In these strange times, we are all looking for a silver lining and if there is one, it may be that a lot of people are re-evaluating the way they work. For some it may be an opportunity to make that leap and start their own business.
Now this is a daunting step at the best of times, but even more so now, with such uncertainty, and a new start-up will need as much support as possible. It can be a lonely place at the beginning . You may have the most amazing idea but how do you make that first move?
Stephen Westley, who set up Digital Northampton two years ago with an aim to promote local talent in the tech sector, has decided to help others by opening an innovation hub – a real innovation centre!
This will be a hub where likeminded people can co-work and share ideas. It will be a support community, where start-ups will have access to solicitors, accountants, marketing specialists and business advisors, all free of charge.
“I have seen this work in other towns and cities, a real innovation centre giving the support needed to fledgling companies; the tools they need to give them the best chance of success,”
“Many people with a great idea may have no business acumen at all, just raw energy. This hub will be a space where we will help them thrive and give them the best opportunity to make their idea a success.”
The centre would offer limited free spaces, that are sponsored by established businesses who want to support local up-and-coming new talent. The on-boarding process will be in the style of a Dragons’ Den type interview where potential candidates will send in a three to five-minute elevator pitch video to the sponsors, explaining their business idea and maybe even offering a percentage of the start-up in return for sponsorship. The sponsors will then be able to make an offer to support them with a minimum support package of £2,000 for six months.
“Over the past two years, I have found some amazing companies in the Northampton area and met some wonderful people with great ideas, this hub was always the next step of how to bring these ideas to life. With the support of established local business this can be the first step of promoting how great Northampton is as a tech hub.”
The hub will not be a free ride, as there will be mentors at hand to make sure companies are making the most of their time at the hub and are on track to move to the next stage. The companies that are taken in will be expected to reach certain targets set by their mentors, and encouraged to report back regularly. If they are struggling, there could be extra help factored in. Events will also be held and local businesses will be encouraged to come and share their wisdom of the business world with these businesses.
The plan is for the centre to become a place where the individual companies feed off each other and with that they all grow together, forging relationships at the foundation of their businesses that will carry them through the life of the company. This can only be a win-win situation. The mentors win as they will be able to use the skills provided by the new, motivated ideas people, and gain loyal, strong, new customers. The entrepreneurs get not only a place to work, but more importantly the help and experience from the established industries.
But the greatest potential is the fact that the hub will bring together likeminded people bursting with potential and ideas; all from the local area. They can help each other to grow in a way that is flexible, cheap and exciting.
“A typical scenario as I see it is a company making bespoke lighting sets up a station; at the next door workspace there is a web designer, and then just next to the coffee bar an app designer, and over by the meeting room, a company making packaging,”
“That is your complete set up, and everyone wins. And, don’t forget, the lighting guy has a mentor to give him the experience and support to help him get out there to get the new clients. And there is also the accounting advice that keeps turnover safe and teaches you how to talk to the tax people. Hopefully, the experienced industries will help smooth over the potholes that we all know are out there on the road to success and the young community will be the supercharged fuel to boost their journey.”
The hub is in the planning stages and, if there is enough support for the programme, plans to open in summer 2021 in a central location. Various location possibilities are still being considered, so if you have a possible suitable space or know of one, please contact Stephen.
So, if you have an idea around tech, or emerging technology and would be interested to know more about the innovation hub, or you are a local company who would be interested in getting more involved, supporting the local hub either as a sponsor or offering your services to candidates, call Stephen on 07970 007770 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more visit www.digitalnorthampton.com and register your interest.