Our fifth Accelerator cohort graduated from the programme, with a final pitch, at our recent Demo Day. Now the dust has settled from the excitement of the evening, they’ve had a chance to take a step back and are probably focusing on ‘where next?’.
Those of us who were there on the night saw a range of very different hardware tech on display. Products included a bio-burner that creates biochar for organic fertiliser, a beautifully crafted pencil sharpener, a product that breaks the itch-scratch cycle for eczema sufferers, a device that encourages people to take quick stress-free moments, shoes with adjustable heel heights, high-tech body armour for extreme sports, and a pressure-sensing smart insole that monitors running gait.
However different the product ideas, one thing most of them had in common was that their initial driver, to design, came from a place of social responsibility and often a personal experience or need. As a mountain biker, Dorota Grabkowska, of Hero Skin, knows the risks and has developed body armour that is both comfortable and highly protective. Lauren Bell, of Cosi Care, told us how her experiences as an eczema sufferer had prompted her to find a solution to stop the most frustrating and damaging problems caused by the itch-scratch cycle. While personal experience of the damaging effects of stress prompted Charlie Cadbury and Alex Strang, of Moment Pebble, to develop a product that encourages people to take quick meditative moments during their busy day.
The event had started with useful advice from two people who had experienced the highs and lows of start-ups after going through it themselves. In an entertaining discussion, Rob Nicoll, co-founder of Chip[s] Board, and CRL’s new Investor-in-Residence, Arnold du Toit, agreed that one of the most important things for start-ups, like those in our cohort, was to get the right people around them.
When sharing their wish lists they asked for investors and partners, and connections to media, retailers and the influencers that would get them to the next level, but you got the impression that it was on their terms.
Some were already on their way and it was great to be the first to hear about a new partnership that Noah Bier, and the team at Brahman Designs, had just secured. As creators of beautiful drawing tools for creative people, their signature product the Høvel pencil sharpener has been taken up by US retailer, Pencils.com and pencil makers, Blackwing, who have placed a large order in their brand colour. We’ll be excited to hear how their next product, the Iris – an expandable stencil, develops.
As a final thought the panel reminded the entrepreneurs that, as well as having the right people, it was just as important to be in the right business space, and that’s where spaces like CRL co-working space comes into its own. It’s not just about the programmes but the wider benefits of being part of a like-minded community of people, who are supportive and get what you do, and who are there to bounce ideas off.
It must have been with mixed feelings that the fifth cohort ended the evening but the CRL team are looking forward to hearing how things go for them all…
…and now they are gearing up to welcome the sixth cohort.
Applications for the sixth CRL Accelerator programme is now closed but interested start-ups can still contact Toby Kress, firstname.lastname@example.org, to find out more, and express an interest in the programme, at any time.
Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the programme supports the next generation of product-focused entrepreneurs by helping them to develop crucial areas of their business, to help ‘accelerate’ growth, and take products to market.