The first entrepreneurs joining a free virtual business accelerator hub in Portsmouth are meeting face-to-face to begin their training journey. More than 80 start-ups and growing businesses have been invited to attend a two-day ‘Bootcamp’ to be put through their paces and begin the Entrepreneurial Spark journey – a programme which has already supported 1,736 companies, helping them to raise more than £151 million in investment, generate turnover of £176m, and create more than 3,152 jobs.
Taking place at Highbury College, Bootcamp will see the entrepreneurs meet key project partners and take part in workshops focused on topics including pitching, business model development and customer and market analysis.
The project is powered by NatWest and supported by Portsmouth City Council and the University of Portsmouth, with assistance from Little Kanga and Shaping Portsmouth. Key partners are KPMG Enterprise, Dell Technologies and Pinsent Masons. The three-month programme will run until December. It is free to participate and the organisers take no equity in participating businesses.
After Bootcamp the entrepreneurs will take part in an online programme including learning modules and webinars designed to help them become credible, backable and investable, and a monthly virtual group enablement session designed for sharing of ideas, expertise and experience.
Mairead Taylor, NatWest’s director of corporate and commercial banking for the Solent region, said: “Successful start-ups and growing businesses need access to strong networks and to expertise. Entrepreneurial Spark offers both of these, and Bootcamp gives participating entrepreneurs the chance to get to know one another face-to-face, establishing relationships and collaborations which will last throughout the programme and beyond.”
Melinda O’Reilly, Entrepreneurial Spark’s project lead for the virtual hub in Portsmouth, said: “Central to the vision for Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by NatWest is to enable positive social change through the action of entrepreneuring. We do that currently via our 13 physical UK locations, but we’re constantly looking at ways in which we can enable people and businesses in all regions. We’re very excited at the level of interest in this pilot and look forward to learning from the results.”
Peter Hooley, director of business development at the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Business and Law, said: “As a university at the heart of the local business community we are proud to be an active partner in bringing the highly successful Entrepreneurial Spark programme to Portsmouth. Start-up businesses are the bedrock of the local economy and the birthplace of tomorrow’s SMEs. I am confident that we are helping to put in place the support needed to create the successful industries of tomorrow.”
Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “I am delighted that Entrepreneurial Spark Powered by NatWest has selected Portsmouth to be the place to pilot its first ever virtual programme in England – particularly appropriate as the city has a growing digital technology business sector. As a council we work hard to support business start-up and growth, our productivity growth rate is well above the national average, and with more than 7,000 businesses located here it is extremely reassuring to know that the entrepreneurs participating in Bootcamp will benefit from the expertise and support they need to take their businesses onward and upwards.”