Ben Jones, AberInnovation
Ben Jones is from AberInnovation. Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AberInnovation) provides world-leading facilities and expertise within the biotechnology, agri-tech, and food and drink sectors. Set in stunning scenery between the Cambrian Mountains and the Irish Sea, the £40.5m Campus offers an ideal environment for business and academic collaboration to flourish. https://aberinnovation.com/
Do you have an idea that you believe could be the start of a successful business? Do you have a startup in Wales that needs to progress to the next level? One way to test your business ideas and to gain the support and expert advice that can make a huge difference to your progress is through a business accelerator programme.
What do we mean by a business accelerator?
In general, an accelerator programme gives developing companies access to advice, training, mentorship, investors and other support that will help them become stable, self-sufficient businesses. An accelerator programme can help from the very earliest ‘lightbulb’ stage of a business, through to those who need help in order to scale up or to attract investment.
Some are free, but some can be quite expensive to join, so what are the benefits that you can expect?
For entrepreneurs in Wales here are the five most significant benefits of joining the right accelerator programme:
Assess and validate
Everyone with an ostensibly good idea thinks that theirs has heaps of potential and will plug an as-yet unfilled gap in the market, leading to untold riches and recognition. But of course, not every bright idea can be a success. In reality, most ideas for new products and services barely get off the ground.
Being selected to take part in the right accelerator programme gives you a chance to really validate your idea and test your hypotheses. Is there a market for your product? Do the financials stack up? Do the costs involved in the development and/or manufacture make it a viable proposition? Is it investable?
When we’ve had an idea for a while, it’s only natural to become emotionally invested in it. The mentorship and expertise found on an accelerator programme will help you to make a clear-headed and dispassionate evaluation of whether your idea has legs.
Furthermore, a good programme will help you make the adjustments and course-corrections that may be required – saving you from wasting months, if not years, of going in the wrong direction.
Many budding entrepreneurs who end up on accelerators don’t have a business background. Accelerator programmes will address participants’ knowledge gaps and give plenty of reassurance and emotional support. This is achieved by providing mentors, success stories and subject experts to support you and equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to get your idea off the ground.
The experience and hard-won advice shared by successful entrepreneurs can be invaluable for fledgling startup founders. Many programmes, such as BioAccelerate 2020, set aside time in their schedules to invite founders and directors in relevant fields to offer their wisdom and to share their journeys with the cohort.
You get the opportunity to present to investors and industry experts
You are probably going to need investment at some stage to grow your company and to bring your product or service to market.
Accelerator programmes invariably end with some sort of pitch or demo day, where you’ll demonstrate the progress you’ve made over the course of the programme to a panel of industry experts and potential investors. Learning how to present to these types of audiences will be vital in securing funding at the various stages of your startup’s journey.
You get Access to Facilities and Equipment
The business accelerators programmes that are out there are not all the same. There are, of course, overlaps and similarities: most programmes will teach participants about core topics such as finances, intellectual properly, branding, product development and so on. However, some programmes go further.
Sector-specific programmes, and ones that are aligned to universities or innovation parks, can often also provide access to cutting-edge facilities and equipment, not to mention the pre-eminent expertise that you would expect to find at an academic institution.
For example, the BioAccelerate programme offered at AberInnovation gives startups in the biotechnology, agri-tech and food and drink sectors access to their brand-new £40.5m campus, which includes a state-of-the-art biorefinery and a Future Food Centre.
You can be inspired and supported by other innovators
Developing a new product or service can be a lonely situation. By definition, there often won’t be many others, and perhaps none, doing the same thing. To keep up your morale and motivation levels, it’s highly beneficial to find a welcoming group of peers who are on similar journeys.
It is therefore imperative to find the right programme that has rigorous and robust selection criteria to ensure a cohort of inspiring and ambitious entrepreneurs. There are likely to be dark days and moments of doubt as you iterate and develop your proposition over the course of an accelerator programme. A supportive group to bounce ideas off and provide feedback will help you navigate these more challenging times.
In an increasingly interdisciplinary world where problems often require a multitude of solutions, these bonds may even lead to fruitful opportunities in the future.
For businesses in Wales it is well worth taking some time to research accelerator programmes. Look for one that caters to your sector and will support you in the way you need. It could make all the difference to you creating a successful new business that will grow and play a role in the Welsh economy.
For more information about BioAccelerate: https://aberinnovation.com/en/our-community/bioaccelerate/