After this week’s announcement of the Qi3 Accelerator Bootcamp, friends are asking me why we’re doing it. Are we mad? How will we make money? And, above all, why High Value Manufacturing (HVM)?
The simple answer is that we’re doing it because we see the need! After reviewing nearly 400 prospects, we see a common set of areas in which businesses need to improve if they wish to attract investment. Let’s be clear here, I’m not just talking about seed stage ideas. I’m expecting that the bootcamp will be most attractive to young established businesses looking for early or expansion stage capital. We’ll be helping on all aspects of engineering businesses, from managing technology and product development, go to market strategy, finances and Intellectual Property.
When I attended the NESTA Startup Factories conference last summer, it became obvious to me that, whilst Accelerator Programmes were flourishing in the software and Internet space, few people had tried them in ‘harder tech’. When we set up the partnership with Cambridge’s ideaSpace, it seemed natural to run a bootcamp as a one-off pilot to test our evaluation process and the concept of such a programme. We aim to support 8 businesses with tough love through an intensive 3-day process, and we’ve attracted a range of top notch coaches and mentors to get the best out of this short, sharp shock.
But above all, it’s about having fun working with ambitious people in the field I love. I grew up at Oxford Instruments, a mid-sized engineering company where the customer was king and the love of technology and manufacturing was deeply ingrained. I’ve spent my life selling and marketing other people’s technical inventions around the world. For me, HVM means making real engineered products, be they destined for environmental sustainability, healthcare, industry or defence. My pleasure as an investor is seeing engineering and commercial jobs created here in the UK, and products exported across the globe.
We’ve been fortunate to attract partnership from ideaSpace, sponsorship from Harrison Clark, Williams Powell, Synergy Energy and Wren Capital, and support from NESTA and the Technology Strategy Board. Bootcamp participants will have to contribute a token amount towards their accommodation in Cambridge’s lovely Madingley Hall, and we’ll make up the balance of the costs ourselves. We are not seeking equity stakes in the companies that participate, although we’ll naturally be keen to see if they are attractive investments at the end of the process.
So are we just do-gooders? Well perhaps. I see it as a superb experiment, an opportunity to help some great businesses, committed entrepreneurs, and work with experienced mentors whilst having great fun.
To join the bootcamp apply here. It’s a one-off; entries close on 4th May and the bootcamp will be held on 23rd – 25th July.
My next posting will be the one about the aubergine…