Managed by TMT specialists White Horse Capital, Accelerator Academy works to increase the likely success rate of high-growth potential start-ups. It has already supported more than 30 businesses and helped to raise more than £3m in capital. Even after only just over a year, Accelerator Academy is already being seen as a great way for investors to meet new interesting businesses, with an improved chance of success, and is generating huge interest from the investment community.
Members of the Academy – which to date have included a range of tech businesses (mobile app developers, social media, SaaS, social / ecommerce, B2C & B2B online, marketplaces and e-learning) – take part in a 12 week part-time intensive course; receive access to over £150,000 of offers and deals; invitations to unique events (past semester included a private train journey with Richard Branson!); and amazing introductions to mentors, clients, partners, investors and even additional management team members to speed up growth and help scale their business.
Ian Merricks, Managing Partner for White Horse Capital, says a focus on clarifying commercial propositions, strengthening teams and making sure ideas are prepared for market has been key to its success. “The Accelerator Academy programme is now delivering consistently and businesses like Flockler, TradeSquare, CloudFind, Launchpad Recruits, Fubar Radio and Lutebox have achieved huge growth and attracted strategic investors.
It has been inspirational to see their determination and progress at close hand during each new semester. We’ve been delighted with the results, and have ambitious plans to expand the programme’s reach this year by supporting additional startup initiatives pre-accelerator stage and further increasing our relationship with the early stage investment community.
Flockler, a social magazine publishing platform, was one of the Accelerator Academy’s first success stories, with the firm having gone on to work with News International, Haymarket and the Mirror Group. Toni Hopponen, CEO, said the programme had been invaluable in providing contacts – and eventual investment. “We didn’t have any contacts having moved to London from Finland and the Academy was a very good experience. From day one, our mentor was giving us feedback and we are still in contact with him now. Because of the Academy we gained a lot of investor contacts to get funding, and a lot of potential contacts. It’s speeded up our development from having a prototype through to something we can actually sell.”
The benefits of the Academy have been felt beyond the applicants, with mentors and investors reaping the rewards of involvement.
Entrepreneur John Straw shared his experience as a mentor and said the Academy gave him an opportunity to “put something back into UK plc”. “It’s a fabulous opportunity to channel 35 years of commercial experience into a Generation Y audience and equip them for the future. But probably more than anything else it helps remove that British disease – the fear of failure. Without failure we can’t learn and without learning we can’t move on.”
Investor Michael Martin (of Anvil Partners) said the Accelerator Academy’s approach had given polish to raw products – an approach that makes his job far easier. “As an investor, it gives me exposure to new companies and young entrepreneurs that have been through a process of training to make something more presentable. When it comes to raising money, it’s something new for them and it’s amazing how many fail to come up to the mark in terms of what you expect. The Academy team have prepared a select number of them, showcased them and you can really tell.”
Accelerator Academy has also attracted plaudits from high profile government figures.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said, ““The Accelerator Academy represents exactly the type of investment in London’s future businesses that will secure our position as Europe’s digital capital. Using the nous of seasoned entrepreneurs to mentor those in the very early stages, alongside much needed access to investment, the Academy will give entrepreneurs a real leg up in a tough economic climate, helping to create London’s future jobs.”
Mark Prisk MP, then Minister for Business and Enterprise, said, “The Accelerator Academy…is a great initiative, the blend of funding and training is very important.”