A large scale Growth Builder programme

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Another Growth Programme – on a bigger scale

A global initiative designed to help regions accelerate economic growth and job creation: through innovation-driven entrepreneurship; and by means of a two-year programme of six-monthly action-learning workshops.

The MIT Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (MIT REAP) works with partner regions that commit to a two-year learning engagement with MIT. They form multi-disciplinary teams to work with the MIT faculty and the broader REAP community, through a series of action-learning activities, to build and implement a custom regional strategy for enhancing their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

MIT REAP involves four action-learning cycles over a two-year period. These cycles involve highly interactive workshops every 6 months, which are interspersed by action phases:

(1) A typical workshop is 2.5 days and consists of lecture & discussion, case study analysis, ecosystem engagement tours, programmatic deep dives, group work report-outs, and preparation for action phases. Two workshops are hosted at MIT and two workshops are hosted by selected partner regions.

(2) Action phases are active time between workshops where teams return home to deepen analysis, validate assumptions with a broad network, and implement new programmes and policies.

During this two-year engagement, regional teams are empowered to:

  • deploy to analyse and evaluate their current entrepreneurial ecosystems;
  • catalyze action through the development of a common agenda for creating impact;
  • Leverage understanding of key drivers
  • share best practice from MIT faculty and partner regions;
  • build bridges internally across regional stakeholders to drive progress;

and exchange ideas with the partner regions and the MIT REAP community.

MIT REAP admits 8-10 partner regions annually to participate in the two-year engagement. A typical REAP region has a population of 3-10 million people. Each partner region has a team comprised of 5-7 highly driven and influential regional members and is headed by a regional champion. All 5 major stakeholder groups are represented in an MIT REAP team: government, corporate, academia, risk capital, and the entrepreneurial community.

Hangzhou, China was among the first REAP cohort in 2012, as was Scotland (London was in the subsequent cohort, and Wales is in the current one). The rise of Alibaba, located in Hangzhou, and its founder, Jack Ma, “has proved instructive for a generation of young Chinese — not just as a road map to riches, but as a lesson in entrepreneurial individualism. Today, thousands of young people across China are creating start-ups of their own, driven by visions of what they might do if they, too, strike it big.

“The Alibaba money has helped spur a constellation of Internet companies in China. Over the last decade, one-time Alibaba employees have helped start 130 Internet businesses, more than any other Chinese company, according to Itjuzi.com, a website that tracks investment in domestic technology companies.

“Three years ago, Lai Jie, a former Alibaba product manager, sold a big chunk of his shares and started WiTown with three co-workers. Today, the venture, which runs wireless Internet service in public spaces like airports, has nearly 80 employees, most in Hangzhou. A former Alibaba product manager, he pulled together $81,000 for his company, supplementing his own funds with money from an angel investor and a no-interest loan from the local government.

“People here really value bold thinking and risk-taking, and the government is also pretty good, which is a rarity in China,” said Mr. Lai. In recent years, Hangzhou’s department of science and technology has distributed $130 million to 152 start-ups, according to its website.

“The combination — Alibaba’s success and the government’s support — has helped turn Hangzhou into an entrepreneurial hub. Last year, the e-commerce industry’s contribution to the local economy was 56 percent more than in 2012, and last year was responsible for 25 percent of all local economic activity.

“Zhejiang University, one of the nation’s top-rated schools, has become something of a feeder farm for local high-tech firms that aggressively recruit graduating seniors. Incubators, which bring together a number of start-ups under the same roof, are also popping up around the city.

“Started in 2012, the Fudi Startup Incubator Centers are the brainchild of Li Zhiguo, an early employee at Alibaba who went on to found Koubei.com, a business review site later sold to Alibaba. The newest Fudi center is a collection of brightly colored buildings that are home to dozens of start-ups. “Among the biggest tenants are Zhang Jie and Fang Yi, angel investors and entrepreneurs who oversee eight start-ups.”

Who will run something of this kind for clusters in the UK?

John Whatmore, October, 2016 (Adapted from various sources.)

 

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Innovation Managers visit Maker Lab

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US Innovation Managers visit a brand new Maker Lab

While Maker Labs are becoming more common in the UK, they have not attracted the same interest as this group of innovation managers showed.

The Maker Lab movement has attracted interest alongside the startup frenzy as enabling entrepreneurs to make a model or prototype very quickly – so as to be able to show it off, and to prove that it works.

The US Association of Managers of Innovation (AMI), a by-invitation network of innovation practitioners – started in 1981, brings together managers who often have to work with leaders of enduring businesses when the latters’ primary interest is in their established components. It meets twice yearly in different locations in the US – for members to wrestle with their issues and exchange experience, and to use the opportunity to visit or learn about some topical aspect of innovation. The UK seriously lacks organisations and collaborations of this kind.

At this Autumn’s meeting for example, a visit will build on the theme of the Maker Movement. “We will be joined in Ann Arbor by Will Brick, General Manager of TechShop Detroit and we will visit the TechShop on Thursday late afternoon.
TechShop is a community-based workshop and prototyping studio on a mission to democratize access to the tools of innovation. The facility is packed with cutting-edge tools, equipment, and computers loaded with design software featuring the Autodesk Design Suite. Most importantly, TechShop offers space to make, and the support and camaraderie of a community of makers.
TechShop Detroit is a unique collaboration with Ford Global Technologies and occupies 38,000 square feet adjacent to Ford’s Dearborn Product Development campus.  Ford employees enjoy access to TechShop as a reward for contributing to Ford’s Employee Patent Incentive Award program.  At TechShop, Ford employees invent alongside members of the local community. Everyone has one thing in common, they are working to bring their ideas to life! …We will tour the facility and will share the story of how this unique collaboration with Ford began and the success they’ve had since opening their doors in 2012. Read more about TechShop in Forbes.”

Facebook has apparently just spent a considerable sum to open a brand new hardware lab of state-of-the-art machinery – to provide engineers from a wide variety of the company’s teams with a place to come together to share expertise, and work quickly on projects; and to save the time that would otherwise be necessary if third parties did the prototyping and testing work. Though people think of the company as a software company, says the article in Fast Company, its long-range plans are very much tied to hardware.

Richard Feynman, scientist and author, once opined of the US National Institutes of Health that any scientist who wanted to achieve a Nobel Prize should get apprenticed to an existing Laureate; and the same probably applies in Cambridge’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology – home to a series of Nobel Prize Winners. If incubators and their ilk are likely to harbour some of the best prospects among young businesses, it is surprising that since the demise of UK Business Incubator, the incubator association, there is no similar set-up (like the US Association of Managers of Innovation) under which the leaders of innovation communities can meet to learn together.

John Whatmore, October 2016.

The latest twists in Accelerator programmes

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Support for startups and scaleups: the latest new twists

Six developments all designed to enhance interactions among and between the entrepreneurs in Accelerator programmes, their mentor community, VCs and relevant corporates.

FinTech in London could hardly be more topical or more relevant; and Startupbootcamp is among the most experienced of support programmes. So what is new in their latest programme? (For a description of a recent programme, see http://wp.me/p3beJt-8W)

  • They have invited one startup to be a startup-in-residence – to add to and benefit from the experience of being in the Accelerator.
  • They are running three, yes three, mentor matching days in the first four weeks of the twelve week programme. This acknowledges that match-making is a chancy business, and that as a new business evolves its needs for help evolve too.
  • They are running a social meeting for their mentor community, where an inspiring entrepreneur will share his/her story, which will also provide an opportunity for mentors to share their own experience.
  • They are holding a meeting well into the programme at which heads of innovation in this case from major financial institutions will debate how they can best work with startups – an opportunity for those present to exchange experience.
  • And they are holding regular weekly ‘Coffee Houses’ – expert gatherings for mentors to meet informally with startups to discuss their challenges in the week to come, each one focused progressively on a topic of the moment.
  • Finally, some incubators arrange a session at which a number of VCs can listen to pitches from emerging businesses so that they might keep in touch with those that interest them.

Chance meetings are well-recognised as among the best sources of support, and time is so vital to every young business that anything that can increase the chances of a good chance is valuable.

See also ‘Design you own Accelerators’ http://wp.me/p3beJt-K.

John Whatmore, October 2016.

Helping young businesses to create partnerships

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Helping young businesses to create partnerships

Finding a partner can provide a big step forward for a Scaleup, but in a disruptive world it is like looking you-know-not-where for you-know-not-what. Mediators are few and far between, but Nesta has shown a way forward; and Accenture has been a pioneer. Incubators and their ilk need a wide range of contacts on hand if they are to help with partnering.

For a young business with the potential for high growth, a ride on a partner can clearly generate a big step forward. A defining feature of SMEs is their lack of resources, says the recent Barclays ScaleUp Report: they need to leverage external resources, for example by alliances with established companies – which can:

  • help you develop your product
  • introduce you to markets
  • support you with funds and funding, and
  • enhance the value of your business.

Unilever’s European Open Innovation Manager’s search for new supply chains for example, starts with entrepreneurs and IP, for which he then looks for development grants, and partners – like Siemens, Akzo Nobel, Croda or Syngenta, who will adopt and use the new technology in order to deliver product to Unilever.

Nesta, some time ago in an open innovation pilot, acted as intermediary for P&G by eliciting and selecting relevant ideas and then providing a period of support and development with the help of a VC and enabling the best to be pitched to P&G, one of which looked like a winner – a process of building up communication channels and developing trust, now run regularly by its creaters ‘100% Open’.

Nesta’s recent ‘Scaling Together’ Report (March 2016) contains 37 ‘tips for corporates’ on how to develop relationships with such young businesses, but not a single one for the latter – on how to find and work with a corporate. Except perhaps the briefest of stories about the good luck Bill Clee of Asset Mapping had when his endless networking efforts eventually led to his being offered a place by Cisco in incubator IdeaLondon.

The current tide of disruption suggests that potential partners are increasingly likely to be found in surprising places; and, unsurprisingly, intermediaries have played a part in recent examples – such as:

*         Accenture’s Fintech Labs at Level39 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-3), where 8 to 10 young businesses are invited from all over the world to participate in an Accelerator development programme, sponsored by a dozen major banks, each of which provides a chaperone to introduce them to key individuals in their bank.

*         Accenture’s latest version of the Accelerator Lab, (millenial20-20.com) launched with a razzmattaz of a major conference on the future of retailing, complete with a store of the future, where some eight innovative businesses were selected for eight weeks together at The Trampery co-working space in Shoreditch; and the dozen major retailers (Argos, Sainsbury’s, Kingfisher, Specsavers, Dixons/Carphone – among others) were invited to presentations and discussions with them over the period of their residency.

For Accenture these were experiments in creating processes that would support major changes in sectors, whether disruptions or major challenges.

Often a mentor with wide experience and a big address book is a valuable mediator (one mentor was able to suggest ten possible customers for the technology of a business he was mentoring!)

These stories highlight the importance for incubators of having well oiled contacts with corporates that are on the look-out for entrepreneurs and IP, where partnerships might generate highly productive alliances for growth.

Dreamstake (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6H), online home to more than 15,000 young businesses of which 2,000 are technology based, now offers access to 50 VCs, 800 technology angel investors and to top influencers in the London technology scene as well as to successful founders in Silicon Valley – through its DreamLab Ventures initiative. But most incubators offer little more than office or desk space.

John Whatmore, October 2016