x-innovate is an accelerator services company, working with start-up and early stage creative tech businesses to accelerate growth. We have an innovative business model enabling us to take a long-term view and provide highly person-centred approaches to support at the critical stages for businesses with growth potential. Our approach is focused in 5 key areas:
We do not have a shiny building, and run our support programme on a dispersed model providing help to businesses wherever they are based. We have a very high degree of flexibility and autonomy.
Brian Condon’s work helps people make decisions and take action. He brings energy, enthusiasm and independence of thought. He commits to the mission of the client, supports the executive team and he’s skilled at mediation and conflict resolution.
Prior to x-innovate, he co-founded the Centre for Creative Collaboration (“C4CC”) a joint venture between four of the UK’s leading universities. C4CC supported collaboration and innovation between companies large and small, Universities, freelancers and microbusinesses. A 5 year project beginning in 2010, C4CC helped students and recent graduates start digital and creative businesses – with 37 start-ups in the last 2 years creating over 100 jobs.
Matt has a background public sector innovation support services and private sector management consultancy, working closely with universities and a variety of business sectors.
He has advised, designed and project managed a number of innovation environment projects, and has advised UK and Welsh Government on start-up support policy.
He is an entrepreneur, a Director of a non-profit and a PRINCE2 practitioner.
We utilise our extensive network around academia to engage with entrepreneurs with projects/businesses at pre-start, start-up, and early stage. We seek independent recommendations and ask prospective clients for a concise proposal. While the provision of support services will usually run for one year, we do not ask for proposals to be submitted by a certain date.
We have a small target number of clients to work with each year, and we prefer to ensure that our process is flexible and chimes with the needs of the client. We also request that any unsolicited proposals we receive are accompanied by a reference (usual standards apply).
We hold an initial meeting with prospective clients to gauge the key pillars of success for any start-up – the idea and the people. Our assessment is therefore informal as we talk through the ideas and get to know the people. We will become de facto partners in each client project as our incentives will be – uniquely in the market – aligned to the success of each project. Our support process depends upon a high level of mutual trust, so the initial meeting is very much a two-way process and is extremely important in establishing if we are able to work together.
We are looking to engage with partner clients who take a long term sustainable approach to business development.
We then work with our equally extensive network of contacts from blue chips, “unicorns” (a term we dislike!), professional services, and across sectors to provide a tailored programme of support to clients. This support includes; strategy, mentoring, network introductions, business planning advice, team-building and the provision of working capital.
Crucially, our support services are concentrated on accelerating revenue returns to our client, and the creation of genuine value in the business. Our high trust relationship includes an open book policy, and we place a clear onus upon the client to get things done. The programme is also complemented by a series of seminars and networking events.
We are supported by investors who are prepared to take a long-term view on the success of x-innovate. We are obliged, however, to seek a commercial return for our investments and support, which means that x-innovate needs to make a return, and we have a core business model to achieve this. Naturally, there is a strong element of risk in what we seek to do, and our returns structure reflects this. Importantly, we do not require clients to surrender equity.
When I wrote my first post for this blog (in July!) I didn’t imagine it would take this long to follow it with this one. In the usual way of early stage business, despite everyone’s intentions and best efforts – it all takes longer than you want. In this case, in a good way.
There’s no point going to market with something that isn’t matched to demand. Also understanding what it is that we could do that is valuable to a potential client and how we might operate the business is worth spending time on. So we’ve worked hard over the summer, talking to potential clients and also to people who understand some of the things we were trying to do at the Centre for Creative Collaboration and looking at ways of how some aspects of the model we developed there could be ‘commercially sustainable’.
The process we’ve evolved has been one of continuously testing our ideas – talking to companies and potential partners we’d like to work with and to people interested in supporting early stage businesses. It has been an iterative and conversational process.
I’ve called this post ‘Defining Demand’ as a shorthand way of describing the process we are going through. We’re outlining a set of services we provide to early stage businesses that can help them accelerate the path to revenue growth – clear targets, measurable and achievable. Support for working capital and day-to-day expenses. More importantly, clear demand for help with customer acquisition and business development has emerged very strongly.
The value in our model emerges over time as our clients grow their revenues – it’s a long term approach. We are looking at structures that align our interests (and rewards) with each client – and it seems that the best way to do this is through a collaborative Joint Venture agreement. We met lawyers today to discuss how this structure might best work.
We’re already working closely with potential clients and funders – so watch this space!
For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how we better support early stage businesses. How we develop sustainable, profitable and meaningful businesses. My experience has been driven by my time at the Centre for Creative Collaboration and , over the past five years seeing:
Many of the people I worked with shared the feeling that existing support mechanisms and schemes may have been adequate in the past but just don’t work now. We have to change the way we think about Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (the so-called SMEs) and we need to re-think the use of the term “Micro” when attached to smaller organisations. We have to look at supporting “Businesses of Appropriate Scale” (“BoAS”) and that will mean changing business support and generation methods, patterns of investment and, eventually, how larger organisations behave.
We have to deliver support that meets the needs of Businesses of Appropriate Scale; are customised and relevant, pragmatic and action orientated. And we need to scale from the ground up. That’s what our new venture, x-innovate, is about.