Start-ups step on accelerator

Dotforge Accelerator launch at the Made festival, from left: Jonathan Burrows, Managing Director, Ask4, Lee Strafford, LEP Board Member, co-founder of Project Sheffield, Dom Lewis, Tray.io, James Newman, Sheffield City Region LEP Chairman and Jim Farmery, Creative England Director of Business Development.
Dotforge Accelerator launch at the Made festival, from left: Jonathan Burrows, Managing Director, Ask4, Lee Strafford, LEP Board Member, co-founder of Project Sheffield, Dom Lewis, Tray.io, James Newman, Sheffield City Region LEP Chairman and Jim Farmery, Creative England Director of Business Development.
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TEN digital start-ups will each receive £25,000 and help from up to 60 mentors over 13 intensive weeks in a new scheme to boost the City Region’s tech standing.

The Dotforge accelerator will give promising entrepreneurs the equivalent of a year’s experience and invaluable contacts.

The scheme, developed by Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, will give teams expert help before a final ‘demo day’ of pitching to outside investors.

It has attracted top name mentors including Lee Strafford, the Plusnet co-founder, and founder of Ask4 Jonathan Burrows.

Lee Strafford, an LEP board member, said: “This won’t be an easy ride, they are going to get battered - against the mentors and against each other. They won’t have any social time they’ll be so busy. But there is a much lower failure rate.”

Only one in seven unmentored start-ups survive. But half of those in accelerator programmes go forward to the next stage of funding.

Jonathan Burrows, managing director of Ask4, said he wanted to invest and mentor to relive the ‘joy of the early days’ and help others avoid his mistakes.

Jonathan, who set up 10 years ago when he was 18, said: “I didn’t know anything. I had confidence in the idea but no support from people who could help. This programme gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop quickly. I’m really excited.”

Dotforge will be based at the Electric Works in Sheffield. It is set to run twice next year. Creative England has committed £250,000 for half the costs. Investors and mentors are being sought.

LEP chairman James Newman said: “This programme will give digital leaders of tomorrow the mentoring, support and capital they need to get their ideas and technologies off the ground. The LEP recognises the potential of the creative and digital sector in creating sustainable employment and stimulating economic growth for the City Region.”