Small, elite university incubator launches into new space


Focusing on a small number of technologies that are ripe for commercialisation, and a small number of students or alumni with an interest in entrepreneurialism whose careers it seeks to advance, the Incubator of Cass University Business School has a new home which is unique in having alongside it a co-working space where students and alumni have the opportunity to be matched up with Tech City entrepreneurs.

On 21 August, Cass University’s Business School Incubator launched its new space in Tech City. ‘The Hangout’ is a start-up space for City students and alumni, providing an interactive environment where ‘talent meets tech’ ie where students and alumni from City University have the opportunity to be matched up with Tech City entrepreneurs. Sharing space with The Bakery, a small, private 8-week brand and marketing Accelerator, each has about 20 places, with a mixture of desk spaces, conversation area, small meeting rooms, a table tennis table and a kitchen area.

The founder of Cass’s Incubator, Leo Castellanos, then working for one of the big four ‘accounting’ firms, happened four years ago to be interested in some of the work of the Technology Transfer offices, and was induced to run a pilot. It had an enviable early success rate, and now the resulting Incubator has no difficulty in recruiting some twenty interns in a new programme every six months.

The Incubator has three strands: it seeks to work with a small number of technologies from its related University Technology Transfer Offices that appear to be ripe for commercialisation and so accelerate the launch of innovative products and services; it seeks to provide internships in entrepreneurship for a small number of students and alumni who have the necessary technical and commercial skills and the potential to become the managers and directors of the future; and its third strand is the provision of consultancy to high growth companies – for whom it also offers meeting space.

Every six months, the programme starts with a six-day business learning programme; and the interns are put to work on the task of commercialising specific technologies drawn from the parent universities – in the fields of journalism, informatics, design, and finance. Run by Leo, whose passion is the development of new businesses, with the help of four or five other people, and the occasional introduction of a mentor, its interns move on at the end of their time, with some 70% going into existing SMEs, and the others into their own startups.