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23 August, 2021 - 22:06 By Tony Quested

Norwich unveils its first business incubator

The East of England has the third highest business population in the UK but has the third lowest level of business incubators and accelerators. 

Norwich has the 13th highest level of technology investment in the UK but, until now, not a single incubator offering space and support for startup and scale up businesses. This will change in September when Akcela opens its doors with the aim of nurturing new businesses in the city.

The Akcela management team has steered projects to achieve growth around the world and have experience working within startups and scale ups – managing VC investment and exit. 

Akcela is an industry agnostic incubator, supporting businesses of all types to scale successfully. Whilst many other privately funded incubators have had to rely on a myriad of partners to fund their space and time, Akcela operates a safe space for incubated companies to grow, with all partners agreeing to a non-solicitation approach to their incubated companies.

The Akcela Incubator is accepting applications for incubated tenants now. Incubated companies receive free office space in the centre of Norwich city for the duration of their incubation, as well as support from the directors throughout the time of working together. 

Akcela operates on a shareholding model, taking a small stake in the company which dilutes along with incoming investment. 

Managing director, James Adams, explains: “We wanted to create an incubator that was about the business and the founders, not about a certain specialism and looking for the next unicorn. 

“Full potential is about businesses that can have a positive impact on the founder, the staff they employ, the local community and the sector they operate within. Whilst we feel we have some companies within the community already that have huge potential, we don’t just look at the businesses in pure revenue terms. 

“There must be an element of commercial awareness of course, but because we are predominantly self-funded by our shareholders, we get to ask ourselves three main questions. 

“Are we a good fit? – do we add value to the founder by being involved? Do we believe in the values of the business and what it wants to achieve? Do we believe in the founder(s) and their ability to deliver the project with our support? These are the fundamentals of working with any company.”

The Akcela community already includes some businesses attracting early-stage investment as they begin and accelerate their growth plans. The incubator is supported by partners such as Ashtons Law, Farnell Clarke Accountants, Anglia Capital Group, The Cambridge Norwich Tech Corridor, The Norfolk Chambers of Commerce and Akcela has also been working with Innovate UK Edge for support with early stage funding.

EdTech company Readingmate, an app designed to support children’s reading through an algorithm that recommends books using inputs from 100’s of teachers and 100,000’s data points have amassed over 15,000 users and hundreds of schools since its launch in late May.

Vegan protein powder company Gorilla Juice continues to develop its sales channel and explore new markets with its unique flavours and no-nonsense approach to high quality protein. 

Tech start-up The Forest of Memories has amassed a large user base and an impressive bank of upcoming forests as it brings together both physical forest memorial sites and an online platform for those to leave memories and dedications to those we have lost.

Retro fans will be drawn to Pinball Bazaar, which has developed and licensed a range of desktop clocks and has a multitude of licensing agreements in place to further new product development.

It’s this level of diversity within the community that Akcela director Kate Yarbo applauds and hopes to continue.

“We truly think that the success of the incubator is placed not only on the support we offer, but also the community we bring together,” she says.

“Having the right mix of businesses at the right stages will create the environment that allows businesses to flourish. 

“At the start-up stages, everyone must be pulling in the same direction. That excitement, that energy we create and the community will create is key; we have to encourage and promote that.”

For more information email hello [at] 

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