The hub, which opened on Monday 9 February, is housed in the main NatWest office at St Philip’s Place in the city centre. It will be home to 80 entrepreneurs who will each receive free office space, business support, expertise and advice for the next 6 to 18 months.
Last year, NatWest and RBS announced their support for thousands of entrepreneurs and high growth businesses with a multi million pound network of eight new business accelerator hubs. Over 250 businesses applied to be part of the first hub in Birmingham with 80 successful businesses selected through a competitive application process and the hub will now have two intakes every year.
The launch follows a bootcamp in which all the entrepreneurs took part before starting their programme. The launch event was attended by RBS CEO Ross McEwan, RBS Commercial and Private Banking CEO Alison Rose; CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark Jim Duffy and CEO of Birmingham City Council Mark Rogers, as well as many of the entrepreneurs involved.
The launch concluded with a pitch event where the top 5 from the hub’s bootcamp pitched their business for a £1k prize. The winner was Virtalent, a service company that matches busy entrepreneurs and professionals with a talented UK university student, who will act as their Virtual Assistant.
Entrepreneurs will have access to the hub for up to 18 months uniting them with fellow entrepreneurs, specially trained NatWest staff and experienced, aspirational business mentors. They will also have the opportunity to pitch to potential investors. Growth awards of up to £50,000 will also be introduced and will offer cash injections when businesses need it most.
Jim Duffy, CEO of Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “We are delighted to be launching in Birmingham today with NatWest. Our tried and tested accelerator programme has already had a significant impact on the start-up community in Scotland, helping 350 businesses to create over 1,000 jobs and £41million in turnover to date. Birmingham has been found in a number of pieces of research to be the most entrepreneurial city in the UK, so it’s a fitting place for our first hub in England. Our message to entrepreneurs is work hard, focus and ‘Go Do’ to achieve the business success of your dreams.”
Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council, also commented: “The new accelerator hub launched by NatWest and Entrepreneurial Spark will expand the wide range of business support already available for entrepreneurs across Birmingham.
“The city is quickly establishing itself as the UK’s capital of enterprise. More companies than ever – from SMEs to global brands – are locating here. By offering a large talent pool, dynamic business networks and established city infrastructure, Birmingham welcomed more new businesses than any other regional UK city last year.
“With this new hub now available to help local entrepreneurs, the city’s thriving business community is set to grow even further”.
At the end of the six month programme the hub will host a graduation event bringing together entrepreneurs, investors and business advisors for mentoring and networking sessions. These events will also see rewards for outstanding businesses and the opportunity for the graduating businesses to pitch to win cash injections.
Commenting on the opening of the hub in Birmingham, Commercial and Private Banking CEO Alison Rose said: “I am delighted to announce the opening of our first hub in Birmingham. This is a step-change in how NatWest supports entrepreneurial talent and by opening up our premises here in St Philips Place we are backing the businesses of tomorrow and helping ambitious entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level.
This is good for them, good for us and ultimately good for the economy here in the Midlands. We have a trusted partner in Entrepreneurial Spark and together we can really make a difference to those businesses at the start of their journey.”
NatWest is looking to situate hubs in the bank’s existing premises wherever possible. Building on the Entrepreneurial Spark model, which has already proved hugely successful in Scotland, applicants will be welcomed from any sector and do not need to be NatWest or RBS customers. The next two hubs will be in Bristol and Leeds and will be opening in the summer.