SETsquared Bristol has launched a new bursary that will support entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds in accessing business support through the world-class SETsquared incubation programme.

Bristol is a widely diverse city, but there is a lack of BAME representation in the tech ecosystem. In 2018 SETsquared Bristol funded a research report carried out by partners ACH and Up Our Street, and is increasing its efforts to reduce the barriers faced by BAME individuals in accessing business support based on the findings. The report offered key recommendations on how to offer support to businesses in under-represented communities.

Three Breakthrough Bursary places are on offer for up to one year, covering 75% of SETsquared Bristol’s Residential Start-up Membership, which normally costs £210 per month. Members receive strategic advice and coaching, including investment readiness training, bespoke business support, mentoring, events and advice clinics, as well as access to university expertise. Companies also get a fixed desk in a shared office at the Bristol Centre, benefitting from the supportive co-working communities at SETsquared and Engine Shed.

Sado Jirde, Director of the Black South West Network (BSWN), said, “BSWN welcomes the announcement of the SETsquared bursary scheme to support BAME Tech entrepreneurs. We are encouraged by an approach that is rooted in research with BAME Tech entrepreneurs; an approach that facilitates their voices by directly influencing decision-making. There is, undeniably, a long way to go before we achieve a fully equitable economic and social context for BAME communities in Bristol. However, this bursary marks a step-change in the way the problem is engaged with by key players in enterprise incubation and development here. BSWN looks forward to seeing this initiative flourish and be a catalyst for further changes; changes that we will continue to work in partnership with SETsquared to see realised”

Any business founders from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds can apply for the Breakthrough Bursary if they are developing a new tech business, or already have an incorporated tech business, and want help growing it and achieving financial success.

Monika Radclyffe, SETsquared Bristol Centre Director, said, “We are committed to supporting tech businesses from all backgrounds and communities, in order for our region to thrive economically. Last year, the number of female founders in the incubator has increased by 333%, and we hope to see similar growth in ethnic diversity.”

SETsquared Bristol has been working to implement further recommendations from the research report, including a marketing audit, running workshops in community venues to engage with wider audiences, and implementing training for staff and business founders.

Silas Adekunle, CEO of successful SETsquared Bristol incubatee, Reach Robotics, said, “SETsquared was integral to the start of Reach Robotics. Start-ups aren’t born in isolation – incubators provide the support, connections, and guidance that are absolutely invaluable to getting a tech business off the ground. SETsquared also opened the door to a fantastic community of businesses that we are proud to be part of.”

Reach Robotics fuse robotics, video games and AR (augmented reality), creating four-legged crab-like robots. They were founded in Bristol in 2013, and have already secured $7.5m in funding. Their flagship product, MekaMon, has propelled them to the forefront of consumer robotics.

The Breakthrough Bursary was officially launched at SETsquared Bristol’s regular Connect event, sponsored by Amdaris, which brings together members, investors, stakeholders, and other figures from Bristol’s tech scene to mingle and build new connections.

SETsquared will be reviewing applications as they come through and inviting applicants for interviews throughout March, April and May. The deadline for applications is 6th May 2019 at 6 pm, and selected applicants will be contacted for interviews by 10th May 2019. Decisions on the Bursary awards will be made by the end of May. To apply, please complete this application form mentioning ‘Breakthrough Bursary’ in the ‘How did you hear about us?’ section.

Geraint Evans