As applications open for our new Ideation and Validation programme that will run for 2 months from our centre in Peterborough, we speak to Emma Mee, Programme Manager, about the programme, who it can help and how it can identify if a business idea can be turned into reality.
Can you summarise what the programme is and who it is for?
The programme is for anyone who wants to explore a business idea.
You may be working in a full-time position in an industry about which you have an innovative idea, or maybe – like lots of people through lockdown, you’ve had some time to review your career options and want to take a completely different route forward. Sometimes your idea might come from deep personal experience but other times you might have come up with a clever solution to a problem you believe exists for others.
It is a chance to use us at Allia as a sounding board; to get professional opinions and expert advice on whether you have a real business opportunity and whether it’s an idea you really can develop.
Can you explain what an early stage venture is?
At Allia, we support ventures throughout all growth stages. From early conception through to raising series A investment rounds. However, the Ideation and Validation programme doesn’t require your business idea to be fully fledged. It can simply be at an idea stage, something you have been tinkering with, and want to work on further.
So, the important thing to note about this programme is that, unlike many business support programmes, your business idea or venture doesn’t need to be incorporated yet. Through working with you, we hope to help you find out if your idea can be developed further and hopefully meet that important milestone.
What kind of product or service are you hoping to see in applications?
Allia has supported impact ventures for over 20 years. We’re interested in business ideas that leave a better planet for future generations – that regenerate communities and the natural environment, that help with local issues or matters on a global scale.
We often align these to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and previous business ideas have included solutions in Agri-tech, clean energy, social housing, eradicating poverty, clean water and social innovation. There are so many ways – big and small – that ideas can turn into an exciting business that can go on to really make a difference – that’s what drives us.
How does Allia help these businesses succeed?
Many of the ventures we’ve worked with have had a positive impact over the years and have gone on to disrupt the sectors they work in. But it’s important to note that it’s not always the first idea someone has that goes on to succeed.
We believe that supporting founders and helping develop their skill sets rather than focusing on their initial solution or product is the best approach. Through investing in people, we feel Allia can have the greatest impact – so that they learn to develop a commercially focused and scalable venture that will be robust enough to take to market.
What happens after the 2 months comes to an end?
Through the 2 months of this programme, we want founders to find the best path forward. For those ventures that show real promise, Ideation & Validation can dovetail into our other support programmes, such as Grow Your Business which is for local businesses to gain more customers, or our Impact Accelerator which is ideal for more ambitious impact ideas.
However, everyone will leave with something valuable. Even if it is learning that your initial idea may not work, you should develop a good understanding of why that is, and how to apply that learning to the next thing you do.
Finally, what top tip would you share with someone starting a business?
It’s always going to be connecting with your market. Speaking to customers, understanding their needs and their issues, pain points and/or requirements. And continuing to keep that dialogue going all the way through your business development process.
Additionally, it pays to start small. You can build on something gradually as you develop your own knowledge, so it is always better to focus on doing one thing well and to build traction from the early days, than to race forward with too many ideas that aren’t properly researched and thought through. But these are all things that we will explore with the cohort – we can’t wait to start!
More details on the programme and to apply click here – The deadline for applications is 31st March