become managers of people’s money; and as they play an increasing part in almost all kinds of transactions. Walmart’s discovery that as many as half its customers who order goods online could be in its stores at the time has highlighted the role of mobiles in transactions; and the rapidly growing volume of peer-to-peer transactions on the internet has highlighted the way in which the internet can displace intermediaries.

The internet is already playing a rapidly increasing role in banking, and the banks are now busily exploring ways in which their online activities will develop; and they are readily looking at innovations that SMEs have to offer. Consequently London is the place to which to bring your ideas.

Fintech Lab London has just completed its second iteration – in which it brought five SMEs to Canary Wharf, each with a bit of wizardry for the financial industry that might be of interest to the banks – its aim, to help them introduce their products through a 13-week development programme in collaboration with the banks. Level39, its location, sits in the middle of one of the world’s most intensive clusters – in Canary Wharf, so not only can it host intensive development programmes like this one; but it can also provide incubation space for the best of them to grow on.

Now Startupbootcamp FinTech is bringing its development programme to London – in partnership with financial institutions including MasterCard and Lloyds Banking Group, which will provide access to a network of industry professionals, and is opening its doors to applicants in August. Innotribe is running the semi-finals of its Startup Challenge competition in London, in which 15 startups and growth-stage companies for the financial industry will pitch for a place in its Finale in Boston later in the year. And Barclays is going a step further in planning to run its own Accelerator – with Techstars later this year; while Banco Sabadell in Barcelona has already done so.

These approaches are about bringing emerging technologies to potential business users, such as 3D printing to the vehicle industry in the East Midlands, TSB grant winners to Life Science businesses in Nottingham, games innovators to Dundee, new playwrights to the National Theatre’s Studio etc. Long ago Mercedes Benz established a culture of encouraging innovative thinking among its suppliers: what is new is the formalisation of this approach, the wider world from which relevant innovations are being sought, and the intensive development programmes like Fintech Lab London and Startupbootcamp FinTech.

May 2014

Building Open Innovation in Bioscience


Building the Stevenage Bioscience community  An Open Innovation brand is developing – nurturing innovation

SBC is a ground-breaking Incubator, located beside a big pharma, designed to enhance time to market – by encouraging contact with the wide variety of sources of help that it musters.

First and foremost we are about changing attitudes and cultures in both academia and industry, from small to large organizations – getting them both to recognize that there is another way of developing and translating research in the life sciences, and early engagement through partnership, collaboration, and even open innovation that might just make a difference in commercialising an opportunity.  We are all striving for a model that enhances time to market in an optimal way for those innovations that tick the faster, better, cheaper boxes, so why not take a different approach?

Open Innovation, as with all innovation approaches, is truly a contact sport – our tenants are actually engaging in early stage collaboration activities of all sizes with little or no money exchanging hands. Activities include regular tenant coffee morning meetings to speak and engage, more formal “SBC Connect” events where one can present to a GSK R&D audience, joint poster sessions, and information sessions about how to access GE’s latest cell technologies (as well as antibody production and analytical platforms) on site.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       “Why not talk to Suki from Labstract about access to Chemistry and Biology related platforms in the Community zone? Did you hear we have a FACS Arria on site for flow cytometry analysis?  Do you think we should have a seminar in our series of science seminars around cell therapies? Our tenant meetings are great!  You want to access our Expert’s Panel for discussions around your business plan? You want us to introduce you to Chris at Syncona or Louis at Kurma? You need Barbara Domayne-Hayman, our Entrepreneur in Residence, to help write a grant funding application or advise on your current approach to market? Is Christina Patino (our Business Development Executive) able to find you a technical expert through her University contacts?” Questions from tenants and partners on how to access hi-spec equipment through Labstract, how to reach an expert to provide feedback on a business plan, or how to get an introduction to one of our VC partners are all welcome, [though apparently there are no mentors assigned to tenants.]

Now, precedent has been set that if you build an Incubator and Accelerator next to one of the biggest Pharma in the world, not only do tenants come, but the quality and diversity is truly impressive, as well.  From very early stage all the way up to Phase 1 clinical development, since opening our doors in February 2012 we have created an impressive array of IP and research-based opportunities.

Precis of article by Martino Picardo, CEO, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst November 2013 www.stevenagecatalyst.com