Scale up Enabler Q1 update

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:

  • Office space availability and affordability
  • Access to finance for scale-up businesses
  • Leadership capacity and peer to peer support

Whilst these are the priorities that I have identified so far, it is 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 in Scale-up Enabler Progress Update Q1.pdf.

What Next?

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 in this blog
  • 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 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 Growth Hub. 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 October 2017.

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