Engine Shed, a collaboration between Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, is an enterprise hub at the heart of the Enterprise Zone. It sits at the core of the Zone’s hi-tech community, providing workspace for a range of companies working in the sector. It is also home to Webstart, a business incubator based on the model of the highly successful Y Combinator in the US. We spoke to Mike Jackson, founder of Webstart, to get a bit more information about how it works.
Business age: Webstart was set up in January 2014.
How would you explain Webstart to someone who’s never heard of it? Webstart is an incubator for local, early stage web and app start-ups, motivated by the goal of supporting the local tech start-up community by providing investment and business support. Webstart crowd-funds investment via Seedrs, and all investors get a stake in each of the new businesses in the cohort they fund – but they don’t know what those businesses are before they’ve pledged the funding.
How many businesses are supported in each Webstart cohort and how many people make up Webstart’s core support team? We have supported 25 companies over the last two years. The first two intakes were of 10 start-ups, but we learnt from past experience that smaller groups had the potential to work better. As a result, our current group is made up of 5 companies.
I am the main advisor at Webstart but we have a wide variety of mentors that work with us ad-hoc, based on the needs of the businesses being incubated.