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Turtles can turn into gazelles in a good incubator

Serial Entrepreneur and ex dragon’s den investor, Richard Farleigh, talks about the value a good incubator can have on start-up business and highlights the success from our Bristol centre run by Nick Sturge.

Richard says “I came across a very good incubator the other day, operated by Bristol University. It’s called SETsquared and is part of a partnership with four other universities. Nick Sturge runs the operation for Bristol and he impressed me immediately. I had expected the standard cultural confusion when academia meets business. But Nick is very hands-on, probably due to his own previous experience in business.

He currently supports over 50 companies, of which five have been spun out of the University. The others have come from the local community. The focus is on technology businesses with high growth potential, and Nick is picky about who he accepts into the incubator. He is only interested in innovative and scalable “gazelle” businesses, and avoids start-ups with no ambition. Once admitted, help is given in the form of coaching, mentoring, workshops, accounting, marketing and legal assistance, with the option of renting space in the business park. Now, all of these are initially offered at extremely reasonable prices. But the fledgling company has to grow up, so the charges are gradually increased over a few years towards market rates. Some companies don’t survive. The fairly modest expenditure by the university seems to represent very good value for society. In ten years, many of Nick’s companies have successfully raised large amounts of private funding and some have gained stock market listing.

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SETsquared is a partnership between

  • University of Bath
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Exeter
  • University of Southampton logo
  • University of Surrey