Build strong foundations to scale up

You’re not on your own: Business Incubators and Accelerators are there to help you develop a sustainable model that will help your business not only survive, but thrive.

SurreyCentre

Castles built on sand have the tendency to find their foundations washed away and the same applies to companies.

A quick look at the stats shows that 46% of business failures in the first three years are due to incompetence, and a further 30% are a result of unbalanced or lack of managerial experience. This suggests that obtaining management training and good advice should be at the top of an entrepreneur’s ‘to do’ list. There are many who have a great idea and then rush into production, start hiring lots of people, pay themselves a large salary and then find themselves with a failed company. But this decline and fall is entirely avoidable if the business is built on strong foundations.

Business incubators could be the answer. Incubators and accelerators are organisations established to provide space, training and business services to startups to ensure that they’re properly run, adhere to relevant regulations and have access to experienced management advice. So successful have these incubators been that just about every country in the EU has them, often associated with universities or funded by local authorities. The incubator success rate is impressive: around 87% of businesses that have been incubated survive the difficult first three years and go on to scale-up successfully.

A recent University Business Incubator conference revealed the top ranking European incubators and reported that “Europe’s business incubators have attracted a total of $2,4b in investment, meaning each of the 117 incubators has received an average of $20m each. With regard to deal flow, Europe as a whole receives 15.3k applications per year, equating to an average of 131 per incubator. In the last five years Europe’s business incubators have created 40,500 jobs (346 jobs per incubator) and over the same time period generated $5.6b in sales, equating to an average of $47m in sales per incubator.”

The vast majority of startups that survive the first three or four years then scale up, often still with the help of an Incubator or Accelerator, while others set their sights on becoming a publicly owned company trading on a stock exchange.

However, as Eric Forest, Chairman and CEO of EnterNext, a subsidiary of the EuroNext markets dedicated to SMEs, says:

An IPO is a very important step for any company, large or small, and has to be meticulously prepared. The listing process brings the opportunity for the management to step back and formalise the company’s perspectives. It requires a re-examination and a clarification of the company’s business and strategy. Communication and reporting obligations also imply structuring efforts that are extremely valuable for the company’s management. It is, moreover, key to unify the internal teams around the project and to sharpen the equity story to convince investors about the company potential.

At EnterNext, we decided to provide the means to help companies entering the market in the best possible ways. For instance, in 2015, we designed the programme TechShare, which is a unique one-year pan-European course to familiarise non-listed innovative businesses with capital markets and gives them the information they need to take their companies to market. Although the listing obligations are often considered as “constraints”, they actually help entrepreneurs to build their castles on the rock.

R2I-Surrey-Phase2_2015-03Going public is definitely not a step to be taken lightly since one of the first things that happens is the entrepreneur has to give way to the professional business manager, which effectively means losing control of the company, or at least, the spirit of the company. If the scale-up has been successful, then this may not be a problem but recognising when to hand over the reins is always difficult. Again, this is where Incubators and Accelerators have a major role to play: they are not just for start-ups but generally have expertise in scaling up businesses and can guide the entrepreneur towards making the right decision before putting them in touch with the appropriate professionals.

Tips for finding the right incubator

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