Four Incubator initiatives Incubators have taken to developing specific aspects of support (Edinburgh University); to buying in wholesale support (from the likes of Accelerator Academy), to adapting a well–recognised accelerator format (the Crick Centre) and even selling their support programmes to others (Ryerson University). One has decided that it is a permanent Accelerator (coming soon).
Edinburgh University’s Executive Director Designate Programme provides an experienced entrepreneur/mentor/advisor who can help pull together a plan for the business, and thus provide better balance to the academic team that improves the chances of raising funding for these spin-out companies. It also allows universities to pay consultancy fees of experts from outside the University, or buy out time of tenured academics to allow them to focus on a spin-out. The University also has a scheme called Pitching for Mentors – similar to Dragons Den in format but at a much earlier stage – looking at how help can support the commercial opportunity around these projects.
Several incubators including South Bank University’s have made use of Accelerator Academy’s mini-Accelerator (conceived in 2014, supported by White Horse Capital). It is based on one day a week of intensive, structured development support for 6-12 weeks – around team, market and investor readiness. It comprises 150 hours of training, mentoring and support, with weekly classroom sessions, workshops, and mentoring, and fortnightly clinics (and ongoing support, events and investor introductions.)
The Crick Centre in London is running an I-Corps type programme for around a dozen teams to help commercialise their work. ‘The course includes’, says the description, ‘pre-accelerator, accelerator and post-accelerator activities designed to take founder teams from idea to Series A and beyond commercial launch’ – a spectrum unheard of in any other such programme. ‘Teams will have access to a network of global experts in all aspects of entrepreneurship, health sector knowledge, data science and investment strategies. This network will provide workshops and mentoring to support the cohort – helping them to maximise opportunities and address challenges.’
The Digital Marketing Zone at Ryerson University, has developed all sorts of accelerator programmes. Known for supporting Canadian tech startups and recently ranked the top university-managed tech incubator in the world, (tying with Bristol’s SetSquared), among Ryerson’s programmes is a sales accelerator programme; and it has forged partnerships with banks and companies like Facebook to develop accelerator programmes in digital news, financial technology and early market validation for women-led founders.
Coming shortly: an Incubator that experimented with an Accelerator programme, but decided instead to turn itself into a permanent Accelerator.
John Whatmore, December 2018