An Incubator with a strong development focus

Aside

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)

Advertisements

No institutional support for startups and scaleups

Aside

No institutional support for startups and scaleups

The CEO of the Art Fund complains that there is no support system for one of the oldest of functions – museum curators; neither is there in the newest of fields – the world of entrepreneurialism. The Clore Foundation runs a stack of programmes for leaders in social enterprise, and the Arts and Humanities Research Council has commissioned a programme for leaders in the Arts, but programmes for leaders in other fields of enterprise are rare.

Learning is essentially on-the-job; but there is no extensive form of support for on-the-job learning. There are several recent action-learning type programmes, such those run by UCL/RBS, the Judge Institute, Vistage (originally US); and Belgium’s Plato programmes provide another example. Steve Blank’s I-Corps programme helps scientists to identify and pursue opportunities for commerialisation. And there are a number of online programmes including Digital Business Academy and Dreamstake, and MIT’s new U.Lab.

There is virtually no networking/pooling of experience: Nesta initiated a twice yearly pan-European conference called Accelerator Assembly, which has since been taken over by Salamanca University. The Association for Managers of Innovation has existed in the US for a number of years, but there is no such networking function or organization in the UK.

There is no strong overall supporting institution: Praxis/Unico is focused on universities; UKSPA is focused mainly on the development of Science Parks; and UK Business Incubator died several years ago. The Scaleup Institute is in its nature focused on scaleups – on identifying routes to success together with leading examples.

Research remains uncoordinated. The Enterprise Research Centre at Aston University has developed a scoreboard and carried out research into the factors that support local enterprise, as have other organisations. The Scaleup Institute commissioned a major research project on Scaleups jointly at Judge Cambridge and Said Oxford; and Nesta has a very general and long-term research project about the effectiveness of support for startups, but does not focus on best practice. There is no large-scale university programme dedicated to research and especially to the development of enterprise and early stage business.

What is needed is an organisation that could lead or seed programmes for potential leaders of innovation across different fields (- the CBI, Nesta or ESRC?) – in industry, in science, in public services, in education, in health services, or whose first initiative was unsuccessful?

John Whatmore, January 2018

 

 

The Future of Work is arriving

Aside

The Future of Work is arriving All sorts of programmes are in the wind designed to facilitate startups and scaleups in particular.

PwC and Swiftscale have just completed a 12 week accelerator programme entitled The Future of Work – for a number of startups with the potential to transform the workplace through scalable innovation.

The 12 week programme took 12 B2B start-ups and supported their growth through a combination of executive mentoring, corporate introductions and a business development curriculum, including masterclasses from sales and marketing experts, extensive corporate introductions and guidance from industry specialists at PwC, and sponsors Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Sage, along with a carefully curated group of executive mentors. They were enabled to pitch their progress and showcase their products to an audience of enterprise executives, investors, entrepreneurs and community influencers.

The businesses include:

  • a programme for managing extended workforce networks,
  • a cloud-based digital coaching programme,
  • another for improving feed-back and boosting performance,
  • a programme that provides support for business relocation,
  • a data-base of business talent – consultants etc
  • an out-sourced data-base analytics service,
  • a programme for simplifying the calculations in business planning,
  • a programme for promoting security in authentication and verification, and
  • a programme for asset management – protection, broader use, monetisation etc.

Google Campus is proud to find itself using a startup from its own cohorts, that manages audience interaction – Google uses it for its own Demo Days.

Touchpaper is a not-for-profit backed by eight major players including Cap Gemini, Nesta, Tech City and the Digital Catapult, on a mission to make it easier for startups and corporates to work together – by fostering an environment that promotes collaboration, innovation and value creation between the parties, and where business processes deliver appropriate relationships, and revenue and results. It provides an instant tool-kit whose guides help you to navigate strategy, communication and buy-in, engagement and decision making, legal and procurement.

John Whatmore, 2017

‘GovTech’ launches world-first programmes

Aside

‘World-First’ Programmes in GovTech Entrepreneurship GovTech and CivTech are latecomers to the UK’s entrepreneurial extravanganza, though like others of the more recent programmes, also aimed at attacking big issues in specific fields.

GovTech seeks to bring entrepreneurial solutions to the problems of government – at local, regional and national levels, enabling:

  • better government decision-making,
  • improved public services, and
  • stronger links between citizens and their representatives.

‘Government can be seen as the biggest industry in the world, and offers a wealth of opportunities to start-ups and investors.’

In response to the UK Government’s announcement that it will form a dedicated GovTech Catalyst team and provide funding to help tech firms deliver innovative fixes to public sector challenges (London, 15 November) The Rain Gods, a London-based company, and The Cambridge Judge Launchpad have announced a new GovTech entrepreneurship programme to run from 2018.

Launchpad will introduce a GovTech specialisation for students on entrepreneurship courses, believed to be the first such offer in the world. It will be available, along with a number of variations, to those at Judge taking both Postgraduate Diploma in Entrepreneurship and the 24 month Master of Studies in Entrepreneurship, both part-time, learning-by-doing programmes, structured so that students can continue to work, or launch, or scale their business alongside their studies.

Tim Barnes, formerly the director of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at UCL, founded The Rain Gods – a private company that works with large organisations to develop entrepreneurial eco-systems to support their core activities. ‘Inspirer’ of GovTech, since 2016 it has operated the Rain Cloud Victoria, home to a large co-working community for GovTech and CivTech start-ups and their ilk (currently hosting 19 businesses, think tanks and social enterprises). This is the first such co-working and incubation space to focus on for-profit enterprises in government and the public sector. It is also host to the CivTech Forum meet up. In November 2017 The Rain Gods launched the GovTech Academy, a training programme for SMEs looking to sell to government for the first time, and the GovTech Academy Challenge – to promote GovTech start-ups being launched by graduate entrepreneurs.

These are leading initiatives in an advancing global movement called States of Change, led by Nesta and at present more by innovation practitioners than by governments. It aims to encourage the building of the capability and culture of governments to deal with complex problems they face, eg by bringing citizens into the policymaking process, experimenting with new ways to develop services, and exploring the future practice of government.

John Whatmore, December 2017

More information can be found at: https://insight.jbs.cam.ac.uk/events/meet-the-director-of-the-cambridge-judge-launchpadlondon-uk/; or from Timothy Barnes: tim@theraingods.com

See also: CivTech – A purposed Accelerator: making use of external expertise to deliver innovations in public services https://wp.me/p3beJt-lT November 2017

A purposed accelerator – in public services

Aside

Making use of external expertise to deliver innovations in public services. Innovationeers in the public sector have not shared the same raw enthusiasm for startups and scaleups as the private sector: they have come much later to the game.

I wrote last about Village Capital in New York, whose modus operandi is upside down, in that it starts with the identification of major issues and only then builds teams and finds resources to tackle those issues. In the UK, CivTech’s young programme is now doing likewise.

CivTech’s mission is simple: it is to support innovation in the public sector by creating an environment in which issues can be identified and new products and services developed – thus contributing to more effective and efficient public services.

Its second programme, just launching, aims to offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to ‘solve a challenge, build a product, develop a relationship and build a business with public sector benefits’, by engaging with a major public sector organisation.

This year’s programme has identified nine challenges provided by their public sector sponsors, of which seven will be tackled by the seven teams that have been selected for the programme. These include:

  • how to create a better booking system for outpatient appointments
  • how better to understand citizen data
  • how to provide better [internet] access to public services.

Applicants could be existing companies with relevant material, graduates, a digital team or just someone with insight or a good idea.

 Three potential solutions to each sponsor’s challenge go through to a 3-week Exploration Stage – to develop their idea further, to engage with the CivTech team and the Challenge Sponsor, to participate in some workshops, and then to make a final pitch – for which each team receives £3,000.

The CivTech Accelerator that follows is three months long (for which teams are required to relocate to Edinburgh) – of innovation, experiment, development and production; with workshops, talks and mentors; of team and business building; of product building; of developing real and lasting relationships with public sector organisations – for which each team will receive £17,000 (CivTech takes no equity nor IP).

The CivTech team provides specific advice about its approach to service design, product development, government standards and system integration needs.

 Sponsors are expected to set aside £106k for each challenge, of which £27k goes to the solution provider (as above), and the remaining £81k is for ongoing development of the solution. The Challenge Sponsor receives an in-perpetuity royalty free licence to enable the successful participant to further develop and test their work with a view to its exploitation in the sponsor’s services.

The website inviting applications is couched in very full and clear, and charmingly optimistic terms, though the exploitability of the proposals is uncertain.

Of the nine teams that had participated in Round 1, two had worked with the NHS and were confident of new business; two had worked with Transport Scotland, one with sales already and both with more to follow; and two of the nine reported that they were still working on future business. New businesses, a new platform, a new product and a new client were among the mentions in their final reports.

The small team that has conceived and evolved this programme sits in the Digital Directorate of the Scottish Government, which has not only backed and endorsed the programme but has recently doubled the amount of money behind it. And this work has attracted widespread interest.

John Whatmore, November 2017

For more see https://civtech.atlassian.net

A uniquely comprehensive development arena

Aside

A UNIQUELY COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT ARENA Quite unlike most startup or scaleup programmes such as Techstars or Startupbootcamp (which tend to be short term injections), the programmes at Goldsmiths Centre are unique in that they aim to cover comprehensively all the stages and aspects of development for people in its field. The startup world needs something of this sort. 

The essence of the Goldsmith Centre is the professional training of goldsmiths. While these people are charmingly depicted as bespectacled, white-haired, elderly craftspeople, the skills and talents of the next generation are clearly an important target.

This training takes the form of a ‘community that works and learns together’ – a community of trainees, working goldsmiths and other interested parties – to help them grow and thrive; funded substantially by the Goldsmiths Company, and overseen by a Board of Trustees.

The Centre which opened in 2012, runs for budding goldsmiths a progressive series of programmes that are aimed at developing their future – for what will mostly be small craft businesses. Here are six of them:

* a one week programme of intensive workshops, seminars and talks called ‘Getting Started’ – for recent graduates in precious metals, which introduces its 30 participants to the basics of business.

* a one-year programme called ‘Setting Out’, which is currently home to 8 young goldsmiths, carefully chosen (this year from 30 applicants), who take part in a curated programme that aims to equip them with business, creative and product development skills.

* a one-year Foundation Programme in which 10 young goldsmiths are attached to the Centre and enabled to use its excellent working facilities.

* an appenticeship scheme, under which some 40 young goldsmiths are attached to ‘Masters’ and meet regularly at the Centre for further training.

* a membership scheme called ‘Creative Links’ for people with aspiring or established businesses to attend events and make and meet contacts at the Centre and a special membership scheme for craftspeople requiring ad hoc access to benches, hotdesking or a meeting room.

* and the Centre houses some 80 resident makers and businesses on the premises – on special terms as providing work collaborations for the goldsmiths who are connected with the Centre.

In addition to short courses on specialised subjects, the Centre has also created a number of videos and runs taster workshops; and there is a substantial programme of all sorts of events.

Some 50 craftspeople are linked to the Centre as providers of skill, tutoring, information etc; as are some 15 business people as contributors to the Centre’s business programmes.

The Centre houses the latest equipment and facilities into a meticulously crafted old building, and provides an atmosphere of spare elegance in which design, skill and beauty meld.

It includes spaces of all kinds: there are 24 professional workshops and 4 educational workspaces; tool rooms (one containing over 150 different kinds of hammer!); a CAD room with terminals; a conference room; a snug; a high quality café cum meeting space (depicted as ‘coffee, kitchen and craft’); and an area for exhibitions, conferences, product launches, receptions etc.

*

In the startup world, training and development do not have a place: that world relies instead on ‘entrepreneurs’ to emerge spiritually. There is an urgent need for some organisation in the startup world to take up these roles.

John Whatmore, October 2017

Organising your venture’s supporters

Aside

Organising your venture’s supporters Priscila Bala of Octopus Venture Capital, (formerly Mentor Director at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute) has emphasised the value of advisers, and suggested how to set up and make good use of them.

Savvy enterprise start-ups understand the power of relationships. When it comes to entering new markets, gaining the support and endorsement of well-connected or local industry players can make all the difference. Advisory board members can fill knowledge and network gaps within your company or your own background – to help with product development or sales strategy or to introduce them to valuable clients, suppliers and investors.

An advisory board can be a bounty when you find the people who are experts at solving a set of problems you have, engage them with clear expectations and rewards, and turn to them whenever you have issues related to that problem. To find the right people, you have to be clear on what problems you want them to help you solve.

For example, Steve Blank [of I-Corps] suggests (1) that there are five primary types of advisory board members:

  1. Technical advisor: for product development advice
  2. Business advisor: for business strategy and guidance
  3. Customer advisor: for value proposition and positioning advice
  4. Industry advisor: for domain expertise
  5. Sales advisor: for market tactics and demand creation

Beyond these, it’s important that you identify the crucial challenges in your scaling up roadmap, to determine what kinds of advisors will be strategic to you, and which will complement your team’s skillset.

Go for ‘stars’! Advisory member relationships can work particularly well if the candidates you are courting are well-connected leaders in their space

Clarifying your objectives will also enable you to have you targeted conversations. For example, if your goal is to grow a base of customers in a particular vertical, try the following:

  1. Ask your customers or prospect customers who they respect.
  2. Ask your Board of Directors and industry connections for referrals.
  3. Have a point-of-view related to the industry, and build a profile and relationships based on your expertise.

If you are a first-time entrepreneur or an early-stage entrepreneur, there are often many apparent candidates but who won’t be valuable advisors for your business. Ask for referrals within the industry and spend time getting to know the advisor. Before formalizing any advisor relationship, ask for their input on a few demonstrative issues — how would they approach them? Who might they reach out to? What strategies have they seen in the past? What were the outcomes? Which risks do they anticipate?

Compared with Board members, you can focus the work and input of those advisors much more narrowly to their expertise, there is more flexibility on the time and level of engagement the advisor can offer and you can successfully engage a larger group of advisors within this mandate.

Most companies don’t engage their advisory board in meetings as a group; instead they reach out to specific advisors as needed, and set different frequency for those interactions.

Strong advisors are busy people. Since you likely will only have a limited amount of their time each week or month, be rigorous about setting agendas for each meeting or call, be explicit about actionable items between conversations (your action items and theirs), and send follow-up summary emails after every meeting. Some entrepreneurs find it helpful to use a running Google Doc shared with the advisor to keep track of ongoing notes together.

Ongoing feedback is another helpful tactic to successful advisor relationships. Mention to the advisor up front that you will want to spend 15–20 minutes in your third or fourth meeting talking through how the relationship is going to-date, and how you can improve your collaboration. Advisors are professionals, and should be receptive to feedback. Some relationships will work better with a set schedule of interactions; others might require more flexibility and unfold in “bursts” of support. Work with the advisor to find the style and cadence that works best for your partnership.

Compensate your advisors. In addition to aligning incentives and recognizing that expert time is valuable, compensation will make you more disciplined about the calibre of advice and support you are seeking and getting. It formalizes the professional relationship you expect from advisors, as it does your commitment to receiving their open and honest expert feedback, rather than having them tell you what you want to hear.

Advisory boards can be a powerful asset, accelerating your access to people and solutions that are key to your company’s success. Advisors can make strategic introductions, help you secure contracts or fundraise, attend strategic meetings with you, help you secure press coverage for your company or serve as a reference for your product or your work, and help you recruit other members of the advisory board or your team.

(1) My work at IdeaLondon came up with exactly the same analysis.

See the full article at: https://medium/octopus Ventures/how-advisory-boards…

John Whatmore, September 2017