The SparkUP School for Entrepreneurs started this week at the Bath Innovation Centre and it was a full house at the ‘Funding for Startups’ session.

“If all my future business expenditure is as wisely invested as the £20 for this session, you’re looking at the next Zuckerberg!”


The feedback from delegates was overwhelmingly positive. James Beavan, founder of new startup Keymailer, praised the event for having packed in such a wealth of information and ‘value add’ into 2 hours commenting:  “Half the challenge for a startup is knowing where to seek the right advice. If all my future business expenditure is as wisely invested as the £20 for this session, you’re looking at the next Zuckerberg!”

Tech entrepreneurs discuss funding options

As the first in the series of sessions launched under the banner of the SparkUP School for Entrepreneurs, the event was a collaboration between TechSPARK and the University of Bath Innovation Centre (UBIC) with speakers and panellists drawn from the local enterprise tech networks of Bristol and Bath.

chris-dyson-ashfordsThe session was chaired by Chris Dyson from Ashfords (pictured left) who opened the event by providing a comprehensive overview of the equity funding landscape from crowd and peer platforms to angel investment and venture finance.

Tara Gillam from Business West provided a coherent presentation on startup loans and grant funding, followed by Simon Brown from ForrestBrown about R&D tax credits, and covering other key tax incentives like SEIS / EIS. Both speakers prompted a flurry of questions from the audience keen to find out more about opportunities to delay or negate the need to raise finance without equity dilution.

Funding highs and lows

A lively Q&A session began with introductions from each of the panellists about their own experiences prompting frank and open discussion about the highs, lows and learns of growing both grant and equity funded businesses, working with investors, and the importance of getting expert advice.

SPARKup-Funding-3The panel: Kirsty Ranger – IdeaSquaresNick East from Zynstra, Glenn Smith and Jamie Ridyard – LifeJak

With seasoned entrepreneurs as well as Angel investors on the panel, there were some invaluable and poignant insights – not least from Kirsty Ranger who arrived having just launched a third campaign for her company IdeaSquares on Seedrs.

“It was a great opportunity to network with like-minded entrepreneurs”


Amongst the audience was Bath University graduate turned entrepreneur Reza Saadi who found the event to be “very well organised with the talks and panel covering a variety of topics and providing great first-hand experience. It was a great opportunity to network with like-minded entrepreneurs as well.”

Rosie Bennett, Entrepreneur in residence at the Innovation Centre added: “The SparkUP School mission is to provide an insight into the entrepreneurial journey and to add value to any startup – we were really pleased that so many people came to the first session and have signed up for the next one too.”

Upcoming workshops

Annoyed you missed it? Don’t worry – there are still some places left on the next session:

Session Two: ‘Finding your route to market
10 – 12pm on Tuesday 16 June at UBIC

Your route to market is all about identifying who your customers are, and differentiating yourself from the competition. If your startup is going to succeed it is because you know exactly how to reach your customers and the most cost effective way to sell them your product or service.

This session looks at methods and tools that can help you get to know your customer, low cost, high impact ways to generate demand in the market for your products or services, and the key things to think about when you are planning your branding and marketing strategy.

Speakers and panellists include:

Topics include:

  • Identifying your beachhead market, pivoting and iterating your business to find best market fit
  • Brand and Marketing
  • Customer segmentation and research methods


Session Three: ‘Building your team’
10 – 12pm on Tuesday 21 July at UBIC

shutterstock_218982760Building a team from scratch can be daunting and comes with responsibilities and pressures, but the right team is key; even if you think of yourself as a one-person operation, you’ll need a team of support people to help you. From contractors and suppliers to advisory board members and employees, each of these individuals can help make or break your new business.

This session will look at how to build an ‘investable’ founding team and covers the legal issues and questions about risk and reward. It will also cover the medium to long term and techniques to keep a team motivated and engaged in periods of uncertainty or expansion.

You can sign up for the SPARKUP School workshops here. The events are open to everyone and cost £20 per session and are free to SETsquared members and students from the University of Bath.

And, if you want to see and meet up with startups from the South West who already have something to shout about, don’t miss Venturefest Bristol & Bath on 9 June.