A major programme for new hi-flyers

A major programme for new hi-flyers that includes an Accelerator
Public support for a major programme of development for a relatively large number of early-stage ventures, designed to identify and accelerate some world-class companies for to-morrow – from the Middle East. Why doesn’t InnovateUK do something similar?

Lebanon has a history of cultural development that is currently shrouded by the strife in the Middle East, and it has long-established international tentacles, so it is not surprising to come across a major commercial initiative from the Lebanon that is both far-reaching and high-flying.

Over a two-year period, teams will be brought to London for 6 months with the objective of grooming them – via partnerships, networks, mentoring etc – to become major global businesses of the future. Carefully selected for their promise, about half are already growing businesses, a third are early-stage startups, and the rest are at ‘product stage’

I spoke to two people who had just come to London for the duration of the programme, who were developing with US partners an algorithm for selling on the internet. They already had an investment of about $1mn from sources in the Middle East, for which they had given a substantial stake in their company, an amount that would provide them with a runway of about a year in which to achieve full commercialisation of the business.

The UK Lebanon Tech Hub’s Accelerator consists of a 4-month programme in Beirut with one-on-one mentorship and business support from international entrepreneurs and subject-matter experts for 45 carefully selected businesses – run by Babson Global. Fifteen of these will be selected to come to London for a 6-month programme and follow-on, which is designed to help those businesses to deliver their business plan – with training events, meetings, access to contacts and one-to-one mentoring.

The London office mirroring that in Lebanon is to be managed by PAConsulting whose role includes the Outreach programme and the Signposting Service as well as contacts and the support of mentors – sourced from various other organisations.

The Outreach Programme aims to understand business and innovation needs, and identify strategic opportunities for synergy with Lebanese and UK partners. The Signposting Service, available also online, offers opportunities, knowledge and advice on how to enter the UK and international markets – for Lebanese entrepreneurs, investors, academics and media professionals; and will facilitate action on significant business leads or proposed partnerships.

With the Capacity Building programme, the UK Lebanon Tech Hub will contribute to the development of Lebanon’s Tech Cluster with training events and master classes on a regular basis, tailored to the needs of individual businesses, with study tours, internships, and job shadowing for key entrepreneurs and investors; and with Tech talks, seminars, and workshops with internationally recognized tech entrepreneurs and experts.

The UK Lebanon Tech Hub is an international initiative kick-started by Banque Du Liban and the UK Government through the British Embassy in Beirut and with the active support of UKTI. The initiative is privately run and managed by UK-based PA Consulting. The programme’s objective is to open global markets to Lebanese entrepreneurs through the expertise, exposure and experience to be found in London, with the aims of growing Lebanon’s knowledge economy, its GDP and its job opportunities.

The striking aspects of the programme are the commitment by the Lebanese government and Lebanese institutions to identifying and supporting early-stage businesses that might have the potential to become the Microsofts or the Googles of to-morrow; and secondly the fulsome and collaborative nature of the development programme that is being run by a semi-independent public body. Why doesn’t InnovateUK do something similar?

See also:
A cluster-based ‘Accesserator’…
here helping to enable SMEs with innovative products to market to the big companies of this cluster; the process energised both by collaboration and competition Feb 2013 http://wp.me/p3beJt-3

Bioscience brings development expertise to bear on discoveries with big potential benefits
We are widely recognised for the quality of our academic output in the UK, but stories abound about the inflexibility and lack of commercial understanding of Technology Transfer Offices. The Wellcome Trust recently launched a vehicle for investing in spin-outs and start-ups for developing promising discoveries. March 2014 http://wp.me/p3beJt-8r

A model of support for hi-growth SMEs – Octopus Ventures
Octopus Ventures applies all the techniques of intensive development that are typical of Accelerators, but it does so at longer range. It invests in small businesses with potential for very high growth, and then it is set up to provide whatever support is necessary in order to achieve that potential. March 2015 http://wp.me/p3beJt-ap

John Whatmore
July 2015

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