A support programme for hi-growth young ventures


A Growth Builder programme for hi-growth ventures

At last programmes are being initiated, based on the elements of the Accelerator but provided on a periodic basis, that fill a gap in aiming to help hi-growth businesses to grow faster. Every incubator should follow suit.

Sherry Coutu CBE, serial entrepreneur and investor, identified in her report of 2014 a need to support rapidly expanding ‘scale-up’ companies to create a significant proportion of the UK’s economic growth; RBS analysis suggested an additional 238,000 jobs and £38 billion additional turnover is possible if the ‘scale up gap’ is reversed; and the 2016 Barclays Report puts its finger on specific needs concerning management and finance.

The Growth Builder programme is one of several recent responses to her call for Government, entrepreneurs, educators, investors and large corporates to work together to support these businesses, and it has been built specifically to help established British businesses that want to take on the next stage of growth.

The first cohort consists of businesses from a range of sectors, carefully picked based on existing proven successes and their potential for further growth – by a panel of esteemed industry experts. The 48 businesses will enjoy access to Government, university innovation, corporate expertise, investors and successful entrepreneurs, including programme ambassadors like Brent Hoberman (lastminute.com, made.com, Founders Forum and Founders Factory), Sherry Coutu CBE (Founders4Schools), Sarah Wood (Unruly) and Ed Wray (Betfair), among others.

The programme which has been designed by UCL, Natwest, UKTI, BT, PIE Mapping, Fast Growth Forum, the UK Business Angels Association and Loughborough University, consists of 12 monthly meetings, starting with a day focused on getting to know one another and formal assessment of where each business is and where it hopes to go, based on the Business Model Canvas. The second meeting – a half-day meeting, will see the participants working in small groups, based on such things as size, sector, technology etc; at which the members of each group will present their progress together with their problems, to which group members will contribute their thoughts, their own experience and their ideas. Some mentoring is provided by ‘growth tutors’. Future meetings are expected to alternate between these two models – the provision of input and small group working. Meetings rotate around the premises of the various contributors.

This format brings together the best of a number of existing programmes, all of them evidently highly valued, and adds the intimate involvement of a wide variety of different contributors – provided pro bono. Every incubator can put together a programme with this objective (and every Science Park, Innovation Centre and Tech Hub too.)

John Whatmore, June 2016



Yet more different Accelerators


Accelerators: new approaches; more focused; and part of a more comprehensive process.

Hub Launchpad, one of the initiatives under the Cabinet Office’s contract for accelerating social enterprises (item 2), focuses the Accelerator not simply on people with interesting ideas for a new social enterprise (as has Bethnal Green Ventures – item 3), but on issues that are of major importance; and it then follows an Action-learning model rather than the more common intensive co-working commune.

Accelerators are continuing to become more thematic – see item 4 – the application of a classic form of the Accelerator in the Movies. And UCL’s new innovation space (item 5) is a complete hybrid: a partnership between academia and a commercial organisations; and the process, interestingly, a cross between an accelerator and an incubator.

Applied Creativity

Briefings from

John Whatmore at

The Centre for Leadership in Creativity

January 2014


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


*                                    *                                    *


*         Are Forecasts (like Alice in Wonderland) simply what you



*         Inventive two-stage Accelerator for creating social enterprises

         and services in the field of public services


*         Bethnal Green Ventures evolves its process

*         ‘Accelerators’: another application – the Movies

*         A new incubator with a difference in Tech City – at UCL                           

                        *                           *                           *

Are Forecasts (like Alice in Wonderland) simply what you believe       Often just a bit of dreaming, but research shows that there are indeed experts in forecasting. Maybe our judgments are clouded by what we happen to believe will influence those futures about which we are mere spectators. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-79)

Inventive two-stage Accelerator for creating social enterprises and services in the field of public services

Under their three-year contract with the Cabinet Office to run Accelerators for developing social enterprises, Hub Launchpad has developed an unusual two-stage approach. Rather than promoting ideas for new businesses, it aims to help participants to identify issues in public services and to form teams; and then to work together to develop solutions as social enterprises or new service models within the public sector that will be able to take root and grow. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-7m)


Bethnal Green Ventures Accelerator evolves its process

After Bethnal Green Ventures’ third cohort (in partnership with Nesta and the Nominet Trust), its first under the Cabinet Office’s Social Incubator Fund, Paul Miller, partner, talked about having more diversity among his teams, better space, more organisation, and more contact with Alumni and Angels. He described how mentoring had been planned and had worked out, and the popularity of war stories. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-6X)

 ‘Accelerators’: another application – the Movies

A classic ‘Accelerator’ hopes to open up a new route to funding for independent film-makers. A US film-maker and entrepreneur launches an Accelerator at the Sundance film Festival, selects 8 out of 440 applicants; gives them three months of seed-funding and development, and then enables them to pitch their embryonic film to investors – all for 8% of their equity. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-7j)

A new incubator with a difference in Tech City – at UCL                            IDEALondon, a new incubator space in London’s Tech City, opened in December, an unlikely alliance between Cisco, DC Thomson and University College London, which furthers UCL’s far-sighted objectives and strengths – in entrepreneurship. (http://wp.me/p3beJt-71)

Copyright John Whatmore 2014


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

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



A new incubator with a difference in Tech City


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).