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Doug Richard focuses on the creative sector in new programme to help entrepreneurs

8th August 2011

Doug Richard, the technology entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den panelist, has said the focus on fostering web start-ups in London “misses the point” and it would be more effective to encourage new businesses in sectors where the UK has “existing successes”. Instead, Doug is launching a programme that will see 100 creative sector start-ups in London given training, support and workspace for one year as part of his School for Startups social enterprise.

“We must remember that London is the home of one of the largest film centres in the world, some of the largest and most important fashion schools, design schools, stage schools and post-production centres, not to mention the growing number digital specialists that are spreading over the capital."

This is the first time Doug has focused his School for Startups entrepreneurs’ training programme on a particular sector and location.

“If you deal with politically unpalatable truths, the recovery will probably start in the capital,” he said.

“And the creative sector is one of our strongest sectors in the capital. Why don’t we focus on entrepreneurs there because they’re the most likely ones to prosper and create more economic value and no one is doing it?”

The competitive process will see entrepreneurs go through an online pitching process to secure a place on the year-long programme. Those who are successful will be expected to make a contribution of £500 to the running costs of around £3,000 per person.
He added that the course may be suitable for founders with creative flair who lack commercial skills.

“A lot of these people aren’t tuned to business. In fashion and design, there’s a tension between being a good artist or craft person and being a good business person. You frequently feel one is at the price of the other – that doesn’t have to be the case.”

The course will cover topics such as how to find investors, designing products and services, implementing marketing strategies, building management teams and scaling a business safely, Doug said. He’s also hoping to secure “100 bankers, 100 accountants, 100 lawyers and at least 100 [entrepreneurs] in each discipline” to act as mentors to the chosen start-ups.

He said he’d personally have to cover a funding gap until more sponsors are secured to complement the backing of the City of Westminster, which has underwritten a third of the cost of the programme. “We’re actively looking for other sponsors and partners,” he said. “We have a substantial funding gap which at the moment which I’ll pay for. I have no problem with that ... it’s often the way that in the first year you’ve got to make people aware of the work you do.”

Doug Richard is also planning on establishing School for Startups in various African countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, after he accompanied Prime Minister David Cameron on his curtailed trade mission to sub-Saharan Africa last week.

He hopes to partner with Neil Turok, the prominent physicist, to embed an entrepreneurship programme into the The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), the private sector backed education charity which is aiming to find “the next Einstein in Africa”. 

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