Cambridge tech plays have been handed a gilt-edged opportunity to piggy-back the the first ever global network of start-up accelerator programmes – inspired by the White House and endorsed by President Obama.
Cambridge companies that sign up for the new Springboard programme in Cambridge – exclusively announced in Business Weekly way back in November – could find themselves fast-tracked into this new global elite.
The opportunity comes after Springboard was announced as the first UK member of the new TechStars Network – an alliance of independent programmes that offer seed funding and mentorship to innovative entrepreneurs. The network will share best practice, professional development, networking opportunities and support between members.
The TechStars Network consists of independently owned and operated regional organisations that operate a start-up accelerator programme with models similar to TechStars. TechStars Network provides professional development, networking opportunities, training and ongoing support for members.
It was launched last week as part of the White House Startup America initiative.
Being part of the TechStars Network gives Springboard greater access to a wider network of mentors and the provision of a wide alumni for the start-ups and programme organisations involved. It will also accelerate best practice for mentorship-drive startup programmes and we hope this opportunity will inspire European startups to take part.
But Cambridge companies will have to move fast – applicants have only until February 20 to compete for one of 10 places on the Springboard programme, which starts in Cambridge in May.
Jon Bradford (pictured), programme director for Springboard Cambridge, said: “Being accepted into the TechStars Network is a massive validation of the Springboard programme and also builds us into a much wider ecosystem beyond Cambridge and the UK.
“We expect the teams who take part to have global ambitions and we should create the framework to allow them to deliver their potential.”
Business Weekly broke the news on November 19, 2010, that Cambridge was to host the private sector launch of Springboard.
Backed by an angel investor syndicate, ideaSpace, and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), Springboard is a 13 week mentoring programme which combines support and networking opportunities, as well as up to £15,000 of investment capital.
Leading Venture Capitalists, Angel investors and entrepreneurs – including Alex van Someren from Amadeus Capital Partners, Colin Willis, managing director at Hotspur Capital Partners and Neil McClements, managing partner at Fintech Ventures Fund – have been enlisted as mentors on the programme.
While many early stage businesses have interesting business ideas or technologies, they require additional support and advice to make them ‘deal-ready’.
The intensive mentoring programme, which replicates the successful US pre-seed accelerator programme developed by Y Combinator and TechStars will run from April to July.
McClements told Business Weekly: “Many start-ups lack an experienced management team and can’t afford to pay for advice on a range of issues such as product development, market penetration and customer traction.
“Springboard is a one-stop shop where mentors with business experience and strong networks will support entrepreneurs to advance their businesses.”
The Springboard programme was originally founded by Red Gate Software Limited in Cambridge in 2009.
It was trialled in the North East in a pilot funded by the local RDA but the funding line has been cut and organisers of the newly revised programme felt Cambridge was the perfect private sector launchpad for the initiative.
Jon Bradford told Business Weekly: “Key to the programme is the provision of mentoring and coaching for experienced entrepreneurs.
“Cambridge as a region has probably the highest density of technology entrepreneurs in the UK and possibly in Europe. Furthermore, there is already a pre-existing entrepreneurial community with a propensity to support and mentor, which Springboard can tap into.
“Cambridge also has probably the most mature and active community of angel investors in the UK and Europe. This is, in part, due to successful Cambridge entrepreneurs reinvesting their earnings into new opportunities and also the work Cambridge Angels has actively undertaken to corral these angels to create critical mass.
“Due to the changing dynamics of the venture capital, early stage businesses are capable of delivering more for less. This creates an opportunity for angel investors to take a more active role and interest in these early stage businesses.”
Springboard will be a full time 13 week seed accelerator programme that combines investment capital and intensive mentoring and coaching from experienced entrepreneurs.
The programme will be open to anyone from anywhere, with up to 10 teams participating. The programme will end with the teams presenting their proposition to venture capitalists and angel investors at an Investor Day.
Entrepreneurs have until February 20 to compete for one of the 10 places on the programme. Successful teams will be hosted at the University of Cambridge’s ideaSpace, giving them ready access to one of Europe’s leading hi-tech clusters. To apply for a place on Springboard visit www.springboard.com