A Beacon of hope post-Covid
In January 2021 the University of Edinburgh’s Data-Driven Entrepreneurship (DDE) Beacon Programme was launched. DDE is a new entrepreneurial support Programme supported by Edinburgh Innovations (EI) and spanning across the University’s Data-Driven Innovation hubs. It has delivered a suite of 12 initiatives comprising accelerators, grants, incubators and training programmes for University staff, students and external scale-ups aimed at advancing data-driven entrepreneurship, commercialising research, and driving social and economic recovery post-Covid.
One of the flagship DDE Beacon programmes is the Venture Builder Incubator, which provides postgraduate students and post-doctoral researchers with tailored training, mentoring and networking opportunities in order to help turn their ideas and early-stage projects into sustainable businesses. To ensure that they achieved the ambitions of the programme, EI drafted in the expertise and vision of Scotland-based strategic design consultancy Nile as a DDE Programme partner. Nile has brought a commercial edge, design focus and a network of external contacts that have benefited all aspects of this successful DDE Programme over the last 6 months.
Designed for success
While Nile was involved in the delivery of a number of the DDE Beacon initiatives, the company was particularly instrumental in foresighting delivery of the Venture Builder and VB Incubator programmes. Drawing on the company’s experience of working with startups at its own Nile Co-Foundry, as well as its extensive service design and behavioural research skillset, the Nile team supported EI in identifying the best training to benefit a large cohort of data and digital-focused, early-stage founders.
Once the structure of the programmes were in place, Nile shifted gears and became pivotal to the programmes themselves by providing training on key skills such as research methods; making its consultants available to the participating teams for bespoke mentoring sessions; and by giving the cohort access to Nile’s multi-skilled network. The company’s flexible approach meant it could easily keep pace with the fast-moving startup scene, and Nile were able to quickly adapt to the needs of companies at a variety of stages in their business development during the Incubator programme.
Inspired to innovate
Garrett Sprague is Founder of SmpliCare, a digital platform that helps families support ageing loved ones to live independently, and a member of the first Venture Builder Incubator cohort. Through the VB Incubator Garrett was able to take full advantage of Nile’s services, and he was impressed by their dedication to the programme. “The Nile team really went above and beyond in supporting us,” he says. When describing his interactions with several members of the Nile team over the course of the programme, Garrett recalls how quickly his vision was understood, and that he was offered advice and expertise that cut straight to the heart of his company’s problem. “Startups like us have so many things going on and a limited budget and skillset to handle them with, so if someone can just tell us the direction of travel that we need to go in it’s worth its weight in gold. Their guidance was incredibly valuable.”
While the benefits of Nile’s dedication to the programme for those who participated in the Venture Builder Incubator is clear, the team at Nile have been equally energised and inspired by their immersion into the Scottish startup scene.
“Scotland’s size is its strength. We are small enough to create a thriving and connected ecosystem with wide reaching benefits to be gained across academia, entrepreneurship and investment. Programmes like this are an essential part of the overall ecosystem we build. We (Nile) are here to help ensure each company, and each entrepreneur, has the best possible chance to continue to the next stage of growth.”
Sarah Ronald, Founder, Nile
Phase two of the DDE Beacon Programme will be starting in August 2021, with Nile on board as DDE Strategic Design Partner. Activities will run through to end of March 2022, so watch this space!