The London Business School Incubator celebrates its 12th year with the news that more than 100 businesses have now been developed and supported through the programme, with an overall staggering £100m raised in seed capital.
“This is a phenomenal figure which points to the many diverse skills, talents and business ideas cultivated by the LBS Incubator, and also speaks to the power of the LBS brand,” says Jane Khedair, Director, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC).
In a year where the need for sustainability and the importance of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investment has never been more significant, the LBS Incubator prides itself in nurturing a growing number of startups that have sustainability at the forefront of their business plans.
A stylish thermos bottle business which funds ocean plastic salvage, an app which aims to encourage people to plant one tree for free every day, and a carbon offset fintech that enables its customers to see the impact of their spend – these are just three of what are now several leading ventures the LBS Incubator has supported in recent years.
“While the LBS Incubator programme is sector agnostic, it is clear that sustainability is at the forefront of a growing number of the ventures we have supported,” says Jane, who chairs and runs the Incubator programme and who is also a co-founder of Enterprise 100, London Business School’s angel investment network.
“The Incubator team are also extremely proud of the incredible levels of innovation we continue to see each year. Innovation is a definitely the defining feature of each year’s cohort.”
Starting a business is always challenging and the ‘valley of death’ is commonly used in the pre-revenue startup community to describe the difficulty many young companies experience in surviving negative cash flow in the early stages of a company’s life. “It’s a testament to London Business School’s Incubator that 93% of the early stage companies supported and launched by our team over the last five years survive the ‘valley’, and then go on to become successful brands in their own right,” says Jane.
The LBS Incubator programme is rigorous in its support of each cohort member. Prospective participants in the programme are asked to set out what their venture intends to achieve over the next 12 months and how they hope to benefit from the extensive support resources available.
“LBS Incubator participants are also asked to consider how they would take part and reciprocate in the ‘give-get’ model that drives goodwill between all participating stakeholders,” says Jane referring to the requirement for candidates to demonstrate how they will benefit from the programme and also how they will be able to provide benefit to London Business School by doing so.
LBS’ outstanding academic reputation is well established. The success of the Incubator programme is however also often founded on the School and programme’s ability to impart years of frontline business experience says Jane. “At the end of the day, starting a business draws on common sense: save money before you jump off the proverbial cliff, start a business that impassions you, and be aware that self-funding or bootstrapping can be the safest approach for very early stage startups.”
Incubator cohort members do not face a single-handed journey when embarking on the development of their ventures. An amazing list of companies, such as Amazon Web Services, Shoosmiths and Stripe, are just three examples of firms that provide pro-bono support. And this year, a prize of £50,000 is being made by SixBerries to support further development time for a minimum viable product (MVP) that is truly exceptional.
The programme also benefits enormously from the financial support of Santander. Under the auspices of the Santander Universities programme, funding is made available for a number of activities including internship placements. “These help bridge the gap between the alumni teams and LBS students who are keen to experience life within a startup before they make that same leap of faith,” says Jane.
“LBS and our supporters are fully invested in the development of the tremendous ideas originating from each cohort,” says Jane. “The fact that we are able to help these new companies navigate through to the proverbial ‘minimum viable product’, impress investors and get their products and services properly showcased is exciting not because we’re able to achieve this once, but because we’re amazingly repeatable with our successes.”
About the 2021/2 Cohort
This year’s cohort of 12 is made of alumni who have graduated from the School within the last three years across all programmes. From fintechs such as Little Steps Financing and Birdcurrent, which offers loans for childcare and global trading opportunities for SMEs, to a next generation smoke alarm and an insect-based dog food from GrubClub Pets, this year’s cohort is characteristically innovative and diverse.
“From reusable plates for takeaways from Junee, and edtech platforms for special needs students and music from SENUP, and UniMusic, these are just a few of the exciting new ventures, the breadth of which reflects the huge range of talent that is so typical of our LBS community. The LBS Incubator team are looking forward to once again growing a spirit of commitment, determination, and problem solving ability which is so necessary for every entrepreneur,” says Jane. “The real thrill comes when you begin to see real value drawn from the germ of an idea – that’s the true spirit of entrepreneurship.”
About LBS’ Incubator programme and IEPC
Renowned for teaching entrepreneurship since the late 90s, for the cultivation of start-up ventures, and the promotion of innovation, London Business School (LBS) is similarly well-known for its research insights into financial markets and its exceptional teaching of the key instruments that drive today’s financial sector.
Now LBS is bringing together these powerful disciplines to create the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC). Forged from a union of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Private Equity at LBS, IEPC aims to further the School’s reputation as a global hub for venture creation and financing and as an accelerant for enterprise growth. IEPC will support the development of the entrepreneurial mindset and ideas that drive impact, create wealth and advance well-being while giving wider exposure to probing and insightful research into the crucially important aspects of today’s private capital markets, such as venture capital, growth and buyouts, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The LBS Incubator programme helps cultivate ideas and capitalise on start-up potential with the help of the School’s specialised support services for early stage enterprises.