Bristol has a power-house of incubators for businesses the envy of other cities in the UK. Following my visit to SETsquared last month, I called on UWE Ventures to find out what’s new on Harbourside. The Ventures team has earned a hat-trick awards this year, winning the UKBI’s “Achievement in Incubation 2011”, the Flux National Business Competition and the Regional Enterprise Varsity 2011, all against stiff opposition, but there’s been little publicity around this success.
Tucked away on the 4th floor of Bush House in the centre of Bristol, UWE Ventures supports start-up and young growing companies with scalable knowledge-based propositions across a rich mix of application areas. Of the 45 businesses currently in Ventures, about half are founded by UWE graduates and many, but not all, are starting their first business. It’s a professional, accessible and well-connected community. Alongside the incubation program of 1-1’s, workshops and business reviews there’s plenty of collaboration between the client businesses and good links into the University and regional business.
It was in this context that Jill Burnett (of UWE Ventures) and I were discussing how UWE Ventures support offer is evolving to meet company needs. Managing Directors have always commented that Ventures’ business reviews are very effective at helping them recognise and address issues in their businesses. However, with Ventures third anniversary approaching, the team are realising that there’s more to incubation than they can write on the tin….
Over time and through the wealth of interactions that a good incubation space enables, founders/directors and staff build relationships based on trust. This then enables “just in time” conversations. A just-in-time conversation is triggered when a burning issue arises in the business and a there’s well-informed and trusted advisor on hand to act as a sounding board to help the director/founder explore options. No fuss, no bother – just frank, responsive, measured, well informed debate exactly when it’s most needed. Examples are difficult because of the confidential and strategic nature of the material but it’s easy to envisage that these are the issues that otherwise might keep a founder/director awake at night … It is great to hear that founders/directors are getting the opportunity to resolve urgent and important issues in their businesses and lives in a structured and confidential way and just when they need it.