Accelerator Programmes: The simple way to grow your business

Have you ever wanted to take your business to the next level but aren’t sure how to do it? Check out our guide to accelerator programmes for small businesses and start-ups across the UK.

There’s no denying that start-up accelerator programmes are effective, but most small to medium businesses (SMBs) aren’t sure that they are the right thing to help their businesses grow. While the concept began in Silicon Valley and became popular in areas of the UK like East London’s Silicon Roundabout – the model for taking start-ups and helping them grow has spread beyond tech and is now open for business all over the country and in all industries.

Am I ready for an accelerator?

If you think you need an accelerator to take your start-up or ideas to the next level but aren’t sure whether or not to pursue it, ask yourself whether your project and team meets these criteria:

  • You have a team of equal equity share co-founders with the skills you need to succeed and the dedication to make it happen.
  • Your product is solving a problem, you know your market and you know what makes you different from the competition.
  • You have external validation on your project, be it revenue or existing feedback from beta tests.
  • You can prove that your product is ready to grow and get bigger and you’ve factored investment into your plans.
  • You’re ready for an intense experience where you work harder in new ways and take external feedback from the pros.

If you answer yes to most of the above, then you’re in luck – check out our selection of UK-wide accelerator programmes below to get started on making your dreams a reality:

 

UK-wide

Entrepreneurial Spark

Rapidly expanding tech-focused accelerator and incubator in the West of England.

The aim of Entrepreneurial Spark is to reduce the initial cost associated with an early stage venture. They want to get people and their businesses to a position where they are investable and backable.

Entrepreneurial Spark is a social enterprise, not for profit company, that has both private and public funding. It’s one of the widest ranging accelerator programmes and has locations across the UK.

The package

  • 6-month programme
  • Specialist enablement programme
  • Mentoring
  • Access to internal and external events
  • Investment opportunities
  • Pitching advice

Best for

  • Any type of business
  • Solo-entrepreneurs and teams

Cost to you/requirements

  • None

Find out more about Entrepreneurial Spark.

 

London

Seedcamp

Europe’s leading acceleration fund.

This Shoreditch-based initiative is located at the Google Campus and has a fantastic A-list mentorship, including the Co-founder of Lovefilm and Skype, Saul Klein.

They aim to give ambitious founders the chance to grow with more than just capital, which is where a global network of advisors and mentors come in. In eight years they’ve backed almost 200 companies and 91% have raised over £300m in funding.

The package

  • €75k pre-seed and up to €200k seed stage funding
  • Access to advisors, investors, Seedcamp Founders
  • Seedcamp Network, Learning and Capital
  • Bi-annual US trip
  • The Seedcamp Academy
  • Office space

Best for

  • Tech
  • Businesses raising €300k-€2m

Cost to you/requirements

Find out more about Seedcamp.

 

Accelerator Academy

The crash course on how to hit the ground running as an entrepreneur.

Accelerator Academy provides training and mentoring for digital entrepreneurs. They focus on start-up and early stage high growth potential businesses, typically taking around 10-12 into the Academy every three months for the duration of the programme.

Everything takes place in the evenings and weekends, with each mentor taking 2-3 businesses to make sure everyone gets the right amount of face time. All ideas are given a market test to ensure they’re ready to go live and become successful.

The package

  • Access to funding opportunities (£25m committed to date)
  • 3-month part-time programme
  • 150 hours of training, mentoring and support
  • Free workspace for CEO (reduced workspace cost for other team members)

Best for

  • Tech, media and telecoms
  • First time entrepreneurs
  • Scalable businesses, capable of delivering a 10x return on seed stage investment within a 5-year timescale

Cost to you/requirements

  • £600+vat course fee
  • Participant companies agree to sell 5% of their shares as Options to the Accelerator Academy

Find out more about Accelerator Academy.

 

Bethnal Green Ventures

For people who want to change the world using technology.

Bethnal Green Ventures invest in and support teams who want to build solutions to social and environmental problems. Their intense programme is a new way of helping people to grow sustainable social innovations that have the potential to change the lives of millions of people.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a developer, designer or simply someone with a passion to make a change in the world. This accelerator cares more about potential than experience.

The package

  • £15,000 investment for 6% equity
  • 3-month programme
  • Access to an alumni community
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • Peer-support events
  • Workshops and talks
  • A demo day where each start-up pitches their ideas to a room of potential investors
  • Workspace

Best for

  • Education, health and social care, energy creation and employment
  • Very early-stage ideas

Cost to you/requirements

  • None – just the 6% equity stake
  • Business ideas that do good in the world

Find out more about Bethnal Green Ventures.

 

Bristol

Webstart Bristol

Rapidly expanding tech-focused accelerator and incubator in the West of England.

Webstart Bristol was set up by Bristol entrepreneur Mike Jackson. He established Webstart Bristol to connect investors with start-ups directly, instead of going through a 3rd party funder. It’s a more direct route to bring expertise and talent together.

The team takes up to 20 new start-ups with exciting ideas for new apps and web services every year. They are currently seeking investment to increase the scope and number of start-ups they can help.

The package

  • Financial assistance
  • 10 weeks of intense mentoring from a diverse team of Bristol based experts
  • Office space in the Engine Shed development at Bristol Temple Meads Station
  • A demo day where each start-up pitches their ideas to a room of potential investors

Best for

  • Tech
  • Apps
  • Web services

Cost to you/requirements

  • 10% equity stake

Find out more about Webstart Bristol.

 

Manchester

accelerateme

Office space, funding and support for the best student start-ups in Manchester.

Designed to incubate and grow the best student start-ups, accelerateme is one of the most intense programmes available to students in Manchester.

The programme fits around academic studies and helps students without taking equity, making it something of a rarity in the world of start-ups. While it’s great for people with any type of business idea, though level of investment and preparedness by applicants will factor heavily in the application process.

The package

  • £2000 start-up grant
  • Office space
  • Mentors
  • Legal and accounting help
  • 5-month programme
  • Workshops and resources
  • A demo day pitching to potential investors

Best for

Requirements

  • Be a member of Manchester Entrepreneurs
  • Be currently enrolled at either University of Manchester or Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Be an alumnus within two years of either of the above

Find out more about accelerateme.

 

Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh or London 

Ignite Accelerator

Europe’s #1 network of investor-led accelerators, with a base in Manchester.

This huge European network has helped entrepreneurs grow, makes a real difference in businesses and helps create well-known and loved brands and products.

The programme supports people at all levels of their business idea, from concept through to having initial finance. Businesses get support from mentors and investors alike, while gaining support from the alumni network for the support of the lifetime of their businesses.

The package

  • £17,000 investment per team for an 8% stake
  • 12-14-week programme
  • Workspace
  • Coaching, mentoring, workshops and networking
  • Founder trip to the US
  • Ongoing post-programme support
  • Up to £100k worth of credits from AWS Activate or up to $20k worth of credits from Google Cloud Platform, as well as credits and support programmes from IBM, SendGrid, Autopilot and other partners

Best for

  • Technology businesses – web and mobile
  • Hardware ideas also considered

Cost to you/requirements

  • None

Find out more about Ignite Accelerator.

 

Manchester and Liverpool

Idea Alive

Helping Manchester and Liverpool’s budding entrepreneurs to take products to market and raise funds.

Idea Alive helps build teams and take ideas from inception to market. Their aim is to create high growth businesses in the digital sectors.

The programme takes prospective ideas and fits them with inventors/developers, commercial professionals and investors/mentors to form business teams, with a view to launch commercialised products and services. This team building approach puts the best people for each business together to help create fast growth.

While they don’t charge anything up front, there are fees to pay, including a minimum £5k fee when you successfully raise finances or gain an annual revenue increase of £100k.

The package

  • Team – including mentors and skilled individuals
  • 10-week, part-time programme
  • Workshops and resources

Best for

  • Internet, mobile, media, healthcare, education based ideas
  • Ideas that require more intensive people and skill investment than financial investment
  • Those with a solid idea proven without the need for a cash investment
  • People who need the flexibility of part time

Cost to you/requirements

  • Can commit one day a week, occasional weekends and evenings

Find out more about Idea Alive.

Birmingham

Oxygen Accelerator

‘The workshop of the world’ hosts one of Europe’s most established tech accelerators.

Oxygen Accelerator looks for start-ups working on big, world-changing ideas. Which is why their intense 13-week programme surrounds each intake with the best people, great advice and an inspiring collaborative argument.

It’s a tight-knit network of start-ups, mentors, investors and advisors who are brought on-board to help bring great ideas to life.

The package

  • £18,000 per team in exchange for 8% equity
  • 13-week intensive bootcamp
  • Access to 150+ mentors
  • £500k start-up pack
  • A demo day pitching to potential investors
  • Support after graduation of the programme to help find investment
  • Support to find future investment
  • Membership of our alumni network of start-ups from around the world

Best for

  • Teams, not solo founders
  • Tech business ideas

Cost to you/requirements

  • £500+VAT for entering into the pre-seed investment agreement
  • You agree to sell 1% of your business shares at the value on stock certificates – not market value

Find out more about Oxygen Accelerator.

 

Edinburgh

Acceleration Pipeline – Edinburgh Research and Innovation

Dedicated to ensuring the early availability of funding for Edinburgh’s student tech entrepreneurs.

Acceleration Pipeline is part of The University of Edinburgh and provides start-up funding for high growth businesses with potential. The Acceleration Pipeline is available for up to ten businesses each year.

It aims to help the most promising high-growth potential student start-ups to get external investment and/or customers with an intense programme of business funding, support and learning exchange for a stake in your company.

The package

  • £5000 start-up award
  • Mentoring support for 1 year
  • 1 day of Business Advisor support per month
  • Support for Innovation Grant Proposal writing
  • Automatic entrance into the Inspire, Launch, Grow Competition (£5k prize)

Best for

  • University of Edinburgh Students (past or present)
  • Tech business ideas

Requirements

  • You agree to sell 1% of your business shares at the value on stock certificates – not market value – before the end of the term
  • Current postgraduate students
  • Final year undergraduate students
  • Recent alumni (within 2 years of their graduation date)
  • Find out more here

Now you’ve discovered potential ways to grow your business you can see how your business compares to 5,000 other UK businesses, visit our Ready Business Indicator here.