High achieving entrepreneurs behind the growth of some of the UK’s most promising and successful start-ups are being asked to give something back to the eco-system they helped develop by acting as mentors to 25 high growth, UK-based tech founders.
Tech City UK, launched in Shoreditch by Prime Minister David Cameron back in 2010 and now led by Eileen Burbidge (Chair), Gerard Grech (CEO) and Richard Dennys (Head of Digital), has launched Upscale, a new pilot programme designed to provide tech start-ups with significant “scale-up” potential with world-class “Scale Coaches”, drawn from an influential collection of ex-founders, investors and entrepreneurs.
Niklas Zennstrom (Skype), Sarah Wood (Unruly), Anthony Fletcher (Graze), Saul Klein (Index Ventures, LoveFilm) and Alex Chesterman (Zoopla) are among those who have signed up as Scale Coaches to the programme, which will provide a range of curated workshops, mentoring and panel sessions designed to help founders negotiate the tricky passage from exciting young start-up with growth potential to fully fledged “scaled-up” company.
The decision to launch the pilot was taken after research conducted by Endeavor Insight revealed that founders who are mentored by entrepreneurs with proven track records of success are three times more likely to become top performers themselves, benefitting from their mentor’s strategic advice and experience when dealing with the critical challenges faced by companies seeking to grow quickly whilst staying true to their business goals and creating lasting infrastructure.
Tech City UK says it is committed to supporting digital businesses every step of the way, starting with its Digital Academy, for very early stage entrepreneurs, through to its “Future Fifty” programme for later stage businesses with revenues of more than £3m per year.
Upscale may prove to be a vital cog in the economic wheel, particularly after it was revealed last year by Sherry Coutu MBE in her scale-up report that a boost of just one percent to the “scale-up” population could drive an additional 238k jobs and add £38 billion to the UK’s GVA (gross value added) within 3 years, and £225 billion in additional GVA by 2030. Coutu identifies scale-ups as “an enterprise with average annualised growth in employees or turnover greater than 20 percent per annum over a three year period, and with more than 10 employees at the beginning of the observation period”.
There are a large number of such companies yet it hasn’t always been easy for them to find the talent, resources and coaching they need to make the transition from early promise to genuine prospect. Funding has been an issue, with many observers pointing out the difficulty companies in finding follow-on funding after completing an initial seed round – normally in the region of £100k – £1m. There are fewer tax incentives and London VCs are often perceived as risk averse, unwilling to back a company that shows promise rather than demonstrable traction or profits.
Now that there is a who’s who of “been there, done that” type characters pledging to help mentor and bring on determined early stage founders and their businesses it seems the start-up eco-system is becoming stronger, and the path to success easier to map. For the 25 companies who make it onto the course, at least.