Ten trends in Business Nurseries

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Ten trends in Business Nurseries

Co-working spaces growing in number; and providing increasing support

Startups declining in number, (despite apparent continuing increase in self-employment) with a higher proportion in tech fields

Entrepreneurialism continues its attraction; but focuses on founders more than followers

Increasing use of Competitions and Prizes

Growth in Accelerators dominated by Corporates

Startups continue to be idea-focused, with a slight shift towards a problem/opportunity-focus

Investors increasingly focusing on businesses that are near to market

VC industry needs bigger and more expert players

Support continues to be undervalued; and under-managed

In terms of economic benefits, to-day’s focus is now as much on Scaleups as it is on Startups, but the scene is foggier

 

John Whatmore, July 2018

 

 

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Incubator spawns Accelerator programmes

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Incubator ‘DMZ’ spawns specialised Accelerator programmes and wins accolades for Toronto

Toronto is proving to be a hot spot for boosting businesses, with three local incubators and accelerators now ranked among the world’s top university-backed launchpads for startup companies.

​The Digital Marketing Zone (‘DMZ’) at Ryerson University, known for supporting Canadian tech startups like marketing company #paid, credit education company Borrowell, and photography website 500PX, has been ranked the top university-managed tech incubator in the world, tying with Bristol’s SetSquared.

Another local business launchpad, University of Toronto Entrepreneurship, took fourth place in the recently announced rankings. In the category of university-linked accelerators, the York Entrepreneurship Development Institute took the top spot, with three other Canadian accelerators rounding out the top four.

Since 2010, DMZ has incubated roughly 300 startups that have raised close to $400 million and created more than 3,000 jobs. Over the last few years, it opened an office in New York City, developed a sales accelerator program, and forged partnerships with banks and companies like Facebook to develop accelerator programs in digital news, financial technology and early market validation for women-led founders.

Sam Seo largely credits the Ryerson incubator with the success of his tech startup Livegauge, launched in 2013, which provides sensors for marketing events so companies can measure the level of engagement from passerby. The company now has more than $1 million in annual sales.

“I had a business idea to launch, but not really a plan to commercialize the business,” he said. “After we got into the DMZ for the first three years or so, they really helped us shape the business.”

John Whatmore, July 2018

 

What makes for successful project group leaders?

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What makes for successful project group leaders People whose objective is to address tough problems start with different issues. Projects of this kind require different characteristics for successful leadership.

The Gates Foundation starts with health issues; the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme starts with public service issues; MIT’s REAP programme and Village Capital in New York start with local or regional economic issues. They then find leaders and build teams to tackle those issues – an approach which is the opposite of the entrepreneur movement – which simply encourages individuals to develop new products or services.

But one of their biggest problems in starting with issues is that of finding leaders to head up these issue-based programmes. Above all else, such people must be experienced experts in their field, but it is unlikely that they will have experience of running innovation-centred programmes.

Singularity University (www.su.org), founded in 2009 and based at the Nasa Research Park in California describes its aim as to leverage new technologies, and work together to start companies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. It is a community of entrepreneurs, corporations, development organizations, governments, investors, and academic institutions that runs an annual programme whose activities include custom educational experiences for leaders, conferences that inspire and prompt action, and innovative labs that incubate and accelerate corporate innovation and social impact projects.

If you are thrust into the leadership of a major innovation project, the approaches embodied in design company IDEO’s Design Thinking (www.interaction-design.org) may be relevant – based on these five skills:

  1. Observing:“Listen with your eyes” and discover what people really care about
  2. Stretch your thinking beyond assumptions and get to bolder ideas.
  3. Interviewing:Conduct interviews to get deeper, more honest responses.
  4. Immersive Empathy:Learn what it means to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
  5. Sharing Insights:Craft compelling insights that will inspire innovation.

Steve Blanks’s I-Corps (Innovation Corps Are there any limits to the scope for Accelerators) runs a Boot Camp – a nine-week course designed to teach business skills to entrepreneurial scientists in technology-based startups – that has now been rolled out for biomedical firms as part of an experiment by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and has recently been trialled by at least two organisations in the UK.

Its ruthless pitching tests have encouraged some of the participating organisations to change course; and others to search more assiduously for commercial applications of their science. “You can be a great researcher and you can think you have great ideas”, said one Congressman, “but until you’re forced to talk to a potential customer, you never really know.”

Research suggests that creative groups (addressing tough problems with big pay-offs) tend to be led by people who are visionaries – passionate and enthusiastic and sensitive to ‘process’, able to identify and bring together the necessary resources and the variety of talents, and then encouraging, orchestrating and supporting them, and protecting the group through its ups and downs. The research (Leaders of Creative Groups  also shows that they learn these skills primarily by experience – from one such project to another.

Scotland’s next generation of business leaders will benefit from entrepreneurial learning in a programme designed to develop future business leaders across all sectors – corporate, family businesses, the public sector and the third sector – delivered for the first time by Strathclyde Business School, led by Entrepreneurial Scotland in partnership with Babson College in Boston, USA – a world leader in entrepreneurial development (A heavy-weight investment in top entrepreneurial leaders.

The programme is for people who are at a turning point in their careers, aiming to become entrepreneurs: they may be starting a new business, entering an entrepreneurial business or joining a business that is looking to become more entrepreneurial.

It aims to instil entrepreneurial thinking and strategic leadership – by giving participants access to toolkits and techniques with an entrepreneurial perspective. The approach is described as facilitated learning: delivered by the business school faculty together with industry partners, with the help of mentors and advisers, and consisting also of networking and peer-to-peer learning.

Leaders of new ventures would surely find models like these useful, (as would policy makers) – whether they are designing their aeroplane on the way down from the cliff top, leading on a big problem that they have never before encountered in their life, or fostering innovation in the Hebrides or London.

John Whatmore, June 2018

 

 

 

 

 

Few business nurseries focus on learning; but some do

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WORKING IN STARTUPS Founding a business attracts a lot of young people who have little or no business experience; but only a few business development programmes put much emphasis on learning – Village Capital, EntrepreneurFirst and the Clore Foundation among them.

 Becoming a company founder, some suggest, is to-day a more popular career than any other, but it is fraught with failure. Brent Hoberman has depicted it as like throwing yourself off a cliff and learning to build an aeroplane on the way down. While some succeed (YCombinator seems to attract heavy-weight innovators), many fail; (in the UK just under half new businesses apparently fail within three years), and many of those who start businesses simply become self-employed (or are out of work.) We desperately need to identify, select and train – for the various skills that are needed.

In 2016, Village Capital in New York launched a development programme for young people aimed at filling the gap between their education and the need for them to become employable in today’s venture-oriented world. It involved companies that would receive ‘training on business model development, customer hypothesis testing, financial modelling, partnership and customer development, and investor engagement. Entrepreneurs also have one-on-one time with mentors, industry experts, investors, top business leaders and potential customers’.

EntrepreneurFirst, an Accelerator for graduates to found new businesses, has become expert in putting people together who form effective teams, as has Village Capital in New York. EntrepreneurFirst achieves this by forcing its recruits to examine compatability in relation to purpose, in the very early stages of a startup.

The Clore Foundation, originally about leadership in the arts, runs a variety of leadership development programmes – for people in social enterprise. They are all part time; in groups; online as well as residential; a mixture of reflection – with coaching, and instruction; and all of them about working together to tackle their various current leadership challenges.

John Whatmore, June 2018

 

 

A heavy-weight investment in top entrepreneurial leaders

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A heavy-weight investment to create a cohort of top entrepreneurial leaders for Scotland Many of to-day’s big problems require entrepreneurial talent to manage them, but few managers have experience of managing entrepreneurial projects. This is a programme whose aim is to turn mid-career expertise into entrepreneurial talent.

Scotland’s next generation of business leaders will benefit from entrepreneurial learning in a programme designed to develop future business leaders across all sectors – corporate, family businesses, the public sector and the third sector – delivered for the first time by Strathclyde Business School.

This six month leadership development programme which is one of a number of related initiatives by the Saltire Foundation, is led by Entrepreneurial Scotland in partnership with Babson College in Boston, USA – a world leader in entrepreneurial development.

The programme is for people who are at a turning point in their careers and have the mind-set and ambition to become entrepreneurs: they may be starting a new business, entering an entrepreneurial business or joining a business that is looking to become more entrepreneurial. It aims to instil entrepreneurial thinking and strategic leadership – by giving participants access to toolkits and techniques with an entrepreneurial perspective.

The approach is described as facilitated learning: delivered by the business school faculty together with industry partners, with the help of mentors and advisers, and consisting also of networking and peer-to-peer learning.

A ‘lively’ two week section involves field trips, case studies and introductions to others involved in Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Participants will have already spent nine weeks in Boston and Silicon Valley learning from some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs with the aim of helping them to acquire the skills they need to become entrepreneurial leaders.

Upon returning to Scotland they embarked on individual projects within their own organisations or a sponsor organisation. This is followed by two weeks of residential training, and then participants go back to their projects before graduating from the programme. But they remain in contact, connected online for master classes, able to network, to continue to exchange experience and contacts, and in a post-course Linkedin group.

Nineteen experienced entrepreneurs from a wide range of backgrounds (a scientist, a barrister and a musician among them) made up the cohort, the selection involving extensive profiling undertaken by Insight, a Dundee-based organisation, together with Entrepreneurial Scotland, a network organisation based at Strathclyde.

Strathclyde Business School will be looking to see whether they have achieved their business outcomes; whether they have successfully made the transfer to an entrepreneurial function; whether the programme has indeed unlocked and unleashed their entrepreneurial potential; and whether the programme has renewed their love of learning and development. The post-programme assessments are made by Entrepreneurial Scotland, but ‘life changing’ is a commonly quoted outcome. The programme for the next cohort is now to add entrepreneurship masterclasses, delivered by top professors and local entrepreneurs at different stages of business growth.

The programme costs £32k per person, but many of the participants have been able to attract sponsors. The award-winning Diageo Learning for Life programme funded a place for a candidate from the licensed trade in Scotland; and leading organisations LINC Scotland, Cultural Enterprise Office, and Social Investment Scotland also backed individuals on the programme.

For more, see https://www.sbs.strath.ac.uk/feeds/news.aspx?id=1131

John Whatmore, April 2018

 

 

An Incubator with a strong development focus

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AN INCUBATOR WITH A UNIQUELY SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT REGIME Extensive and explicit support very carefully tailored to the needs of its particular participants aims to nudge young ventures towards developing sustainable businesses.

Cockpit Arts are hosting a half-day workshop – about Fostering Innovation in        Incubators etc on 27 June – for programme leaders and their ilk, for which a few places are still available. For the agenda and how to register see www.johnwhatmore.com

Cockpit Arts is an award winning social enterprise and the only UK business incubator for craftspeople, housing up to 170 small businesses in two centres in London (many of them often part-time). It aims to help its occupants, whose average stay is around 5 years, to develop their businesses; and it also works with hundreds of craft businesses outside its centres and overseas through its training workshops and consultancy arm.

These businesses are provided with extensive support services (an in-house team of 4 alongside a bank of external specialists) whose objectives are to help talented makers grow their businesses  ‘to help them succeed on their own criteria.’

The services comprise workspace, onsite business coaching and business support workshops, selling and promotional opportunities, referral to specialist advisors and access to finance. This support aims ‘to help makers to understand and paint a pathway to creating their vision; and then to put building blocks (ie help on specific topics) in place to help them along that pathway.’

Candidates for the incubator have been required to have:

  • craft skills
  • a creative vision (aspiration and motivation), and
  • an appetite to work on a business model.

It is the third of these that is often the stumbling block.

Initial support consists of a diagnostic – exploring strengths and weaknesses, identifying key aspirations and measurements of success, and establishing short term goals. What are their core business visions and values.

The essence of the ongoing support consists in coaching – with programmes of: events/ workshops/presentations about such topics as pricing, branding, marketing, using social media etc; and one-to-one meetings, often contributed by associates and sympathetic experts. These meetings are of three kinds;

  • checking through their progress from time to time with the Head of Business Incubation;
  • working together with the Head of Business Incubation to crack an important issue, and helping them through that issue;
  • at least once a year, a partnership review with the Head of Business Incubation – a discussion about your own measures of progress – celebrating/commiserating; and discussing your next goals.

And people move regularly from one form of participation to another in the support available.

There are also Action Learning Groups that enable participants to critique and get feed-back from their peers, though every workshop has an element of this.

The biggest challenges are two: raising their entrepreneurship drive; and their overestimating what they can achieve (and being set back by that). They are inclined to keep their noses to their craft’s grindstone; as they are to avoid the risks in trying something new in the way of marketing: they are disinclined to get out there and sell! Moreover selling channels have been changing and these businesses need to be increasingly nimble. (Successes make a big impact on the entire community, like that of a ceramicist whose short video got one and a half million views in three weeks).

The Head of Business Incubation makes it his business to attend every workshop, and to feel the nature of engagement of every single participant. The intimacy of this is palpable, as is its continuity. (Some engage for a time, but then later need help to re-engage with the development process.)

The Business Development team consists of four people: one person manages the coaching support, one runs the events programme, and two provide the administrative support.

The most striking aspect of the support is the way in which it is constantly tailored both to individuals needs and to the changing markets in which these businesses aspire to prosper – a quality of support that few incubators match.

John Whatmore, May 2018 (john.whatmore@btinternet.com)

A workshop for programme leaders in Incubators etc

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Fostering Innovation in Incubators A half-day workshop for programme leaders to exchange experience – on 27 June, 2018, at Cockpit Arts, Cockpit Yard, Northington Street, London WC1N 2NP.

Cockpit Arts, home to 170 small businesses, is an award-winning social enterprise and the only business incubator for craftspeople in the UK – with an outstanding support regime.

9.30 Introduction: John Whatmore, scribbler and former Nesta Associate

9.40 David Crump, Head of Business Incubation, Cockpit Arts. The issues and the approaches adopted in Cockpit Arts

10.15 Visit to the Incubator – meeting some makers

11.00 Coffee

11.20 Reactions to the visit – from participants

11.45 A panel of leaders from parallel fields tell us about their approaches and experience

12.15 Discussion – Fostering innovation in incubation: ways forward

1.15 Feed-back: What did you value most and who do you want to meet again?

1.30 Finish

Places very limited. Preference will be given to programme leaders in incubators and similar co-working spaces.

Apply to John Whatmore at john.whatmore@btinternet.com, giving your organisation together with your role there.