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Scale-up Enabler: A Progress Update

Published on October 17, 2017

Scale-up Enabler, Briony Phillips, joined the Engine Shed team on a 1 year contract in June 2017 funded by Business West, Engine Shed, The University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). This group have a shared ambition – first, to identify scale-up businesses in the West of England region and to better understand their challenges and second, to design, facilitate and support initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to scale-up more effectively – in the long term. This blog provides a short update on her progress so far.

So I’ve been wearing the Scale-up Enabler badge for the region of the West of England for 4 months and 11 days. With a little over a third of the year already passed, I have uncovered some themes, tested a few alternative approaches and captured a lot of information.

The first four months has been an exploration – of what is really required, of what we already know about the region, of what has been tried before, of what is needed and of who is involved in this work (or soon to be). My conversations with scale-up businesses and with the wider community in the support ecosystem have (so far) elicited three key areas where the region could perform better:

  1. Office space availability and affordability
  2. Access to finance for scale-up businesses
  3. Leadership capacity and peer to peer support

Whilst these are the priorities that I have identified so far, it’s inevitable that there will be more (not least skills and talent) as I investigate further and engage with a wider community of scale-up businesses.

With these three challenges articulated so recurrently and enthusiastically, my priorities are clear and so I have already started to explore, define and test potential responses. These activities are unrelentingly delivered in collaboration and as openly as possible so if you’d like to find out more about my work, please get in touch.

Long before these themes surfaced, I had created a simple outline strategy to guide my activities – to know, invigorate and inspire scale-ups and their support ecosystem. This structure provides a useful frame for the progress I have made so far, which is outlined below:

ThemeGoalAchievements so farPlanned activities
Know / ExploreUnderstand scale-up business community and their challenges- Interviews with 9 scale-up businesses. - Further interviews (ongoing).
Know / ExploreUnderstand scale-up business community and their challenges- 29 responses to Scale-up Institute (SUI) Survey.- SUI survey analysis.
Know / ExploreUnderstand scale-up business community and their challenges- Brought together key stakeholders related to office space challenge- Launch event to present findings and drive action (23/11/17)
Know / ExploreUnderstand scale-up business community and their challenges- Create an illustration/infographic of scale-up businesses
Know / ExploreCapture regional scale-up assets- Collected list of key scale-up assets in the region.- Continue to build profile of role and regional activities through #scaleupWoE and blog.
Know / ExploreCapture regional scale-up assets- Built relationships with key stakeholders across the region.- Continue to capture assets across the region as they are developed/uncovered.
Know / ExploreMap ecosystem and make available to key stakeholders- Identified and tested technology platforms.- Launch MVP of interactive scale-up ecosystem map (mid October)
Know / ExploreMap ecosystem and make available to key stakeholders- Developed relationships with existing map owners and ambassadors for this work.- Iterate map according to user needs
Know / ExploreMap ecosystem and make available to key stakeholders- Publish and share insights from the map on the Engine Shed and Growth Hub.
InvigorateCreate and post Growth Hub Content- Documented the office space challenge and assets. Informed operators/landlords of local needs, instigating change.- Develop scale-up overarching story for Growth Hub.
InvigorateCreate and post Growth Hub Content- Documented financial investment options for scale-up businesses.- Share scale-up event write-ups.
InvigorateCreate and post Growth Hub Content- Documented formal networking events/activities across the region.- Share scale-up case studies.
InvigorateSupport, enhance and signpost existing initiatives- Identified, mapped and uncovered relevant initiatives.- Nudge others into actions which prioritise scale-up business needs.
InvigorateSupport, enhance and signpost existing initiatives- Built relationships with key organisations who are launching initiatives targeted at scale-up community.- Encourage collaboration across similar activities.
InvigorateSupport, enhance and signpost existing initiatives- Publish map to enable better understanding of existing landscape.
InvigorateDevelop and pilot new initiatives for adoption by others- UKBAA ‘Angel Hub’ agreed and designed- Launch UKBAA ‘Angel Hub’
InvigorateDevelop and pilot new initiatives for adoption by others- Encouraged development of peer to peer support activities via TechSPARK and entrepreneur community.- Launch and run Quarterly Investment Briefing events and written/video update
InvigorateDevelop and pilot new initiatives for adoption by others- Develop Scale-up Briefing schedule and content template/plan.
InvigorateDevelop and pilot new initiatives for adoption by others- Support local entrepreneurs to pilot peer to peer events.
InspireChampion Scale-up activities in the region- Referred scale-up founders to specific support.- Publish Engine Shed profile in the SUI annual report
InspireChampion Scale-up activities in the region- Regular tweets to raise awareness of activity and opportunities.- Continue twitter, linkedin and blog
InspireChampion Scale-up activities in the region- Engagement with WECA strategy consultation process.- Public speaking when invited
InspireChampion Scale-up activities in the region- Received endorsement from SUI re. Infrastructure support provided for entrepreneurial community.- Develop bank of scale-up case studies/stories
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Blog posted by ADLIB- Series of scale-up case studies with TechSPARK
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Blog posted by Business West- Continue to post blogs and updates on progress
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Articles posted by TechSPARK
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Growing twitter following
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Articles posted and shared on Engine Shed blog and LinkedIn
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Content in Scale-up Institute annual report
InspireDevelop and place inspiring content- Content in Smith and Williamson brochure for scale-up clients
InspireDeliver activities to inspire scale-up community (support-providers and founders)- Organised MP Roundtable event with Thangham Debbonaire MP in October - Capture template for MP Roundtable events
InspireDeliver activities to inspire scale-up community (support-providers and founders)- Scale-up Briefing: Room for Growth

In addition to the projects that I am leading and supporting, I am curating a list of projects that would benefit the region and which I would like to encourage other stakeholders to adopt, adapt and deliver:

  • Build on the scale-up ecosystem map (to be launched soon) to capture and present the assets which are relevant to a wider audience particularly start-ups. 
  • Deal-flow analyst – Provide funding support/capacity for 1FTE for c. 2 or 3 days a week. This person would analyse and present potential deal flow and create more transparency around the growing community of angel investors locally. This would be a single resource shared across multiple investors and intended to develop better understanding of the quality and quantity of investment opportunities regionally and internationally.
  • Scale-up CFO Peer to peer support network – this is an often overlooked group who report that they would benefit from peer to peer support. A donor to support the development, facilitation of this group would be welcome. Read more about the networking events and leadership groups I have uncovered here: http://www.engine-shed.co.uk/finding-founder-support/ 
  • Develop regional brand/identity and international profile. There are a number of ways to achieve this and the benefits will be wide and varied.
    • Regional assessment by Endeavor Insights to verify our assets and challenges as an entrepreneurial ecosystem
    • Specific brand development work to build the profile of the region nationally and internationally as a scale-up hub particularly amongst investment community and political circles.
  • Establish a platform/facility to enable the advertisement of jobs at scale-up businesses more effectively than current structures. Alternatively it may be sufficient to increase advertisement of scale-up opportunities on traditional, existing platforms.
    • The simplest version – we could create a listicle for the top scale-up firms in the region who are currently recruiting.  Perhaps TechSPARK already has one?
  • Fund training initiatives to facilitate greater investment in the region:
    • E.g. Angel Academe Training – to develop our community of female investors.
  • Non exec director professional development/support OR Program to support entrepreneurs as mentors  – there is a clear need to create opportunities for more businesses to have access to the kind of challenge and support offered by SETsq Entrepreneurs in Residence as mentors/Non Exec Directors.
    • One option is to funnel people into an existing support offer such as those offered by professional services firms to help businesses to reflect on their leadership alignment, values and priorities.
    • A second option would be to co-develop a program of professional development support with Common Purpose/IoD.
  • Office space – develop incentive mechanism and/or influence creation of scale-up space. Read more about this issue and potential solutions in my recent blog: http://www.engine-shed.co.uk/scale-up-challenges-room-for-growth/and join our event on 29th November.
  • Entrepreneurial Exploratory – we are exploring the idea of a 2.5 day unconference/open space event designed to increase the understanding, skills and ambitions of aspiring entrepreneurs, leaders of entrepreneurial projects (intrepreneurs) and potential employees of entrepreneurial organisations. 

I am confident that this work will be of benefit to our region, our economic development and, most importantly, our flourishing community of scale-up businesses, and aspiring scale-ups. If you would like to adopt or adapt one of these ideas, please do get in touch.

This blog series tells the story of the Scale-up Enabler, Briony Phillips. Briony joined the Engine Shed team on a 1 year contract in June 2017 funded by Business West, Engine Shed, The University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). This group have a shared ambition – first, to identify scale-up businesses in the West of England region and to better understand their challenges and second, to design, facilitate and support initiatives that will make it easier for businesses to scale-up more effectively – in the long term.

Links and information are correct as of September 2017.

Briony – Scale-up Enabler
briony.phillips@engine-shed.co.uk
@BrionyPhi1