Hi-tech venture incubation based on the Cambridge experience
What is CambridgePYTHON?
The CambridgePYTHON project aims at stimulating entrepreneurial spirit within academic environment. As a result, its primary target group includes students and young researchers. It is based on best practices from Cambridge Silicon Fen, which is one of the most successful hi-tech clusters in the world. The project is supported by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the British Embassy in Poland and various entities representing private sector (e.g. consulting companies, venture capitalists and sponsors).
One of the activities of the project is "Wiesz? Wymyśl... Wygraj!" Competition ("Learn! Invent... Win!") where business ideas are collected from those who wish do become entrepreneurs, establish their own company and find funding. During the project, the best ideas receive professional and intensive support from the organisers and cooperating consulting companies in order to become ready to face venture capital investors and compete for funding, just as in Cambridge or in Silicon Valley.
CambridgePYTHON organizes educational events such as "Akademia Innowacji CambridgePYTHON" (CambridgePYTHON's Innovation Academy) where scientists or investors give presentations and lead workshops about innovations, commercialization of inventions, starting up a business etc.
CambridgePYTHON created edutainment game called VCR (Venture Capital Research). It is an online simulation which illustrates the work of the real Venture Capital fund.
What is the goal?
The goal of the project is to foster entrepreneurial spirit and support early stage academic start-ups. The organizers concentrate mainly on high-tech ventures in ICT (Information and Communication Technology) field. However, support in other fields is also offered if in smaller capacity.
Project's activities take place throughout the entire year and can be divided in those promoting business skills and knowledge and those directly supporting young entrepreneurs. The former include: Academia of Innovation CambridgePYTHON, CambridgePYTHON seminars for students and various workshops which anyone is free to attend. They allow their participants to learn about starting, funding and conducting business ventures.
The main activity of the project is the "Wiesz? Wymyśl... Wygraj!" Competition. It helps people with business ideas to turn them into reality. The emphasis is put on projects coming from ICT field, however there are no restrictions as far as other criteria are concerned. Everyone can submit their business ideas. However, the participants are highly advised to enter the Contest "Wiesz? Wymyśl... Wygraj!" as a part of a team and not individually.
Why is CambridgePYTHON unique?
The presented undertaking is significantly different from other initiatives, aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, which have been launched in Poland so far. CambridgePYTHON actively promotes and teaches skills and knowledge necessary to starting one's own company. At the same time the project brings investors and the young entrepreneurs together and serves as a communication platform. Following the Cambridge example, we see this mutual understanding of what each side needs and what both sides have to offer as a crucial factor in preparing high quality business proposals.
In CambridgePYTHON's Competition, following the best practice developed in "Cambridge ecosystem" we heavily rely on venture capital. We want the investors to be highly involved in the incubation process from its very beginning, also in a form of providing mentoring (it is also very much a "Cambridge concept") . Such approach increases the chances for success of new companies in the market and it can also significantly shorten the development process.
The organizers run a competition for business project/start up proposals which results in several best proposals being selected. The best proposals combine non-standard use of modern technology and solid business background. In order to provide necessary know-how, the organizers support the selected contest participants with free legal, administrative, financial and technical consulting services. These services are provided by highly experienced consultants.
The venture capital investors are invited to participate in all stages of the Competition. It is worth emphasising that such support is essential if high quality projects are to emerge at the end of the Competition. Here, the quality is measured by the willingness of the potential investor to provide funding for the start-up.
What kind of help does CambridgePYTHON offer?
During the second stage of the Competition each team or participant receives support from consulting companies. The help includes legal, administrative, financial and technical aspects regarding a particular business idea. This support is provided by various professionals. Improvement of the submitted ideas can last up to three months (from July to September). During this period the participants create financially feasible business proposals. Moreover, they are mastering their presentation skills which are ultimately tested in the last part of the Competition when each participating team has a chance to pitch venture capitalists for investment.
Depending on the level of involvement of participants, in various activities of the project they can gain business knowledge and skills necessary to become successful entrepreneurs or get help in creating their own company.
Additionally, winning the Competition means a possibility to gain funding provided by venture capital involved in the project in order to get a start up going. In other words, the winners have a chance to pitch real venture capitalists for investment.
The Hi-tech venture incubation based on the Cambridge experience project is supported by Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, University of Cambridge, British Embassy in Warsaw, representatives of Polish private venture capital and a few consulting companies working on pro publico bono basis in the true Cambridge spirit.