Support and collaboration are key to helping small businesses set up, grow and kick-start the economy.
That was the message from a round table event hosted by Ross McEwan, CEO of NatWest, at the Entrepreneurial Spark hub in Cardiff.
McEwan was joined by Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns and around a dozen entrepreneurs who are based at the hub, or ‘hatchery’, to discuss the climate for start-up businesses in Wales.
Entrepreneurial Spark powered by NatWest, the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures, provides a training and enablement programme focused on developing the mind-set and behaviours needed to become a successful entrepreneur.
The Cardiff hatchery opened in September and the entrepreneurs at the roundtable have been part of the Entrepreneurial Spark programme since then.
“We love seeing small businesses get going because you become medium-sized businesses and will hopefully become large businesses employing lots of people. If we can help entrepreneurs get going then the economy of the UK will get going again and will consistently grow.
“NatWest staff who get involved with the entrepreneurs in these hatcheries are learning from them, and they can use that experience of working closely with start-ups and growing businesses to benefit their other customers. They are developing an entrepreneurial mindset themselves, and this is what the role of a banker should be.”
Steve Dimmick of online polling company Doopoll, which won the Sir Michael Moritz Tech Start Up Award in 2016, said:
“I worked for ten years in recruitment and helping someone else realise their dream was a pretty dull place to be. When we started Doopoll we had a few hundred people signed up – now we have thousands across the world using the platform.
“We have excellent support in the Entrepreneurial Spark hatchery. We get to work with a straight-talking bunch of people who challenge us realistically and properly.
“One of the main benefits of being part of this programme is the fact that everyone’s black books are open. I’d like to see this extended so that more larger businesses collaborate with small businesses.”
Cairns told the entrepreneurs that Wales needed to become more outward-looking in order to seize opportunities which lie across the border.
“The most productive city outside London is Bristol,” he said. “It punches above its weight economically. I am very keen to bring Bristol, Newport, Cardiff and Swansea closer together.
“The latest inward investment data shows that the greatest growth was in the Northern Powerhouse, so the more that North Wales can tap into this the better.”
To date the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator programme, which is supported by KPMG, Dell EMC and Pinsent Masons, has supported more than 660 start-ups across the UK to grow their business. It is open to businesses from all sectors and is completely free, with Entrepreneurial Spark taking no equity in supported businesses. There are currently 12 locations throughout the UK.