No institutional support for startups and scaleups

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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

 

 

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Helping young businesses to create partnerships

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Helping young businesses to create partnerships

Finding a partner can provide a big step forward for a Scaleup, but in a disruptive world it is like looking you-know-not-where for you-know-not-what. Mediators are few and far between, but Nesta has shown a way forward; and Accenture has been a pioneer. Incubators and their ilk need a wide range of contacts on hand if they are to help with partnering.

For a young business with the potential for high growth, a ride on a partner can clearly generate a big step forward. A defining feature of SMEs is their lack of resources, says the recent Barclays ScaleUp Report: they need to leverage external resources, for example by alliances with established companies – which can:

  • help you develop your product
  • introduce you to markets
  • support you with funds and funding, and
  • enhance the value of your business.

Unilever’s European Open Innovation Manager’s search for new supply chains for example, starts with entrepreneurs and IP, for which he then looks for development grants, and partners – like Siemens, Akzo Nobel, Croda or Syngenta, who will adopt and use the new technology in order to deliver product to Unilever.

Nesta, some time ago in an open innovation pilot, acted as intermediary for P&G by eliciting and selecting relevant ideas and then providing a period of support and development with the help of a VC and enabling the best to be pitched to P&G, one of which looked like a winner – a process of building up communication channels and developing trust, now run regularly by its creaters ‘100% Open’.

Nesta’s recent ‘Scaling Together’ Report (March 2016) contains 37 ‘tips for corporates’ on how to develop relationships with such young businesses, but not a single one for the latter – on how to find and work with a corporate. Except perhaps the briefest of stories about the good luck Bill Clee of Asset Mapping had when his endless networking efforts eventually led to his being offered a place by Cisco in incubator IdeaLondon.

The current tide of disruption suggests that potential partners are increasingly likely to be found in surprising places; and, unsurprisingly, intermediaries have played a part in recent examples – such as:

*         Accenture’s Fintech Labs at Level39 (http://wp.me/p3beJt-3), where 8 to 10 young businesses are invited from all over the world to participate in an Accelerator development programme, sponsored by a dozen major banks, each of which provides a chaperone to introduce them to key individuals in their bank.

*         Accenture’s latest version of the Accelerator Lab, (millenial20-20.com) launched with a razzmattaz of a major conference on the future of retailing, complete with a store of the future, where some eight innovative businesses were selected for eight weeks together at The Trampery co-working space in Shoreditch; and the dozen major retailers (Argos, Sainsbury’s, Kingfisher, Specsavers, Dixons/Carphone – among others) were invited to presentations and discussions with them over the period of their residency.

For Accenture these were experiments in creating processes that would support major changes in sectors, whether disruptions or major challenges.

Often a mentor with wide experience and a big address book is a valuable mediator (one mentor was able to suggest ten possible customers for the technology of a business he was mentoring!)

These stories highlight the importance for incubators of having well oiled contacts with corporates that are on the look-out for entrepreneurs and IP, where partnerships might generate highly productive alliances for growth.

Dreamstake (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6H), online home to more than 15,000 young businesses of which 2,000 are technology based, now offers access to 50 VCs, 800 technology angel investors and to top influencers in the London technology scene as well as to successful founders in Silicon Valley – through its DreamLab Ventures initiative. But most incubators offer little more than office or desk space.

John Whatmore, October 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR INNOVATE UK

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Innovate UK adjusts its focus – in a new mission statement

The new 5-point plan for InnovateUK succeeds in focusing onto hi-growth SMEs, local clusters, the commercialising of research and new funding models; and it focuses not just on funding but also in a big way on support. So it raises the question of how its potential beneficiaries, especially hi-growth small businesses, are identified and how their growth is to be monitored in relation to this fulsome provision of support.

The bones of Innovate UK’s new mission are:

* Accelerating UK economic growth, nurturing small, high-growth companies, helping them to become high-growth mid-sized companies with strong productivity and export success.

* Building on innovation excellence throughout the UK, investing locally in areas of strength.

* Developing Catapults within a national innovation network, to provide access to cutting edge technologies, encourage inward investment and enable technical advances in existing businesses

* Working with the research community and across government to turn scientific excellence into economic impact, and improve efficiency

* Evolving our funding models; exploring ways to help public funding go further.

Innovate UK is also offering SMEs who are successful in their competitions additional support to help them to realise their growth ambitions.  And SMEs who have received an offer of a grant since the beginning of this year are also invited to participate in this support programme, delivered through existing services.

The programme offers:

* Diagnosis of Business Needs Attending Growth Workshop, meeting a dedicated Business Growth Manager, and developing a Growth Plan (provided through the Business Growth Service)

* Connecting to Business Support Participating in Coaching, Mentoring &/or Entrepreneurial Skills training (provided through the Enterprise Europe Network)

* Connecting to other Government Support Introductions to UKTI, IPO, KTN, EEN and Catapult centres

* Connecting to Investors  Showcasing face-to-face (e.g. at Venturefests) and online (through www.growthshowcase.com)

Innovate UK has already invited over 1000 innovative, high-growth potential SMEs to participate.  These activities have been designed taking into account both the academic evidence that a relatively small number of younger, smaller businesses (who tend to be innovative and export-oriented) contribute disproportionately to economic growth, and evidence from a pilot programme that showed that a combination of support for R&D activities and support to enhance business capability resulted in accelerated growth in terms of revenue generation and job creation.

Innovate UK believes that this is an effective and scalable way to combine funding, support and connections to stimulate and drive economic growth through innovation.

Apart from the not insignificant factor of making support available free of charge, it might be said that it does no more than direct to hi-growth companies support that already exists. So it raises questions about how effectively it will be directed.

High potential along with rapid progress are what is being sought; and there is no better evidence than what has been achieved so far by an early-stage venture. Recent work on identifying students’ progress (by the Open University and by others (1)) by using an algorhythm based on their work and life styles (2) is only one of a number of predictive algorhythms that are finding a use in business, and a similar approach to that of a website for start-ups called Dreamstake (3) that uses such factors as:

team composition

number of pivots

working product

early customers

evidence of product-market fit and

funding to date

to compile an index of business ‘maturity’. And the speed with which this index advances is shown on the website together with a comparison to that of other ventures registered on the site.

Innovate UK’s interests are effectively similar to those of potential investors, and information like this, whose collection Dreamstake has made as simple as possible, can help to tailor interventions to needs without personal contact (ie before support is offered.)

(1) See FT Weekend 25/26 July “We know what you’re learning”.

(2) Similar approaches are used eg by Dartmouth College and by student monitoring service Skyfactor (130 universities in the US).

(3) A website for aspiring entrepreneurs – who have no money!

Dreamstake uses a collection of information to provide an assessment of the maturity of the enterprise – as a venture, and to help raise that profile. June 2013. http://wp.me/p3beJt-5D

New directions for Innovate UK

Aside

INNOVATE UK ADJUSTS ITS FOCUS – IN A NEW MISSION STATEMENT
The new 5-point plan for Innovate UK succeeds in focusing onto hi-growth SMEs, local clusters, the commercialising of research and new funding models; and it focuses not just on funding but also in a big way on support. So it raises the question of how its potential beneficiaries, especially hi-growth small businesses, are identified and how their growth is to be monitored in relation to this fulsome provision of support.

The bones of Innovate UK’s new mission are:
* Accelerating UK economic growth, nurturing small, high-growth
companies, helping them to become high-growth mid-sized companies with strong productivity and export success.
* Building on innovation excellence throughout the UK, investing locally in areas of strength.
* Developing Catapults within a national innovation network, to provide access to cutting edge technologies, encourage inward investment and enable technical advances in existing businesses
* Working with the research community and across government to turn scientific excellence into economic impact, and improve efficiency 
* Evolving our funding models; exploring ways to help public funding go further.

Innovate UK is also offering SMEs who are successful in their competitions additional support to help them to realise their growth ambitions. And SMEs who have received an offer of a grant since the beginning of this year are also invited to participate in this support programme, delivered through existing services.

The programme offers:
* Diagnosis of Business Needs
Attending Growth Workshop, meeting a dedicated Business Growth Manager, and developing a Growth Plan (provided through the Business Growth Service)
* Connecting to Business Support
Participating in Coaching, Mentoring &/or Entrepreneurial Skills training (provided through the Enterprise Europe Network)
* Connecting to other Government Support
Introductions to UKTI, IPO, KTN, EEN and Catapult centres
* Connecting to Investors
Showcasing face-to-face (e.g. at Venturefests) and online (through http://www.growthshowcase.com)

Innovate UK has already invited over 1000 innovative, high-growth potential SMEs to participate. These activities have been designed taking into account both the academic evidence that a relatively small number of younger, smaller businesses (who tend to be innovative and export-oriented) contribute disproportionately to economic growth, and evidence from a pilot programme that showed that a combination of support for R&D activities and support to enhance business capability resulted in accelerated growth in terms of revenue generation and job creation.

Innovate UK believes that this is an effective and scalable way to combine funding, support and connections to stimulate and drive economic growth through innovation.

Apart from the not insignificant factor of making support available free of charge, it might be said that it does no more than direct to hi-growth companies support that already exists. So it raises questions about how effectively it will be directed.

High potential along with rapid progress are what is being sought; and there is no better evidence than what has been achieved so far by an early-stage venture. Recent work on identifying students’ progress (by the Open University and by others (1)) by using an algorhythm based on their work and life styles (2) is only one of a number of predictive algorhythms that are finding a use in business, and a similar approach to that of a website for start-ups called Dreamstake (3) that uses such factors as
• team composition,
• number of pivots,
• working product
• early customers
• evidence of product-market fit and
• funding to date
to compile an index of business ‘maturity’. And the speed with which this index advances is shown on the website together with a comparison to that of other ventures registered on the site.

Innovate UK’s interests are effectively similar to those of potential investors, and information like this, whose collection Dreamstake has made as simple as possible, can help to tailor interventions to needs without personal contact (ie without a mentor already in place.)

(1) See FT Weekend 25/26 July “We know what you’re learning”.

(2) Similar approaches are used eg by Dartmouth College and by student monitoring service Skyfactor (130 universities in the US).

(3) A website for aspiring entrepreneurs – who have no money!
Dreamstake uses a collection of information to provide an assessment of the maturity of the enterprise – as a venture, and to help raise that profile. June 2013. http://wp.me/p3beJt-5D

John Whatmore
September 2015

Dreamstake, the free website for aspiring entrepreneurs

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Dreamstake, the free website for aspiring entrepreneurs which measures their progress, is growing, and expanding its offering; and it has done some diagnostics

Dreamstake is a free interactive startup platform for entre-preneurs which has a rating feature that acts as a marker of their progress. Membership is growing fast and has increased from 6,000 in April 2012 to 10,000 now. It is has added regular educational events at Google Campus in Tech City; and enables its members (and others) to see how well they are making progress by comparison with other members. And some recent statistical analysis reveals aspects of their businesses.

 

Dreamstake acts a bit like an online Accelerator by taking startup founders through a process to get them ready for investment and then introducing them to potential investors.

An algorithm enables each member to keep track of the progress of his or her startup, by measuring team size and mix, progress with the product, fund-raising, number of pivots and other key measures of success. The speed with which this measure progresses also acts as an indicator of the dedication of its entrepreneurs. All of this is available for potential investors to see.

Dreamstake has introduced regular educational workshops for startups – at Google Campus, where it is now the largest provider of events. They take place every Monday evening and there are funding-related events on a monthly basis; and all of these are provided free. For those that sign up for a full Accelerator programme – weekly academy, monthly bootcamps, performance review and mentoring – Dreamstake charges a success fee upon successful introduction to investment.

The data which has been input by the entrepreneurs has revealed some interesting analysis. Social media is a dominant theme and that for some 70% of its members their vision is their primary motivation – followed by the concept of a product – for 25%, and money for a mere 5%.  Forty percent work from home, 25% from an office and a third say that they are in co-working spaces. (Over half had English as not their first language, the vast majority of them European.) Among their technical skills, HTML comes top, followed by web development, PHP and CSS. Of the kind of businesses they are developing less than 20% are described in terms that are other than IT related; over 60% are clearly internet or mobile related.

Progress is hard to interpret in a fast-growing community like this, but the statistics show that nearly a quarter have had one pivot, and about a third of the total have had two or three pivots (a quarter have as yet had no pivot at all). Eight percent are at the idea stage, 58% are at the prototype or beta stage, 17% have a full product, 13% are in revenue, and 4% are profitable.

Dreamstake offers universities and their ilk an attractive  and low-cost way of supporting their aspiring entrepreneurs.