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Empowering Innovation: The Case for an Early-Stage VC Fund to Underpin Welsh Entrepreneurs


Written by:

Jeff Bartlett
Mentra Ventures



My journey began in the industrial town of Port Talbot, where I was born and raised. Armed with an engineering degree, I embarked on a 25-year-long career in the IT industry, primarily in commercial roles such as sales, marketing, and product management. However, in 2003, a significant shift occurred in my professional life—I took the leap to become an independent consultant, mentor, and coach.

For the past decade, my focus has been on working with early-stage technology businesses, guiding them on the path to becoming investment-ready and securing their initial finances during those critical early stages. It's a journey marked by ambition, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of growth. As part of this endeavour, I initiated the BioAcellerate program, an investment readiness program that has been running successfully since 2018 in conjunction with AberInnovation.

The BioAcellerate program has supported a variety of early stage technology businesses take their first steps towards realizing their potential. We've had the privilege of working with 60 promising companies, and 45 of them successfully navigated the program to the pitching stage. Impressively, eight of these ventures have gone on to raise significant investment capital, with 20 still actively pursuing their ambitions.

What becomes evident through this journey is the wealth of talent and ideas present in Wales and beyond. These start-ups and entrepreneurs are brimming with potential, and they hold the keys to the region's economic growth and technological advancement. Many of these endeavours originate from Aberystwyth University and the broader area.

While this journey has been inspiring, it has also been marked by a sense of frustration. We've identified a gap, a bottleneck that restricts the rapid and solid progress of these promising businesses—the lack of access to adequate capital. It's a challenge faced by many early-stage companies across the globe, but it's particularly acute in regions across Wales, where the start-up ecosystem is still evolving.

This brings me to the heart of my thought leadership column: the urgent need for a dedicated venture capital (VC) fund specifically singularly targeted at the early-stage startups across Wales. Such a fund could be a game-changer, unlocking the region's innovation potential, fostering economic development, and creating a nurturing environment for emerging businesses.

The advantages of an early-stage VC fund are manifold. It would provide the necessary financial resources to support start-ups through their critical growth phases, helping them transform from budding concepts into thriving businesses. Additionally, it would attract investors, mentors, and talent to the region, further enriching the start up ecosystem.

Wales is brimming with untapped potential, and its innovation ecosystem is ready to flourish. An early-stage VC fund would not only bridge the gap in access to capital but also catalyse economic growth and technological innovation. It's a vision worth pursuing—a vision that empowers innovation and propels Wales into a future of economic prosperity and technological excellence.

Business News Wales