Aberdeen is full of it – energy. It’s palpable and it’s infectious. It’s a precious resource that pulsates between an ever-widening ecosystem of educators, professionals and enterprises that play their part to protect it because it’s precious. In the right hands it builds momentum, engenders creativity and allows the holder to face new horizons with an adventurous spirit, courage and a perspective of possibility.
In my new role as Accelerator Manager at Elevator, I am buoyed by the positivity I encounter every day from highly energised, high-growth business founders. Planning the 12-week programme that is designed to take pre-launch, early stage and established companies with scale-up concepts into the fast lane, I am struck by the impact of oil in our ecosystem.
Since the initiative was first launched over two years ago, more than 60 Founders have completed the programme, combining an intense education with entrepreneurial spirit, professional and specialist industry expertise. Most importantly, it connects Founders to the people who can help them. Developed around a principal of entrepreneurs supporting entrepreneurs within a wider framework of valued supporters, founders who join the programme with oil-related business concepts enjoy access to the best industry-specific expertise and support in the world.
Around 50% of the alumni are former oil industry employees and around a third of these took the ‘opportunity’ presented by redundancy to start their own enterprise. But, while some continue to operate in the field with nimble new innovations, (such as RAB-Microfluidics, Dry Ice Scotland, Deepwater Oil Tools, GM Flow and VISTEM Ltd, who between them have secured hundreds of thousands of pounds in seed funding and have seen four to five fold increases in turnover to comfortably exceed six figures in less than two years), others have found their calling in new industries with new partners and technologies.
The entrepreneurial energy of this city and region, that has traditionally been associated with oil, is undoubtedly spilling over to new markets, ideas and opportunities. Almost 80% of the companies that come through the Accelerator Programme represent entirely different industries. Founders who started 2016 facing risk and uncertainty in oil-related jobs have taken the plunge to explore new horizons in areas including travel and tourism, food and drink, manufacturing and online retail, alongside efficiency innovations in oil and gas to save companies in the industry money, time and to reduce risk, aligning with much of the strategic focus expressed through Opportunity North East (ONE). Our recent Founders Showcase attracted guests from every sector interested in partnering with, mentoring and investing in ‘the next big thing’. With each cohort, the ecosystem of supporters grows and diversifies. The cross-pollination of ideas and creativity that in some cases originated in oil, is creating a new energy that is radiating across this city and region.
For many of us, ‘life after oil’ was perhaps, temporarily daunting. But as we look toward 2017 for new beginnings and new resolutions, I firmly believe we have the talent, ambition and drive to strengthen our economy with new enterprise – some of which will be about oil and all of which will be about energy. I can’t wait to meet the Fifth Cohort of Accelerator Founders.
Applications are now open with a closing date of Friday, 13 January, 2017, at midnight. Go to www.elevatoruk.com
Jules Lancastle is the accelerator manager for Aberdeen.