For the past three months, a hard-working cohort of 14 LSE-founded companies have been learning, growing, and innovating through the university’s very first start-up accelerator programme. Organised by LSE Generate - the university’s home for entrepreneurship - we celebrated the halfway milestone for this accelerator programme in mid-June. Like most celebrations these days, we did it virtually!
Over 100 investors, entrepreneurs, and LSE community members came out to our mid-point Accelerator Showcase Day on 19 June to learn about the accelerator companies and their progress during the program so far. Each company was put in the spotlight to share their story with the captive audience and answer questions from the expert judges about their investment readiness, growth strategies, target markets, and COVID-19 adaptations.
This Showcase Day was the culmination of three months of virtual collaboration, as we pivoted to an all-online accelerator program. With the announcement of lockdown, we said goodbye to our beautiful coworking space in Kentish Town and group bonding with pizza and beers. We said hello to weekly Zoom calls (made more fun with some visits from our friend, Cuthbert Cranshaw the Goat), thousands of Slack chats, and emails.
Through this experience, we’ve learned some key lessons:
- Virtual learning can be a blessing
While we didn’t plan for a virtual showcase, the online sessions meant we were able to bring in best-in-class experts, as well as LSE guest founders from Silicon Valley to New York to Zurich. It immediately opened up a global ecosystem where we’d otherwise be limited to London.
- Be ready to adapt and innovate
Life can throw you a lot of curveballs. A global pandemic and lockdown is one of them. Not only did our accelerator program have to adapt to a completely-online way of working, but many of our companies did too! Some of our companies - like Crowdless and Project Happy Note - adapted their business model to respond to society’s changing needs during this pandemic. Others - like KAYTEA and Grounded - have pivoted to e-commerce to meet customers’ orders
- Connection is key
Even if we can only meet virtually, being able to connect with investors, entrepreneurs, mentors, and peers, is a big part of any accelerator experience. We’ve had to get creative with how we meet people online - whether it be two truths and a lie, speed networking, or virtual coffees - creating those connections will help our entrepreneurs build successful relationships to grow their businesses.
- Honesty can be refreshing
After seeing too many bog-standard pitches and demo days, we decided to focus on something different: honesty. Too many pitches and presentations only show you the surface-level successes of a company. By concentrating on telling an honest story about their business and how they’ve adjusted during this pandemic, our founders have demonstrated their resilience and capacity to adapt rapidly to change. They’re doing a fantastic job, despite the challenges being thrown at them!
- Connecting entrepreneurship and research
We are committed to helping our companies make the greatest impact, using the power of research. The accelerator’s partnership with LSE Public Research Partners is helping our ventures grow with scientific and analytical backing to boot! We’re delighted to play a role in LSE 2030’s priority to shape the next generation of digital, entrepreneurial leaders.
If you want to support our accelerator companies, take a look at their asks and requests and send them a message!
We look forward to the next three months of the accelerator programme, which will finish in September with a virtual Demo Day with Imperial College!
The 2020 LSE Generate Accelerator Cohort
1001 Stories: A luxury D2C footwear brand with a social purpose; we create beautiful statement shoes whilst lifting marginalized communities out of poverty and into business.
Alxedo: We are a sustainable water company, offering a smart water purification system.
Atlas: A community platform for solving challenges while building in-demand skills.
CauliBox: A digitally-enabled reusable lunchbox scheme that rewards good behaviours.
Crowdless: Provides live data on the crowdedness of supermarkets so that you can choose the best place and the best time to visit.
Gaïa: Gaïa is a sustainability startup that helps you to find zero-waste alternatives to toiletries and say goodbye to plastic in your bathroom.
G.APP17: A digital platform that facilitates strategic partnerships between businesses and non-profit organisations through the SDGs, so that together they can lead the change we need to see in society.
GenesisAI: Provide crowdsourced data for curable diseases.
Grounded Drinks: We make functional drinks without the cr*p.
KAYTEA: Bringing tea back to the limelight by making it fun and relevant for a new generation of consumers by becoming a value-added tea supplier to food service operators and a consumer packaged iced tea brand.
Ocafi: Coffee farming and green coffee sourcing company that stands for transparent, sustainable and fair trade relationships to make farming worthwhile. Bringing the best Brazilian coffees to the world.
Petal App: A mobile app that helps people to build a happy and healthy relationship with food.
Project Happy Note: A personalised gift series over a 3-month period with behavioural science to help your loved one create a positive ritual and to help people connect and reconnect during a difficult time.
ValidApp: Uses AI-powered data-driven applied forensic linguistics techniques to verify school applications and coursework with the aim of detecting fraudulent applications and ghost-writers.