The SETsquared Partnership is the combination of five business acceleration centres at Bristol, Bath, Exeter, Surrey and Southampton Universities. Bristol SETsquared has been run by Nick Sturge and his team for the last four years and currently hosts over fifty companies. In 2008 Bristol SETsquared has been recognised in the incubator industry by winning “Established Business Incubators of the Year” award in 2008 and being shortlisted for the UKBI “Achievement in Business Incubator Award” this year. They have raised over £55,000,000 for ventures from banks, business angels and venture capitalists in the last four years.
So why are they successful? It’s down to the people that run the centre and how they manage the support for their ventures. At Bristol there are Entrepreneurs in Residence push, encourage and guide ventures as well as answering any questions and weekly or fortnightly visits from a commercial lawyer and management accountant. Courses are arranged to cover topics specifically aimed at new business people including an Investment Readiness Seminar series which culminates in the annual Garden Party and Investor Event in London.
To my mind the real value is in the Business Review Panels. At these events the Managing Director of a venture will spend twenty minutes giving insight into their company to a panel of experts. For the next 90 minutes the discussion will look to answer the three questions posed by the venture or any other issues that arise. The key is the strength of the panel of experts. Nick Sturge is well connected within the business establishment in Bristol (being the former branch chairman of the Institute of Directors and writing a monthly business column for the Bristol-247 news site). Using his connections and the backing of SETsquared he is able to find high quality industry experts to provide advice to ventures. This makes the panels a success and gives the ventures leads into their industry it would have taken years to achieve any other way.
All this activity has resulted in some notable successes such as BrightPearl and Xmos. SETsquared works with very early stage companies so it’ll be a while before we get an exit story…