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How Accelerators Are Helping Leeds Start-ups Succeed

· Abigail Beall · Opinion

This is the key to kick-starting growth.

TechNation Accelerator

The city’s accelerators are helping businesses to scale up – but how exactly do they do it?

With an amazing digital scene, fantastic networking opportunities and a huge talent pool, Leeds is a great place for technology entrepreneurs to set up shop. And our accelerator programmes are a big part of that. Put simply, they help entrepreneurs realise their potential. In most cases, they take on established start-ups that want to grow rapidly.

Maybe you’re looking to break into international markets, perhaps you want to ramp up production, you might even be on the lookout for investment – whatever your objectives, accelerator programmes can help you reach your goals.

One of the biggest benefits of joining an accelerator programme is the networking. “The path of an entrepreneurial leader can often be very lonely, especially with the pressure to have all the answers,” Nick McCafferty, Entrepreneur Accelerator Manager at the NatWest Accelerator Hub in Leeds told us. “To have a platform where entrepreneurs can feel comfortable asking for help is invaluable. The connections you can make from an accelerator can make a huge difference to your businesses growth and help you navigate through difficult moments.”

While all businesses are different, the challenges of starting your own company and trying to scale up are often the same, or at least very similar. Being part of a group where some business owners have more experience than others means you’ll always have access to someone who knows what you’re going through.

“The peer-to-peer element, learning from those in the same position as you and those that have gone before, that’s the real benefit of Tech Nation’s programmes,” Jem Henderson, Entrepreneur Engagement Manager at Tech Nation told us. “Another great benefit is being able to showcase your company to venture capitalists, especially where we see companies struggle because many investors don’t want to leave London.”

TechNation Accelerator

Aside from the practical aspects of getting business advice and connecting with potential investors, being part of an accelerator can help entrepreneurs with their personal development.

When you start your own business, it’s usually the first time you’ve ever had to be in charge. And now you have to juggle that with all the minutiae of running a business. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the multitude of tasks you have in front of you, with little time to complete them. And you can’t underestimate the pressure of getting to grips with the different elements of your role as leader – finance, sales and marketing, in the beginning at least, it often all falls to you.

Another huge benefit of an accelerator programme is access to coaching and mentoring. Having a coach to challenge your decisions and hold you accountable can keep you focussed. “Having a coach there will keep you motivated and driven when you may feel like giving up,” Nick explained. “Having your model constantly challenged and stress tested definitely helps to create a sustainable business.”

Mentoring can help you become a more confident leader, it can stop imposter syndrome in its tracks and give you faith in your own decision-making abilities. When someone takes a huge risk like starting their own business, failure is bound to be part of the journey, but having a support network around you will help stop you giving up.

“Dealing with failure and setbacks is often a challenge for entrepreneurs,” Nick told us. “Business owners can often take rejections from customers personally or struggle to deal with the challenge of being out competed by competitors. Often a big focus for entrepreneurs is building their resilience to deal with these challenges and coming up with ideas to stand out from the crowd.”