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29 July, 2015 - 12:47

Cambridge Network expanding its School for Scale-Ups

Claire Ruskin CEO of Cambridge Network

Cambridge has done brilliantly at scaling up businesses and has gained a reputation for a disproportionate level of success, writes Claire Ruskin, CEO of Cambridge Network.

Fifteen companies have scaled from startup to the ‘wow’ threshold of $1 billion market capitalisation – and very importantly they have all been companies with real profit and local employment, exporting around the world. 

We can now see the patterns in scaling businesses up and can consider the ‘Cambridge scale-up methodology.’ 

Fifteen years ago business startups here were long on technical excellence but short of management and commercial expertise – so Cambridge hired in top talent, particularly from the US and Europe, and have used it well to help develop our home-grown skills.

What does Cambridge do now to help and reinforce scale-up successes? We use ‘the board you can’t afford’ and peer groups to help our business leaders grapple with some of the opportunities and challenges they face. The Cambridge Network ‘Cambridge Leaders Academy’, for example, provides a good way for CEOs to work with each other and learn from business visits and management experiences. Sir Eric Peacock adds coaching from London when we want it.

We have role models to aspire to – individuals who have succeeded stay around in the business arena rather than disappearing on their yachts or to play golf. They put a lot back into mentoring, funding and coaching the next wave of businesses coming through. Multiple entrepreneurs stay young despite their hard work it seems!

We have excellence that has developed within our very own Cambridge companies – Warren East springs to mind – recognised as world-class leaders. No doubt Joep van Beurden, Jonathan Milner, James Collier, Stan Boland, Mark Gerhard and other luminaries will find new and exciting ideas to keep them re-generating in Cambridge.

We continue to discriminate quite harshly between ideas to fund the best prospects, mostly because we don’t have endless money available to fund startups.

This is one of the differences between Cambridge and Silicon Valley, where companies can raise more cash more easily. The ideas that do get over the threshold get time and thought from the investors.

‘School for Scale-Ups’

Cambridge Network has long been delivering a programme of accelerated shared learning to companies including ARM and CSR as more people have been making the transition from technical roles to management or leadership roles.

The School for Scale-Ups is being made available more widely to the next level of businesses in the region from September, so contact Cambridge Network for more details now to get on the list.

Mentoring and coaching will be added to formal learning to support the individuals on the journey. Cambridge has shown in many ways that collaboration between our companies as they grow pays great dividends for all in making sustainable businesses. 

We learn from other places. Cambridge has a very successful ‘ideaSpace’ led by Stew McTavish – now with more members than ever and premises in the centre of Cambridge as well as the Hauser Forum.

We bring lessons back from Washington DC where companies move up a floor for each size of business they achieve, with appropriate support at each level – and we aspire to have a space as big as this for the developing companies.

Babraham has a visionary plan under the leadership of Derek Jones, and the Biomedical Campus has just succeeded in winning a prestigious Catapult network hub for precision medicine through the leadership of Jeanette Walker. We have fantastic examples to share.

As reported in the Mills & Reeve study at – almost two-thirds of our knowledge intensive businesses are getting more investor interest in their firm this year. Cambridge Network is certainly getting enquiries about investment opportunities from acquisitive businesses visiting the region

If we join up to encourage and support the businesses with the ambition to scale up – to take that challenging step from a medium to a large company – then we will have more successes to keep Cambridge ahead of the world.

• For advice in scaling your business, visit

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