We’ll be showing you six South West businesses that can help you become an entrepreneur, but before you go knocking on their doors, there are other things to consider when you’re starting out.

Have you got a great business idea but no clue how to get it off the ground? Don’t panic, you’re not alone! Whether you’re looking for mentoring advice, networking opportunities or information about funding, there are plenty of resources to help you in the South West.


Such as…

Research before development

Many people just want to jump in and get the ball rolling, but you’ll be more likely to succeed if you get to know your marketplace. Read articles, ask questions and look to social media to listen to what your target audience really want.

This research will validate your idea and let you know whether there’s a viable market before you start pumping money into it..

Start off by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are my objectives?
  • Who are my customers?
  • What promises am I making to them?
  • What promises am I making to myself?
  • How am I different?
  • Why am I setting up this business?
  • What is my strategy (step by step plan) to achieving my goals?

Once you write down your goals, they will be more achievable.

Think about funding

If you’re looking to build a tech startup, it’s likely that you’ll require significant investment, and these places are a great place to start.

  • Fredericks Foundation – A charity that provides loans to people who want to set up a new business in the South West. They’re open to anyone with a viable business idea, but are finding it hard to obtain mainstream finance.
  • SWAIN – You can search for a funding partner via the established South West Angel Investor Network.
  • Eden Ventures – An organisation that specialises in providing seed investment for emerging high tech enterprises.

Alternatively, if you’re considering the crowd-funding route, be sure to read TechSPARK’s tips on how to make your crowd-funding project stand out.

Networking and support

Don’t be afraid to network in person and online. Let the world know who you are and what you do, and be genuine in your interactions. The great thing about the South West (if you didn’t know already) is the willingness to help and support of the local network.

If you’re just starting out, there are many people who have been in the same boat at one point or another, and their experiences can be invaluable. Better still, find a business mentor who you can regularly check in with for help.

South West Founders is a Bristol-based meetup group for people who are, have been, or want to be tech startup founders. They aim to connect local entrepreneurs with co-founders and like-minded people, as well as tech investors, to create an informal support network.

“As a city with a growing entrepreneurial culture we’re looking forward to help nurture that spirit and assisting start-up businesses reach their full potential”


Plus, us lot here at TechSPARK hold regular meetups for those interested. We always get a lively crowd from the local scene, so pop in and say hello. Also check out our event calendar to see other tech meetups from all over the South West.

Once you’ve built your network, pitched your awesome business idea and got people clamouring for your awesome thingy bob, what’s next? Well, you could do worse than checking out one of these six awesome local incubator hubs for startups. With mentoring, business support and workspace all in one, they’re specifically designed to take you to the next level.

Entrepreneurial Spark

Entrepreneurial sparkEntrepreneurial Spark has a ‘Hatchery’ based in Bristol (the entrepreneurs are referred to as ‘chiclets’) and it runs an initial six-month programme to help businesses of all sectors and stages to grow. It provides free office space, access to a pool of specialised mentors, a collaborative working environment and your own “Enabler” who will help you set and achieve your own the goals you set personally and for your business. They will be located at the RBS building on Avon Street.

The CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark, Jim Duffy says, “As a city with a growing entrepreneurial culture we’re looking forward to help nurture that spirit and assisting startup businesses reach their full potential – launching in the South West is very exciting.”

The programme is completely free and the August intake launches on the 10th of August.

Applications for August close on the 5th of July. Thereafter you can apply for our next intake in February. You can apply to the programme here.


Set Squared LogoThe SETsquared Partnership is Europe’s number 1 University business incubator, according to the University Business Incubator Index 2014, supporting tech startups across Southern England. They have centres in Bristol and Bath as well as Exeter, Guildford, Basingstoke and Southampton.

“At SETsquared we know how hard it can be to find the right resources at the right time to grow a tech business”, said Simon Bond, Innovation Director for the SETsquared Partnership. “With a track record of supporting companies spanning over 12 years, we are committed to putting the resources and knowledge into businesses so they can accelerate their growth.

“Access to investment, corporate partners and customers along with our networking of experienced entrepreneurs puts startups on a trajectory to becoming the giants of the future.”

SETsquared creates bespoke support packages to help high tech startups become profitable and thriving businesses. They match you with a mentor, hold business review panels and can potentially help you obtain investment. They have supported over 1,000 companies raise over £1bn of funding in the last 10 years. You can apply for the programme here.

Webstart Bristol

Webstart LogoWebstart Bristol is an incubation scheme that nurtures ideas for apps and web services. They believe Bristol is a great place to build a tech business, and they’re looking for people who agree.

Aspiring entrepreneurs are periodically invited to pitch ideas to a team of well-established mentors, who can then choose whether or not to offer funding and a three-month incubation service, which aims to produce a fully working version of the idea in that time.

You can read an interview with WebStart’s Mike Jackson here and apply for their programme here.

University of Bath Innovation Centre (UBIC)

bath_innovation_centre_logoUBIC runs the Bath Entrepreneurship Programme, which helps participants turn business ideas into investor propositions.

It’s designed to challenge your business preconceptions and test your entrepreneurial resolve, and the scheme promises to equip you with the skills, contacts and confidence needed for startup success.

“UBIC’s primary purpose is to deliver on Enterprise and Entrepreneurship strategies for University of Bath graduates and local technology ventures that are knowledge based, of high tech nature with high growth potential,” says Ali Hadavizadeh, the Deputy Head of of Enterprise at UBIC.

“As a member of SETsquared Business Incubation Partnership, #1 in Europe and #2 in the world, Our work is centred around business support activities for graduate students and community based start-ups. We aim to add value to these ventures through a wide range of Business Incubation activities such as investor readiness, mentoring, networks, access to finance, business planning and much more to help them to traverse different business growth stages and ultimately be successful Entrepreneurs, creators of jobs and wealth at local, national and global levels.”

For further information on events and courses, head over to their website.

Cool Ventures

cool-venturesCool Ventures run free business workshops in Bath and South Gloucestershire. The workshops are designed to help you decide whether going into business is right for you, helping you write your business plan as well as giving you financial guidance. They are committed to helping business startups in the South West and had this to say:

“The Bristol and Bath area has such an amazing, inspired, and inspirational business community. Watching someone achieve their dreams for their business, whether from start-up or facing up to challenges in an established business, is hugely rewarding – at times it feels we get almost as big a buzz as they do!” You can look up the event timetable here.


rocketmakers-logoAs Richard Godfrey, Rocketmakers’ co-founder says: “We work with new startups to create their first product, particularly helping startup founders with great ideas to make those ideas become a reality. We offer investment, guidance and time from our design and development team often in exchange for some equity”.

“Our team take an agile approach from start to finish, focusing on building a strong product that can scale effectively to get revenues or attract follow-on funding.”

Find out what some of their startups say about working with them at the Rocketmakers website, or arrange to have a chat with them to see if they could help you.

For more advice on getting your idea out there, be sure to keep an eye on our blogs from local companies. This is by no means an extensive list, so do let us know if we’ve missed any groups out. Shout at us on @TechSPARKUK.

Business vector designed by Freepik

Susie McBeth