Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room. Now more than ever we need to be strengthening our connections, leaning on others for support and leveraging our networks.
As service providers, those of us in the Incubator and Accelerator Network (IAN) are finding ourselves both in a position to offer innovation and entrepreneurship support, but also to ask for support ourselves – in order to act quickly, share ideas and lobby for funding.
To this end, it couldn’t have been more timely to attend the Incubator and Accelerator Network conference at the start of March.
Having joined the Imperial College White City Incubator in April of 2019, I had only joined IAN a few months prior to the conference – Imperial College and the Incubator team had been members for a number of years however.
Prior to the conference, I was only consuming one-way information – reading the CEF newsletters, following on social media – I hadn’t really engaged with the network actively yet. The conference was a fantastic way to kickstart being an active participant and meet people in similar roles across the country. Now that we are in the centre of a global pandemic the most important thing is to build a trusted network of like-minded professionals.
The above links well into some of the key takeaways I had from the conference:
- Leverage your unique perspective within and surrounding your incubator to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem that grows support for entrepreneurship rather than creating a competitive environment – a rising tide raises all boats when supporting innovation.
- The quality of your incubator/accelerator is directly related to the quality of your network – mentors, students, investors, corporates, industry, potential customers – where can you provide warm introductions for your teams?
- Diversity and inclusion shouldn’t be approached to improve numbers – yes, you must measure your current operating environment in order to understand the challenge, however, it is about educating your community to understand the inherent value of diversity.
- Finally, open your network with an authentic voice through channels like community groups and alumni networks – don’t forget that not everyone speaks the same innovation language.
Not everyone speaks the same innovation language.
At the White City Incubator, we had just launched our yearly pre-accelerator, the Innovators’ Programme, so off the back of the conference, with a spur of motivation, I immediately unpacked all our communications to include more inclusive language – terms like “problem solvers”, “new business” or “workshops” as opposed to innovation, entrepreneur, accelerator or commercialisation. For some, innovation spurs images of excitement, however I acknowledged that others may feel left behind, left out or actively disadvantaged.
We had also discussed ways to continue to strengthen our connections with other spaces such as coordinated delegations – although now these will perhaps be virtual tours – and I look forward to visiting other incubators around the UK.
As we continue to tackle the challenge of our current environment, contributing where we can add value will be important, but don’t be afraid to lean on your networks when you need support.