A new programme from Stanford

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A programme from Stanford to support entrepreneurial venturing in organisations Designed to help technical leaders to enhance their entrepreneurship, this part-time programme in London includes a lot of work on their specific ventures

The Stanford Ignite London programme, about to start, is designed to deliver the same kind of immersive, innovative, and hands-on instruction that working professionals and graduate students at Stanford experience.

It provides exposure to both the fundamentals of management and the practical aspects of identifying, evaluating, and moving business ideas forward. It is aimed at participants with strong scientific, medical, or technical backgrounds who do not have an advanced degree in business.

Participants are taught by Stanford business faculty in London as well as those beamed in from Silicon Valley through high-definition video technology. Infosys which also hosted the Bangalore programme will host this programme at its Canary Wharf teleconference facility, using its high-definition distance video technology to deliver seamless teaching sessions from California to London.

During the programme, which runs from September to December, participants will engage with faculty and each other in interactive sessions and group projects. “This is a programme for those who are planning to start a new venture, as well as for intrapreneurs – individuals who wish to bring innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to their current role within a company,” said Stanford Ignite faculty director Yossi Feinberg, Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business. “It provides graduate students, innovators, scientists, and engineers from leading companies the essential toolset for creating impactful ventures.”

Stanford Ignite participants have started more than 100 successful companies since the programme was introduced at Stanford in 2006. The London programme is one of seven Stanford Ignite programmes available in innovation hubs around the globe to enable audiences outside of Silicon Valley to tap into Stanford’s distinctive approach to teaching entrepreneurship and management. It is now offered in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris, New York, London, and Santiago as well as at Stanford.

The non-degree programme in London – for 50 participants – costs US$10,000 and will be held every other week on Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday over a twelve week period. It will include training, but also a third of the time on participants’ own venture projects, which they will develop by working closely with experienced mentors and panels of industry experts from both Silicon Valley and the New York area – who will provide real-world feedback.

The programme draws on the same world-class business faculty who teach in Stanford’s MBA Programme, which is infused with the culture and practice of innovation that pervades Stanford University and Silicon Valley.

John Whatmore, June 2016

A new incubator with a difference in Tech City

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IDEALondon, a new incubator space in London’s Tech City, opens this month  (Dec 2012), an unlikely alliance between Cisco, DC Thomson and University College London, which furthers UCL’s far-sighted objectives and strengths – – in entrepreneurship. (For comparisons, see final para.)

IDEALondon enables twenty early-stage businesses to be co-located for up to nine months – primarily for launch and trials, as pre-cursor to seeking investment etc. (early-stage businesses are nowadays more often looking less to build something – the means of creating a website or an app are relatively easy to come by – than for customer validation and trials, which IDEALondon can help facilitate).  Candidates must be championed by any of the three partners; and their progress must be justified to a quarterly board meeting.

Completed almost a year to the day after it was announced by the Prime Minister in 2012, it is a significant outcome of UCL’s 2005 decision to establish the department UCL Enterprise with the aim of suffusing enterprise throughout the whole university as well as extending its knowledge and expertise to all its collaborations.

Occupants of IDEALondon have a less tightly determined regime in terms of time and objectives than in classic Accelerators, and are less fulsomely supported with mentors, though with almost every imaginable form of support available somewhere in UCL. Mentoring support is provided on a one-to-one basis with three or four meetings per month, and there is a small amount of ‘education’, for example in marketing, though not in entrepreneurship as such. And there are a small number of specialists-in-residence including designers, developers and entrepreneurs.

More specialised support is also available in the form of commercial testing and concept validation. Cisco provides mentors for CTOs in SMEs in the incubator; and it has its own forms of bespoke support. It also has a leadership programme. UCL intends to offer several other specialist courses such as in machine learning and mobile technologies.

The alliance has also opened a facility in Scotland to support Abertay and Dundee University in their collaboration with DC Thomson. (http://www/idea.scotland.co.uk)

For UCL, candidates would be businesses in areas such as Future Media (one project is with Atos and the BBC), Healthcare or Mobile, that also need specialist support from elsewhere in the university (such as clinical trials or ethical approvals), and that might need several commercial contracts to put a demonstrator into place or more than nine months in the incubator. For UCL’s partners, candidates will be relevant to their businesses, and in Cisco’s case companies include BIG Award Winners. Eight places out of the twenty are already filled.

UCL also operates jointly with Mobile Monday London the ‘Mobile Academy’, a pre-accelerator network in the form of 12-week programmes of twice weekly evening classes, 40 per cohort– for SMEs, start-ups, would-be entrepreneurs and enthusiasts – for the many potential students who are not necessarily at university (http://themobileacademy.co.uk). UCL also operates several other programmes relating to entrepreneurship. For example on behalf of Goldman Sachs, it runs their 10,000 Small Businesses programme (http://www.10ksb.co.uk) ; it runs internship programmes, and knowledge transfer programmes, eg in support of post-docs providing specialist knowledge for relevant companies. (UCL works with up to 500 companies annually.) IDEALondon also provides space pro bono for community events.

With its 20 places and 9-month+ duration, UCL’s new Tech City facility is more of an incubator than a classic ‘accelerator’ (like Springboard http://wp.me/p3beJt-z or Bethnal Green Ventures http://wp.me/p3beJt-V), and has a less formal supervisory regime and provides less specific support. And it is unique in being an alliance with its industry partners. It is more oriented to UCL itself than Cass University’s (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6o) – which is oriented to local Tech City businesses, or than the Royal College of Art’s (http://wp.me/p3beJt-k) – which is both longer (at 2-years), and tackles different kinds of problems (engineering and design, and the building of its teams). 

Extra funds for London Accelerators

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Professionalising the playgrounds; and thickening up the pot of post-Accelerator funding

For participants in sixteen London Accelerators, funding has been promised to pay for mentors and others supporters; and for co-investing in new businesses exiting these Accelerators. But this omits other possibilities.

Accelerators use ‘mentors’ for a variety of roles – from acting as supervisors, as contributors of their specialist knowledge or expertise, as advisers – about strategy, business model, proposals and plans, and as door-openers – especially to potential partners, customers and funders. And the art, and it is very much an art, lies in enabling them to make their contribution at the right moment – when the participants recognise the need and/or when the ‘mentor’ does so. There are also those who lecture, teach or coach, or just tell their own War Stories. Seedcamp boasts a thousand mentors; Springboard a hundred and fifty; and Bethnal Green Ventures some sixty.

So far, those who manage Accelerators have called on their friends and contacts, on those who support the world of entrepreneurship, and increasingly on their alumni to act as their ‘mentors’; and the latter have all responded to these calls. In Silicon Valley the network of such people is enormous and very responsive: everyone seems to know everyone and word is passed round quickly and effectively; but here in London, they are fewer and in less close contact with one another. EU funds have now been promised (via the GLA, Enterprise Capital and London Business Angels) to sixteen London Accelerators to pay for these people.

By comparison the folk of Silicon Valley are pleased and happy to pass the word around simply because they are interested in innovative businesses – a community for whom the fascination of working with and talking to and about start-ups is sufficient.

These funds will no doubt generate a host of ‘consultants’ big and small, who will offer their services because there is money to be made out of this burgeoning scene. But they will not be the first choice of aspiring entrepreneurs because the best supporters will be those who are not in it for the money; and the entrepreneurs will recognise this. Second rate Accelerators will attract second rate ‘mentors’; and it must be doubtful if this will promote the start-up scene to its best advantage.

Less controversially, the EU is also the source of funds promised for co-investing under arrangements with those who are putting money into new businesses that are exiting Accelerators (many of them angels and quite small funds – the most successful of which will have worked with the Accelerator over a period in getting to know their targets). This is designed to increase the size of such funding packages, which will lengthen the runway for these businesses and give them a better chance to establish themselves. Yet at this point, many are left without the support that they have enjoyed and with which they would very much like to be able to continue.

It is disappointing that funds have not found there way to spreading the Accelerator concept into new fields such as for high growth SMEs, for commercialising Intellectual Property, and for supporting innovation in local industries and in public services.

To Accelerate or not to Accelerate: that is the question

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While it will be impossible for some time yet to prove that Accelerators are effective, the likes of Google and Microsoft are busily betting on their future.

Nothing better illustrates the dilemma that innovators face than the fact that it will be impossible for several years yet to prove the value of Accelerators – short periods of intensive development for selected cohorts of teams, working closely together, along with a host of supporters – yet it is a model being rolled out by leading companies.

Engagement, enthusiasm, funding, alumni and followers all give a rosy feeling to the Accelerator concept; and in spite of their rapid proliferation in the UK and Nesta’s admirable financial support of early adopters, Nesta’s experts are deeply cautious about its future.

Yet September saw Google announcing that it is building a network of tech entrepreneurs in seven North American Cities. A spokesperson commented that they have been incredibly impressed with the catalyzing impact that tech hubs have had – helping startups to grow, and creating jobs in local communities in the process. The aim is to ‘create a strong network, providing each hub with financial support alongside access to Google technology, platforms and mentors, and ensuring that entrepreneurs at these hubs have access to an even larger network of startups.’

September also saw Microsoft offering technology startups in the B2B, consumer and gaming sectors the chance to apply for its Accelerator programme in London. The chosen entrepreneurs will take part in a 12-week programme to help grow their businesses through mentorship, access to resources and technical assistance. The Accelerator is looking for 10-15 startups developing technologies in financial services, electronic retail and commerce, gaming, big data or enterprise software. Microsoft will not be taking any equity in the companies, but will maintain relationships with startups through an alumni programme after they “graduate” the Accelerator. During its pilot the Accelerator will be based at Central Working in Shoreditch.

Microsoft also feels that startups are suffering due to a severe skills shortage. The companies are struggling to find talented developers to work with in the UK, which is preventing business growth. This developer shortage can be blamed on the increase in B2C companies that have ventured into the software business taking the talent with them. Microsoft actively tries to solve these problems by running roundtables and workshops to introduce developers to new Microsoft technologies.

Despite the skills shortage there does not seem to be a shortage of energy in the developer ecosystem. “There’s still plenty of buzz and excitement around it.” And that is the dilemma.

‘Supporters’ becoming more integral to Accelerators

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Advisors, Speakers, Mentors and other specialists are getting more and more involved in Accelerators; but generalists, polymaths or iconoclasts should not be excluded

Discussions at the Accelerator Exchange Forum that we held recently in London showed how ‘supporters’ were becoming increasingly involved in Accelerators (see http://wp.me/p3beJt-5W), so it was no great surprise to read in a recent e-mail how Wayra Lab was defining these different roles.

“The role of the Board Advisor is to act as in an advisory capacity for a specific team or project. We ask Board Advisors to be active participants in the acceleration of the specific team; being available on an ad-hoc basis, attending Board Meetings and facilitating network opportunities.

The role of the Masterclass Speaker is to provide inspiration, expert knowledge and opinion on a specific subject matter.

The role of the Mentor is to be available to act as a sounding board for the start-ups, pitches and new ideas.

The role of the Surgery Mentor will be to run at least one half-day open surgery per year on a specific theme/topic to which the project teams can book face-to-face consultations.”

Among the most popular speakers are those who tell the story of their adventure in their own early-stage business – whether it was a miserable disaster or a grand success.

The analysis above omits one role that is capable of lifting the whole process, of breaking the mould, of creating genuinely disruptive innovations: that of presenting ways of looking at similar problems in different contexts, epitomised in EPSRC’s Sandpits – by sessions with poets, ethicists, IT experts et al, but also for example by people who simply work in different fields such as theatre, sport or art (‘Ideas via Intermediaries’ is a collection of nineteen brief stories about breakthroughs of this kind – available on request).

Moreover, some would say that there are several different roles for mentors: one is to provide regular ‘supervisions’; another is to act as confidante; a third is to be available for his/her particular knowledge and skills; and the fourth is to be able to provide contacts and introductions. And different roles have different places in the course of Accelerator programmes as the business concept reaches different stages of evolution.

Another correspondent tells me that he became concerned that as a mentor he was simply being used by a certain Accelerator. There clearly has to be some give-and-take, and the ‘take’ must consist of opportunities to invest (or for paid work/ advice).

So it also comes as no surprise that providing just the right support from moment to moment to entrepreneurs with their ever-changing needs is a sophisticated management role: detecting their needs and organising to meet them is like tending the growth of a very fragile plant.

Jw/October 2013

Applied Creativity Sept 2013

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The task of bringing innovations into widespread use needs to have as much emphasis as the development of new technologies or their new products

Processes of innovation do not attract the interest that new products and services do, so we should celebrate the new Level39 at Canary Wharf, a fast-expanding hub of creativity focusing here on financial services and retail, but a model that could find a place in other ‘clusters’; and Angel investing continues to thrive and expand, as do start-ups and Accelerators.

The UK rates highly as a centre of innovationism, with well-identified technological foci and a strongly developing entrepreneurial culture. But while we are plagued by new offers, new deals, new apps, we remain desperately slow to bring major innovations into being, such as HS2, new sources of energy, new airports, new systems (eg in the NHS and in government). Leaders say that innovation is their top priority, but they don’t seem to deliver.

 

 

 

 

 Applied Creativity September 2013

Briefings from John Whatmore at The Centre for Leadership in Creativity

 

 

 

 

john.whatmore@btinternet.com

Join the discussions at https://johnwhatmore.com/

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Level39, Canary Wharf – a throbbing new Innovation Centre

This unique tailor-made innovation eco-system has been carefully designed to meet the varied needs of those who are looking for innovations and those who are seeking to develop them in this part of London; and to bring them together in successful collaborations. What it does and how it does it might have some useful lessons for all those involved in innovationism.

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-65)

Angel investing taking yet more steps forward

Now far from its origins as a side-line for rich single investors, angel investing is becoming a collaboration between different contributors and the UK Business Angels Association – a major supporter of fast-growing young businesses.

(http://wp.me/p3beJt-5S)

 YCombinator a unique experiment

A recent article in the Times (27.7.2013) about YCombinator – as an archetypal Accelerator, emphasises some of its seemingly nuttier aspects; so what do they tell us? (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6d)

Managing to-day’s Accelerators

At a recent Workshop I ran with people involved in Accelerators, it was clear that Accelerators are becoming more institutionalised. They are no longer one-offs, they are part of continuing programmes; they are working with more established entrepreneur ‘teams’; Accelerators are no longer being managed by just one or two individuals but by teams; and they are involving a wider cohort of followers. Moreover they are developing fast. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-5W)

‘Supporters’ becoming more integral to Accelerators

Advisors, Speakers, Mentors and other specialists are getting more and more involved in Accelerators; but generalists, polymaths or iconoclasts should not be excluded. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6f)

Managing Bubbles

The government would like to discourage ‘bubbles’ caused by overheating, but to encourage others where they are the green shoots of the future. How can they do so? (http://wp.me/p3beJt-61)

Calibrating my Raspberry Pi – my own ‘Outrage Meter’

I don’t need the Press any more: I have found a computer which I can programme to deliver just the items I want that will give me my regular dose of outrage instead of reading the media! (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6h)

 

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity (a ‘virus for creativity’) carries out research and provides consultancy and peer-to-peer learning for organisations looking to enhance their creativity and innovation.

Copyright John Whatmore 2013

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity                         138 Iffley Road,London W6 OPE           

Tel: 020 8748 2553                                             E-mail:  john.whatmore@btinternet.com

 

 

Level39, Canary Wharf – a throbbing new Innovation Centre

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This unique tailor-made innovation eco-system has been carefully designed to meet the varied needs of those who are looking for innovations and those who are seeking to develop them in this part of London; and to bring them together in successful collaborations. What it does and how it does it might have some useful lessons for all those involved in innovationism.

With a simple remit – the development of the area (Canary Wharf) – Level39, 1 Canada Square, opened by Boris Johnson in March of 2013 and headed up by Eric van der Kliej – formerly CEO of Tech City, has quickly become a lightning conductor for those looking for innovations and those with innovations to offer in the kinds of businesses in this area.

Creating the connections and providing a ‘connectious’ space is what its Ideaspace is about – providing space where ideas can be found, developed and connected – without being overwhelmed by the legacy of any corporate culture.

Among its early work was the hosting of the Accenture-backed Fintech Innovation Lab London, a 13-week Accelerator in which a dozen of Canary Wharf’s big banks participated. Seven SMEs – drawn from all over the world – with innovative technologies of potential value to the banks, were housed at Level 39 and provided with a ‘chaperone’ from each of the banks to help them find their way around the labyrinth of people with buying interests and requirements in the bank.

Level39 is now hosting a number of other innovation and acceleration programmes – created by ‘Pivotal Innovations’ which provides custom-designed programmes for corporations and governments looking to innovate and grow.

One of these is the Future Cities ‘Catapult’ Centre (supported by the Technology Strategy Board), which in partnership with Pivotal Innovations is convening cross-sector dialogues (starting with executive breakfasts) with key stakeholders and thought leaders – in finance, real estate, industry and government. The debates will explore viable solutions including critical issues in financing future cities.  They will explore models (eg Rio de Janeiro, Portland Oregon, Songdo in South Korea) and will ask what will interconnected, high-tech, smart cities be like. What new kinds of partnerships might be needed? What investment models might be called into existence? And what enabling policies might make it all happen?

Dassault Systemes, Europe’s second largest software company, has chosen to partner with Level39 and Pivotal Innovations as it expands its strategic focus on financial services in the UK. Its 3D FinTech Challenge 2013 (http://www.f6s.com/3dfintechchallenge2013/info) invites startups to develop solutions for the visualisation of client data in financial services, as a way to condense and simplify such data, such as capital exposure, risk and identity, of which it is often difficult to get a clear perspective, into “single views”, which can be readily understood and acted on. This collaboration too has involved a series of breakfasts with senior executives from London’s banking and insurance industries. Dassault is also showcasing some of its current technology at Level39, such as 3D visualisations of cities like London and Paris on giant touchscreen display units, as an innovative way of presenting information

Designed by Gensler, who also designed Google’s and Facebook’s offices, Level39 has a very wide variety of spaces. It has attracted early-stage businesses eg in retail and financial technology, to take small scale spaces – both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs – because of its unique ‘connectious’environment. It has 77 drop-in desk spaces, in all sorts of configurations – either for individuals or for startups – most of those startups already post-revenue.

It also has spaces that are specially tailored for innovationism: there are four ‘Sandboxes’ – for Hackathons, for cafeteria-style meetings, for board meetings or discussions, and for presentations, as well as a superb conference room – all with great views over Canary Wharf. Facebook recently held a 48-hr Hackathon in one Sandbox; and the local banks recently held one whose aim was to test their security systems – by trying to hack into each other’s!

It has a cafeteria area with its unique iPad controlled coffee machine; and a Club Lounge will open shortly – for meals, where you can meet and entertain guests (and where you can get a discount if you also agree to commit a certain amount of time to mentoring.)

So what is its secret? In addition to the spaces, perhaps its most valuable asset is Pivotal Innovation’s capabilities in generating and curating provocative innovation events and programmes; and its ability to bring together people with common interests and purposes but who don’t yet know one another.

Its extraordinarily rapid growth (it will shortly open more drop-in spaces on Level 42) and its vibrancy suggest that it has some magic that might be of interest to other cities, like Bristol, Manchester or Liverpool; to other retail centres like Blue Water, Brent Cross or the Airports; to other clusters like the Thames Corridor, Science Parks or Dundee as a centre of the games industry; or even to the NHS or the MoD.