Where To Now?

Every Enterprise Hub has a Director – who runs the Hub – and a Business Champion – whose long experience of successful business provides invaluable perspective to client companies, and the Hub itself. The combination of Hub Director and Hub Champion is a potent one for helping new businesses get the help they need. But how do the Director and Champion in an average Hub (if such a thing exists) actually work together, and what do they think they are trying to achieve?

We ask Steve Davis,(right) Southampton Enterprise Hub Director, and Tony Davies, Southampton Enterprise Hub Business Champion, what they want their Hub to achieve.

Tony: My background is in the electronics industry. I’ve formed a few companies myself and worked on both sides of the Venture Capital fence: starting up companies that required capital, but also providing many companies with capital through Venture Capital funds.

Steve: I’ve worked in the Marine and Oil Industries, done an MBA, and worked as a consultant in knowledge transfer before becoming Hub Director. We have been working together for about four years now. As the Hub Champion, and the Chairman of our Supervisory Board, what Tony provides me with is a focus on the broad strategy. I can get very excited about individual projects, and Tony provides a valuable sense of balance, and he keeps me on track. And of course, having been a successful serial entrepreneur for some years he has accumulated a wealth of experience that we can draw on.

Tony: Steve has very good networking skills, so what the Hub is doing is well known in the community. His contacts keep the various stakeholders together and give us access to many more resources than we would otherwise have.

The Hub is overseen by a Supervisory Board of eight people, and my role is to chair that board. My relationship with Steve is not really a traditional mentor relationship, it’s more a chairing role to enable all the stakeholders to listen to what Steve is doing and provide feedback on what we think the Hub’s objectives, focus and priorities should be.

Steve: We recognise the importance of all the stakeholders to what we are doing: their input helps to form our strategies, and our ability to deliver them. There are some new exciting business initiatives being launched, which draw together local stakeholders and which the Hub will be supporting across Southampton and the Solent region.

Tony: Yes, and I think it’s important to say here that the Hub is not there to provide services directly to our clients in competition with other business service providers. Although we give direct access to services such as the mentoring programmes and our Hub Commercialisation Programme (HubCap) – we see one of our prime functions as acting as a signpost to direct young companies to existing resources and sources of advice relevant to their needs.

Steve’s excellent networking skills have helped us get to know all the different groups in the area, and the services that they can provide, and that helps us to point people in the right direction. Where there isn’t anything appropriate available then we have the opportunity to take a more direct role, as we’ve done with HubCap and the Merlin Mentors, but we don’t want to spend our scarce resource to compete with an exiting source of advice.   Steve: Having a wide range of stakeholders is very helpful – one of our strategies is to increase our range of stakeholders, giving us a wider base of experience, and more resources to draw upon.

Tony: Yes, we must leverage off other resources or we won’t be able to grow the Hub to offer a wide enough range of advice for early stage enterprises.

There is a real need to bring in more private enterprise as stakeholders right now. We’re looking for a couple of Board Members from the private sector, both because we want to rebalance our Supervisory Board, and because the interests and experience of such Members will naturally coincide with the interests and experiences of the companies we are trying to help.

Steve: That’s one of the medium-term goals for the Hub: to become more engaged with the private sector; to give them a chance to share their experience. One example of how this is already working is the launch of the Solent Marine Community in conjunction with Portsmouth and Southampton City Councils. The Solent Marine Community will be focusing on providing support and advice to marine companies working within several recognised clusters across the Solent area. The clusters will be industry-led, championed by a private sector leader in each field and supported by academic champions from the local Universities.  The aim is to help each cluster maintain or achieve world class status recognising our huge technical strengths in marine across the Solent. As you will see this will be a very inclusive industry-led project bringing the private and public sectors together.

Tony: We also want the Hub to be self-sustaining, as far as possible. So we need to find sources of funding and benefit in kind; one of the reasons we are wide-ranging in our stakeholders is to increase our chances of getting support from some of them.

Steve: Don’t forget Corporate Venturing.

Tony: Do you mean getting larger companies to provide support?

Steve: Certainly getting them to be more hands-on, but also recognising that many spin-outs come from big industry, as well as academia.

Tony: Yes, that’s true. We don’t see our brief as just to help start-ups that come from individuals. If a new enterprise is formed from a spin-out from a large established enterprise and needs “liberating” then that interests us too. So “Corporate Venturing” – working with large companies to find out what opportunities they have for new venture spin-outs that might prosper better in start-up mode – certainly forms part of the strategy.

Steve: The main thing of course, is that we’re seeking to attract companies to the Hub which have an attractive technology-based business idea with high growth potential. Encouraging those companies to join the Hub and our Network and helping them to exploit our programmes and those of our other business support partners will enable our region to become the engine room of economic growth in the country whilst maintaining our world class heritage.

Author: Steve Davis

Created Date: 02-02-2006

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