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Fledgling start-ups to benefit from new support

ENTREPRENEURIAL Spark (ESpark), the Glasgow-based business incubator and accelerator, has revealed further details of its plan to support companies negotiating the critical first months of trading.

ESpark has signalled that a fresh injection of funding received last month, with £200,000 coming from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and £100,000 from Glasgow City Council, has been earmarked to create a so-called nest programme.

Believed to be the first of its kind in Europe, the nest is a dedicated function for enterprises which are starting to generate their first sales but can benefit from continuing mentoring and support.

Chief executive Jim Duffy has declared his hope to nurture as many as 50 businesses a year at its bases in Glasgow, in addition to those who will pass through the programme at the E-Spark bases in Edinburgh and Ayrshire.

Drawing parallels with Boston, where Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University and Babson College feed into an entrepreneurial "eco-system", he likened the nests to "an entrepreneurial university for start-ups".

Mr Duffy said: "There is so much out there. We are going to take the best of public and private [business support] and try and join up all the dots as best as we can so there are no excuses for, entrepreneurs.

Firms entering the ESpark nests will receive 12 months of free office space, access to IT facilities and meeting rooms. Crucially, Mr Duffy said, they will also be able to tap into solid business support, with each business allocated a full-time "enabler" who will carry out business reviews. Topics such as leadership, operations and cash flow will come under focus, and the occupiers of the nests in Glasgow, Ayrshire and Edinburgh meeting once a month for "structured executive education".

Mr Duffy revealed the nest programme will be supported by the secondment of a senior commercial figure from RBS. He is also hoping to secure the services of a "high growth adviser" from the Glasgow Business Gateway.

E-Spark will shortly launch a marketing programme aimed at prospective candidates, with the aim of conducting interviews in mid-January.

Mr Duffy dismissed the idea that the nests would deflect resources from its hatchery programme, revealing that he had recently recruited two new full-time members of staff to the programme. He said ESpark had received 363 applications for the next year's hatchery places. This compares with 450 applications for the last intake.

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