Working on your Catalyst Centre application? Check out our five top tips!  

Working on your application for the Catalyst Centre? Need some last minute guidance? Look no further than our five top tips from the judges themselves! All our judges have a wealth of experience, having started up in business themselves or by helping fledgling businesses succeed in the commercial world. They have a great deal of wisdom to share so we asked them for one key piece of advice that they would offer budding entrepreneurs. So listen and take note from the experts!

Peter Birkett, CEO of Southampton Science Park and Catalyst Centre founder’s key piece of advice is:

“Engage with your market early. That way, you begin to know very early on whether there’s a real demand for your product or service. It’s also key not to try and be too many things to too many people. Whilst it’s great to have a business idea that could be applicable in a number of different markets; you’ve got to pick one and go with it, and accept that other aspects of it, other opportunities, are going to have to wait until you’ve got that one to market. The biggest mistake that a lot of people with really exciting technologies that are broadly applicable in a number of markets make, is that they will try and pursue all of them, and fail on all of them.”

Phil Sharpe, Catalyst Centre mentor’s top tip for start-up founders is:

“Don’t start unless you’re prepared to let go of the concept. If you think you can do it all yourself, you will ultimately fail. But giving up some control over your ideas, and your baby effectively, is hard for an awful lot of people. Building new businesses depends a lot on building relationships. All relationships mean giving up a certain amount of your personality, and I think entrepreneurs are those who can actually turn that to advantage somehow, without offending people too much.”

David Bream, Director of SETsquared Southampton tells us exactly what he’s looking for in a Catalyst Centre applicant:

“It’s absolutely key to the development of a first-rate high tech business to have an understanding of the commercial landscape, as well as the technological excellence that drives innovative ideas. Most entrepreneurial people are either business minded, or technically focused but I’m lucky enough to come from a background where equal importance was attached to both.”

Sandra Sassow, CEO of SEaB Energy’s top piece of advice is

“Be your brand, right from the start. We started off with just a concept, an idea, but by the time we went to our first trade show we had our branding sorted. We had a brochure and a website, and we gave the impression from the outset that we were ready to take orders right there. We feel that being market-led, rather than design-driven is essential for technology entrepreneurs. Think customer first and then design the product to meet the needs of your target market.”

Charles Burt, Managing Director of Olive Consultancy’s recommendation for all start-ups is

“‘Invent it and they will come’ is rarely a winner. A successful idea is one that has a market just at the time that you are ready to fill it. Any gap is measured in cash flow. Success depends on many external influences; understanding and managing them is a crucial skill. If you haven’t got it or can’t afford the time, work with those who have and can. It pays dividends to recognise that your weaknesses are just as important as your strengths.”

A huge thank you to all of our judges for their advice for this week’s blog. Make sure you keep it in mind whilst you’re filling in your applications, as well as reading the guidance notes