Standing out from the crowd is becoming an increasingly difficult task for today’s start-ups. The speed at which technology is driving business innovation is opening a lot of doors for creation, but shutting them just as fast if they don’t make it to market quick enough.
For technology businesses in particular, accelerators and incubators can provide a way to get faster access to three imperative factors for success: customers, experience and investors.
London-based Collider12 has cottoned on to this trend and has created an incubator which specialises in linking fledgling businesses with big brands which could ultimately become big-ticket customers.
Set up by a team of five, Collider12 describes itself as the UK’s first start-up accelerator for ‘B2Brand’ companies, which want to help businesses achieve corporate growth and marketing goals.
The incubation programme is broken up into two parts: the Collision Phase, and the Post-Collision Phase. With £100,000 invested at the start for an equity stake of up to 13 per cent, the first 13 weeks see the partaking companies coached by individuals from digital and technology investor and adviser Pembridge Partnership, a host of brands and other experts.
The Post-Collision Phase sees start-ups attempt to achieve customer validation and product market fit through continuing to work with brands such as Unilever, William Hill and Bosch.
The first crop of start-ups have produced some impressive statistics: with seven of the nine achieving commercial deals, four netting follow-on funding and two invited and paid for to meet investors in Silicon Valley.
Collider12 co-founder Rose Lewis says that the aim of the game is to get start-ups in front of as many brands as possible.
She says that much of the process is about getting companies investor ready, achieving the kind of market, commercial and product validation that often forms a tick list for venture capitalists and angels.
‘If we can get a company which has Unilever being enthusiastic about a product, then when it comes to investors that is a very attractive thing,’ Lewis explains.
The accelerator’s mentoring programme is one element which Lewis says is a key differentiator when it comes to comparing Collider12 against other offerings.
‘Each company gets an individual mentor who works with them during the year-long programme – and they track the progress,’ Lewis adds.
‘The track the key milestones they should be achieving, whether that is a beta trial or a commercial contract.’
Knowing what investors want is something which Lewis is fairly well aligned with having been part of the early internet investment days at 3i and her role as partner at Pembridge Partners.
Being located in London is working well for Collider12, Lewis says, due to the fact that it is a ‘honey pot’. Good quality European start-ups come to London, she believes, which has led to two European businesses joining the programme. The benefit of the brands involved with Collider12 is something she is keen to emphasise the relevance of (see video below).
Collider12 co-founder Rose Lewis on the benefits of accelerators
Of Collider12’s first crop of nine companies, two are now off to the American west coast to compete with the best of the best in the technology world.
One of those making the plunge is Avocarrot, a mobile marketing business which introduces rewards into mobile apps at moments of achievement.
The start-up was founded by four friends, who met while serving in the Cypriot army, and then came over to the UK to study at Imperial College London. Having placed first at London Hackathon, the team decided their idea was worth commercialising.
Conno Christou, co-founder of Avocarrot, says that the business connects brands with mobile apps to distribute promotions to mobile audiences as rewards for things like hitting a high score, getting a personal best in a running app or discovering a new recipe.
The need to engage at an early stage with brands was one of the key reasons Avocarrot applied to be part of Collider12. When quizzed on whether he looked at other accelerators, Christou says, ‘Not really, as this was the best fit for us. Collider12 is the only one which connects you with big brands and they have all the relationships you could need with big people at those places.’
Christou is now off to experience how building a technology start-up can be on the other side of the Atlantic, and is ready to embrace the competition he will find there (see video below).
Conno Christou explains why Avocarrot is going Stateside
Another Collider12 start-up entering the American market is Locomizer, a company which was founded by chance when an email was sent in error.
When one of the company’s founders tried to email himself with an idea for a new venture, he accidentally emailed another Alexei who just so happened to be interested in the concept.
Now Alexei (Alex) Polyakov and Alexei Poliakov are building their algorithm-based business using their combined career backgrounds which fuse PhD level science and mobile/telecoms experience.
Locomizer is an enterprise location analytics offering which helps companies to discover audiences for relevant targeting. It uses location mobile data, which people share on their own will through platforms such as Facebook and FourSquare, to create profiles on where that user has been and where they are likely to go next.
‘Our customers are mostly companies who collect location data for marketing,’ Polyakov explains.
‘So examples of these might be social media companies, mobile operators, insurance companies or mobile payments providers. Anyone who wants to understand who their customers are might use us.’
Prior to joining the Collider12 programme, Locomizer had been bootstrapped by its founders. Making the leap over to the US will hopefully allow it to engage with the kind of investors that can fund its growth (see video below).
Polyakov adds, ‘We got to a stage where we couldn’t afford to fund it ourselves, so we’d been looking for seed money and a way to scale the product.
‘What interested us [about Collider12] was that it was B2B and they provided seed investment. The structure was quite different from others as they provide an opportunity to collide with brands – and we saw this as a good fit for us.’
Collider12 has now, through taking on nine companies, built itself up a small portfolio by way of the £100,000 seed investments at the start. There are also plans being developed to take the brand-based ‘collider’ approach currently being deployed and apply it to other sectors.
Lewis says, ‘We are talking to quite a large backer at the moment who would fund us to do a series of programmes which would have specific industry sectors.
‘The value that Collider12 brings is the relevance of the people surrounding these companies. There are other sectors that we could look at as the collider model is, if you surround companies with smart investors and money they can progress faster than a normal accelerator.’
With four businesses having already achieved further funding, and two start-ups making the Silicon Valley pilgramige, it appears that the ‘collision concept’ is here to stay.