A Pathfinder in Incubation

A Pathfinder in Incubation Academic turned entrepreneur starts another boutique incubator that is more like a permanent accelerator; and plans another, and another.      To-morrow: The Pathfinder’s pathway: with about 130 new business support programmes started in the last three years, where do leaders like him come from?

Currently founding his fourth latter-day incubator (and planning his fifth), Jack Wratten is an outcome of the inspirational academic enterprise run by Tim Barnes that was UCL Advances, where he set up and launched its Incubator in 2015.

Jack took his small redundancy pot, augmented it with funds from ERDF via Capital Enterprise to take a lease on a small basement area close beside UCL. There he has created an attractive, intimate mini-incubator – of 30 hot desks (some 14 small businesses), where he and Lillian Shapiro keep in intimate touch with the businesses and provide them with the training, mentoring, links to experts and close support that enables them to develop – probably as fast as any Accelerator.

They make a perfect pair: Jack’s experience and connections combine with his restless spirit of innovation, friendly smiles, nosey character and ‘connectivitis’. Lillian’s experience of her own business, her understanding of startups progress and needs in terms of training and mentoring is offered with endless patience and understanding.

What have they created? Connections to former colleagues at UCL, and to lawyers, accountants and specialists, (he has about a dozen mentors on hand) enable them to wheel up help of every imaginable kind: knowledge, expertise, advice, and even recruiting new team members. And their closeness to everyone in the incubator and the mutual support for one another in the incubator enables them to wheel up help just when it is needed.

The basis of all Jack’s incubators is that they take no equity and are run for young businesses that have the funds (whether from revenue, grants or investors) to pay for their places and for the close and expert support that he can offer them.

Word of mouth has spoken for the benefits of the support they provide; for it has been continually full since opening, though with inevitable spikes in occupancy.

 

John Whatmore, February, 2019

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