Two of Birmingham’s top professional firms have linked up to help drive forward promising businesses.
Accountants and business advisers Mazars, together with law firm Cobbetts, are sponsoring the newly-launched Oxygen Accelerator technology start-up initiative.
They are part of a team which aims to uncover high-flying entrepreneurs of the future from across the globe, boosting inward investment by bringing them to the West Midlands.
The idea is to super-charge and streamline new business products and ideas so they can be marketed to the world. This will involve turning early stage businesses into fast growth companies attractive to investors.
Oxygen Accelerator is a partnership between serial entrepreneur Mark Hales and Birmingham Science Park Aston.
A 13-week intensive “boot camp” will be based at BSPA from September 1. There are ten successful teams – two which originate from the West Midlands, five from the rest of the UK and one each from Austria, Lithuania and Romania – will be offered funding of up to £20,000, a “soft” loan repayable once sufficient investment has been received or the business reaches a stage of profitability where it can afford to repay it.
The “boot camp” culminates with a series of investor days across the UK where the businesses pitch to business angels, venture capitalists and private equity groups for next stage funding.
In exchange for helping these companies accelerate through the difficult first few months of their business lives Oxygen Accelerator invests for six per cent of the equity of each.
Mazars and Cobbetts will provide financial and legal mentoring respectively as well as hosting six professional training days where topics such as structuring growth finance, intellectual property and business planning will be explained to the early stage management teams.
David Chapman, Midlands managing partner of Mazars, said: “This is an exciting new concept.
“Given our current economic position Britain is desperate for fresh-thinking, innovative entrepreneurs capable of growing a business. Birmingham was once the City of a Thousand Trades – today we need the same sort of vision, skill, risk-taking and inventiveness which made this city and country great.
“Oxygen Accelerator is the sort of project that can make that happen.”
Graham Muth, head of the Birmingham office of Cobbetts, commented: “Inventors and entrepreneurs often fail for lack of organisation, finance and support. Oxygen Accelerator is an approach which can overcome such difficulties.
“Cobbetts are firmly behind this scheme. It will deliver value for the city as entrepreneurs from the across the globe are attracted to Birmingham and supported through the vital early stages of their business lives. As a law firm that is recognised as a leader in innovation in our own industry, we are excited to be involved with such a great collection of innovative businesses.”
Oxygen Accelerator is targeting sectors such as ecommerce, social media, mobiles, data analysis, publishing, developer tools, video gaming, education and software as a service.
Simon Jenner, Accelerator manager and head of incubation for Birmingham Science Park Aston, said: “While many early stage businesses have interesting ideas or technology, they still require a substantial intervention to prepare them for seed investment. The provision of ‘smart money’, which includes mentoring, support and introductions alongside pre-seed capital, has far greater value to these businesses than cash alone.
“This approach has already been successfully developed in the US by Y Combinator and TechStars. We are confident we too can generate similar sorts of winners.”
Mentors include representatives from Google, Amazon and Paypal, and cover areas such as design, entrepreneurship, finance, marketing/PR and tech expertise.