Your Country Needs You! And Alacrity can help you get there!
Wil Williams, CEO of Alacrity Foundation UK, introduces its graduate programme, aimed at creating Wales’ next generation of tech-based entrepreneurs.
Alacrity Foundation (UK) is a unique educational charity based in Newport, South Wales, and part of the world-wide Alacrity movement. Alacrity global aims to build start-ups. At the Alacrity Foundation (UK) we not only aim to build start-ups but hope to produce the next generation of technology-based entrepreneurs in Wales. Core to what we do in Newport is to attract the highest calibre graduates to join our intensive, mentor-driven programme.
Alacrity is also unique in terms of Be The Spark as it crosses the divide between academia and entrepreneur. The Foundation’s programme, which has been fully operational since 2013, is an applied learning experience located in live entrepreneurial practice.
During the programme we offer our graduate entrepreneurs practical business training, software skills through mentoring so that they can develop and hone their entrepreneurial knowledge, skills and capabilities. We draw our graduate entrepreneurs from a range of subject areas including: science; engineering; mathematics; technology; and, business. We recruit members of the programme on the basis of technical ability and personality. We expect our technical graduates to demonstrate proficiency as software developers. We appreciate that many of our graduates may apply to join the programme with a base level understanding of coding, if this is the case the Foundation runs a four to six week technical (coding) boot camp at the outset of the programme to bring our teams up to a standard where they can hit the ground running.
Technical ability or a background in business alone is not sufficient to earn a place on the programme. We seek graduates that can evidence resilience, a key element in the make-up of a successful entrepreneur. Resilience can manifest itself in many ways. Some of our entrepreneurs have previously been involved in start-ups, others have exhibited the sort of fortitude required of a successful entrepreneur in their educational attainment or personal life. All our graduates are required to have a hard work ethic. People without this trait are soon exposed on a programme that requires complete commitment from its participants.
During the programme, graduates are paid a tax-free stipend of £1,500 per month. We form graduate teams that work on projects that require technology-based solutions which address real issues for organisations. Thus, graduates develop their ability to work as members of effective teams and mature rapidly during the course of the programme. The demand-led approach adopted by the programme is supported by a world-class mentoring programming that utilises industry and subject experts. The mentors work with graduates to solve real problems. All aspects of the programme are focused on solving real business issues and building sustainable, scalable businesses in Wales. As well as the Foundation’s programme, successful teams can incorporate and can access up to £250,000 per company in seed funding. Companies have to be located in Wales and this requires our graduate entrepreneurs to be committed not only to their companies but also to the central mission of the Foundation – to produce the next generation of high tech entrepreneurs for Wales.
Since the incorporation of the first company from Alacrity in December 2014 the Foundation has provided seed funding for six (and another in the pipeline) companies, all of which are alive and really kicking!
Within the context of technology-based start-ups graduates learn fundamental innovation-driven entrepreneurship skills such as: identify customers; producing customer solutions; customer acquisition; monetising a product; designing and building a product; and, scaling your business.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and entrepreneurship in a technology-based environment has some unique pressures. The program is tough but the learning experience is exceptionally rewarding. The rewards can be monetary, but more importantly the individuals that have engaged with the programme undertake a unique and life-changing programme of engaged applied study. We require technical graduates who can produce product of the highest quality. We require graduates with the business acumen to deliver commercially viable products and build scalable businesses. We require individuals who can work as a team and are resilient.
Throughout the programme teams and individuals will be tested but this will happen within a supportive and constructive learning environment where error and failure is expected. Working as a team member is a necessity. This requires far higher levels of empathy, understanding and cooperation that many of the graduates will have had to engage in before. Success on the programme, as in business, is not guaranteed. Graduate entrepreneurs will have to be flexible as there is not an algorithm for success with set rules to follow. Their learning will be an iterative process where there are no guarantees of anything. If success is achieved graduates will soon learn that their gains are only temporary. A key aim of the programme is for the teams to produce “anti-fragile” organisations that get stronger when faced with problems, failures, uncertainty, and surprises. The Foundation’s programme requires graduates who can listen and evaluate advice and be accountable for their decisions and actions. This will require graduates leaving their comfort zones. The Foundation wants to attract enthusiasts, graduates who are evangelical about their team’s cause, product and company.
Increasingly, Alacrity Foundation (UK) teams and companies are utilising the unique network that the Alacrity movement affords. Each member of the global network has a slightly different structure but all have a common aim – to build successful start-ups.
To develop the next generation of high tech entrepreneurs in Wales we have to involve all stakeholders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Alacrity is already a spark and we hope we can engage with you in the movement.
Alacrity is recruiting now for the next entrepreneurial spark and if you have ideas, discipline and the passion to solve real-world issues then apply now! If you or anyone you know is interested in joining the programme, becoming a mentor or even suggesting a project that a programme’s team might work on, please visit our website.