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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The Future of Work is arriving

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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

Building ‘local’ eco-systems to support innovation

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Building ‘local’ eco-systems to support innovation Nesta’s recent report The State of Small Business highlights networks – among key levers of influence, as does the recent report from the Scaleup Institute. Hubs, like Scotland’s CivTech programme can be supported by online networks like MIT’s U.Labs which link groups together effortlessly.

‘Business networks are an important source of resource and advice for SMEs’ says Nesta’s recent report (1). ‘From the perspective of local authorities, business networks…can be established and maintained with relatively little financial commitment’.

‘Network theory points to how networks can provide an SME with cost-effective access to external resources – and many of those interviewed for this report (both SMEs and local authorities) highlighted the practical benefits of sharing knowledge and experiences with peers.’

‘In effect, cooperation through business networks gives small firms economies of scale without diseconomies of size.’ And research has shown that access to business network support among SMEs has a positive relationship with business growth.

The recent Scaleup Institute’s report (2) adds that ‘Scaleup business leaders most value locally-rooted resources to foster their growth. They want more local solutions tailored to their needs: more peer-to-peer networks where they can meet their counterparts, easier access and deeper connections to local educators, university research facilities, and UK collaboration partners whether that be in local authorities, large corporates or Government.’ And recommends that ‘local stakeholders signpost effective mentorship programmes and matchmaking programmes between peers and non-executive directors who have scaled businesses before.’

The Scottish Government’s CivTech programme (3) – for making use of outside expertise for developing new solutions to persistent public issues – made use of  MIT’s U.Lab (4). This programme invites people ‘to form Hubs (any place where course participants meet and learn together) and coaching circles (self-organised groups of five that set their own meeting times and use Google Hangout or Skype to engage in a structured deep listening and dialogue process)’. For the Scottish Government and its CivTech programme, it has proved itself a useful networking tool. ‘We found it to be one of the most effective learning experiences we’ve ever had,’ reports one participant. ‘It builds skills we need in working collaboratively and co-producing outcomes with others; it is a highly participative approach – anyone can take part free of charge; it builds on people’s and communities’ assets and strengths; and it champions the use of improvement science.’

References

John Whatmore, December 2017

 

 

 

‘GovTech’ launches world-first programmes

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‘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

Re-shaping support for SMEs

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Making the most out of young businesses Lessons are arriving from all sides about early-stage businesses (Village Capital, Nesta, Scaleup Institute, Growth Builder, IDEO). What do they tell us? Shouldn’t Innovate UK be taking a bigger role in the support of innovation practice?

 Most striking is the extent to which Accelerators – a fast growing phenomenon – have become the province of corporates. They force new businesses to focus not just on good ideas but on important (commercial) issues; they know their own field – its problems and opportunities; they provide invaluable support; and they are willing and capable investors (Wayra Lab, Cisco, John Lewis, and many others.)

However, this does leave great swathes of the population and of the economy untouched by support for innovation eg the public sector, several industries, large parts of the country and the everyday lives of most people. The Nesta report identifies some; and Geoff Mulgan, its Chief Executive, has focused on others, not least in the public sector.

The main sources of funding for Accelerators are now Corporates, the Public sector and Philanthropics. Venture Capital is a source for only 8% of Accelerators (and 2% of Incubators). The Nesta Report reveals that in the UK both Incubators and Accelerators rely heavily on public funds – from a variety of sources (in many areas and sectors for a substantial proportion of funding and in some, completely.)

It is now well recognised that the greatest opportunity for the development of entrepreneurial eco-systems is in ‘sectors that have a deep and local focus’; and the Scaleup Institute is busily working with LEPs to help them to do so.

However, innovation strategy and practice are evolving; and there is still little experienced management of proactive support.

Recent research by IDEO revealed something surprising: neither a more traditional approach to product development – coming up with three good options, analyzing them, and choosing one to move forward with, nor the lean startup approach – taking a best guess, piloting it, and then pivoting based on what works – is the most effective way to launch a new product. Instead, when teams iterate on five or more different solutions, they are 50% more likely to launch a product successfully.

‘Entrepreneurial support organisations are critical infrastructure for cities, communities and for corporates; and they too need clearly articulated support’ says Village Capital, a major US philanthropic business. The most common form of support is mentoring, but the promotion and management of mentoring (and of support in general) is a role that is extremely rare, but much needed, and rarer in Incubators than in Accelerators. Moreover a different format of support programme is also emerging – in the form of regular monthly meetings – especially of hi-growth businesses – based round collaborative learning.

There is at present no body that adequately encompasses Incubators and Accelerators – to help steer policy, identify best practice, and foster training and development in innovationeering. Innovate UK should take urgent steps to create an appropriate KTN.

John Whatmore, May 2017

SETsquared tops Trumps

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SETsquared tops Trumps 

The top Incubator illustrates the range of support that can be offered to young businesses.

Karen Brooks of SETsquared, a partnership of five universities centred on Bristol, recently rated ‘Global Number 1 University Business Incubator’, spoke at a recent ‘Knowledge London’ meeting of leaders of university incubators about the six programmes – at a variety of levels in the innovation pipeline and in various sectors – that SETsquared runs; and added that it was all about a mutual relationship with industry – understanding what business wants; and she commented that SETsquared had no academics on its staff.

The most striking contrast, I suggested at that meeting, between Accelerators most of which are branded ‘pop-ups’ (as c.12 week programmes) and Incubators many of which are in universities, is that the former:

  • are more involved with their businesses
  • provide more input and support,
  • have many more contacts with the business world.

But SETsquared is a leader in all of these respects.

At the Pervasive Media Studio at Wastershed, Bristol – a twelve month home to a dozen young businesses, over lunch together on a Friday everyone has to talk about their progress, about which notes are immediately circulated so that teams can meet up to learn from one another’s experience. Jim Milby, until recently a Director of Barclays Bank, who mentors at Startupbootcamp, insists on a weekly review with his team wherever he is a mentor. Paul Miller, one of the authors of Nesta’s The Startup Factories, and founder of Bethnal Green Ventures – a winner of a major grant from the Cabinet Office’s Social Enterprise Startups programme – holds a review once a week with every team in the Accelerator. At ‘Office Hours’, he asks the same questions of each team “What did you achieve last week, what will you do next week, what is stopping you; and what have you learned”.

Accelerators provide more input and support, especially in the form of mentors, notably with specific advice eg on design, potential customers, fundability etc – often in a ratio of four or five to every team. Techstars, Startupbootcamp and Wayra Lab all have around 150 mentors for each programme, (as does SETsquared,) among whom two or three are regularly attached to each team; and Seedcamp has even more.

As does SETsquared, they have many more external contacts with local practitioners, experts and entrepreneurs in businesses in the sectors in which their young businesses are involved, upon whom they can call for specific help. Moreover their leaders are often entrepreneurs themselves.

Incubators are still essentially providers of office space more than they are facilitators of business development, but it takes little (often only a canteen) to encourage their occupants, who are all on the same growth path, to draw from others’ experience and find the essential help that they often did not know they needed!

John Whatmore, November 2016

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