In the words of Toby Kress, our new Managing Director, “CRL provides the best hardware focussed co-working space and programmes for technology start-ups in the UK”. The CRL team agree wholeheartedly and we’re pleased to say that our reputation and unbeatable historic credentials as a site for innovation were just two of the factors that attracted him to join our ranks, as CRL MD and Director of Programmes for Plus X – our new parent company which is expanding the CRL model across the UK.
Toby knows what he’s talking about with over 10 years’ experience working with start-ups. He got started by co-founding his own tech start-up – Groop Gifts – which he describes as ‘a glorious failure’ which allowed him to build an amazing network, learns a lot of valuable lessons and where he thrived on the energy of creating something new.
He’s since gained an MBA, with a focus on entrepreneurship, from the London Business School, and put the theory and experience to work on more successful ventures. He’s also run business incubators and joins us from Accelerator London, a tech software incubator in Shoreditch, owned by London Metropolitan University. While there he worked with over 50 start-ups who collectively raised £35m in investment, made £50m in revenue and created 250+ new jobs during the past 3 years. He also worked with graduates launching new businesses, academic staff on commercialising their intellectual property and corporations on innovation programmes.
As always, we like to know what attracts people to CRL. For Toby, it was the great history behind the space and our reputation as ‘probably the best hardware-focussed space in the UK’. Although his experience was mainly in software, he has a huge respect for hardware businesses and appreciates the challenges they face. As he says, “There’s an added level of complexity, in terms of delivering physical products, that isn’t there for software. There’s a more complex supply chain, especially when manufacturing at scale, and the lead times and product development cycles are much longer.
“I like that tech hardware attracts a particular type of entrepreneur. They’ve got great engineering skills, deep technical knowledge and brilliant minds for problem-solving. Our role at CRL is to bring all of that together and help them turn it into commercial success. That’s where I hope my background can be particularly useful – adding both the practical experience, and the theory, of supporting start-ups through structured accelerator programmes and co-working spaces.”.
In the last year, he’s also been running corporate accelerator programmes and he’s really excited about developing the idea for the CRL and Plus X portfolio. He explains, “Corporations are great at many things, but speed of innovation isn’t at the top of their list. They can struggle to keep up with the rapid changes happening in their industries and are in danger of being left behind. Start-ups are different, they can be agile and disruptive in a way that corporates can’t. The idea of corporate programmes is to offer great opportunities for collaboration, between big companies and start-ups, that can develop into powerful partnership. Start-ups get access to finance, networks and the resources to help them grow, and corporates get to tap into innovation that keeps them competitive and agile.”.
He added, “Another thing that’s super exciting for me is the bigger vision of Plus X in rolling out CRL’s successful formula across the UK. Our new co-working space in Brighton is due to open in January and there are plans in the pipeline for 5 sites in the next 5 years. I’ll be working with all of those sites and I’m looking forward to developing partnerships and programmes across them all. There’s huge potential for where Plus X and CRL can go and I’m excited to be part of making it happen.”.
The Accelerator programme at CRL is the original hardware focused programme in the UK and has an incredible track record of helping entrepreneurs bring innovative products to market. The current programme kicked off last week with six new start-ups ready and waiting to turn their ideas into reality, and they’ll benefit from a programme that builds on the firm foundations and solid success of previous cohorts.
According to Toby, “One of the things that really makes CRL stand out is the support offered on the product development side. Most accelerator programmes focus on software and are around 12 weeks because things move more quickly in software. The CRL programme is 6 months to cover the complexities of the product development cycle.”.
He adds, “Start-ups on this programme have engineering skills and know-how on their teams but they are also supported by a dedicated product development team of 4 people at CRL who help train them in new areas and provide hands on support around rapid prototyping and product testing. Plus, all our companies have ambitions to scale as businesses so we make sure design for manufacture is built into the product development process as part of the programme. We also have great connections to supply chains in the UK, Europe and China and the trip to Shenzen is a unique, and much-loved, part of the programme.”.
Toby finished by saying, “Working with start-ups is so rewarding. Starting a company is one of the hardest things you can do with your life and it’s great when you hear from entrepreneurs about the impact that places like this can have in supporting them on their journeys – it’s a real privilege to have the opportunity to be a small part of their success”.
If you’re looking for inspiring co-working space, make§r space, world-class prototype facilities, or looking to join a structured start-up support programme, why not pop in and take a look at what lies at the heart of the CRL community? Contact Katia Padilha firstname.lastname@example.org