(l-r) Ray O'Donoghue and Camran Khan
Twice as many entrepreneurs as expected are set to grow their businesses at Barclays’ Eagle Lab in Birmingham, which has just celebrated its first year of operating.
The Eagle Lab, based in the iCentrum building on the Innovation Birmingham campus, Aston, offers free space and resources for carefully selected high-growth entrepreneurs.
Barclays had expected to recruit around a dozen start-up businesses in the first year but has already hosted 21 businesses, with another four about to start.
Ray O'Donoghue, managing director of Barclays in the Midlands, said: “The Eagle Lab has gone really well. The prime objective was being in the right place with other entrepreneurs, and with so many similar businesses based at iCentrum they’re all learning off each other.
“There’s a whole programme of different events covering things like mentoring, funding, legal and employment – all aspects of what you’d need if you are starting up.
“We’ve hosted 21 businesses already. Twelve are currently in the lab, nine have moved on to the next stage of their development, and another four are about to join us.
“There’s a constant flow and a waiting list, and all the businesses have done well. We’re really pleased with their progress.”
Mr O’Donoghue said Barclays had assisted a complete mix of diverse entrepreneurs so far, but that they were all “offering digital solutions that could positively disrupt marketplaces”.
One of the Eagle Lab businesses is brightLET, which has developed a clever app that enables landlords with multiple properties to manage rents, contracts and maintenance at the touch of a button, rather than employing agents.
Camran Khan, co-founder and chief executive at brightLET, said his company was aiming at revenues of up to £1.5m a year by 2019.
He said: “We wanted to be a part of the Eagle Lab because Barclays was involved, and we knew the bank was taking digital to a next level. We also wanted to be around like-minded people.
“The support and technical facilities have been great. Whenever we’ve required certain information someone’s either been available to give it themselves or has routed us to experts elsewhere.
“Just being around other technical guys has been brilliant, with loads of networking and regular technical events. This has led to useful discussions and feedback which we’ve then been able to implement.”
Mr O’Donoghue said that entrepeneurs typically had placements of around six months at the Eagle Lab, where the bank had become really involved in helping their development.
One example was that Barclays’ graduates examine entrepreneurs’ business plans, offering critiques and advice on the best future markets and opportunities.
He said: “All of this feeds into our access to employment programme. The entrepreneurs of today are going to be tomorrow’s employers. Barclays recognises the importance of high-growth businesses to the UK, and we want to be part of that.
“It’s a fun place to be, and the environment is buzzing. But this is a long-term project and it’s important to keep it going. We put strong relationship structures in place with these businesses to try to ensure they are successful.”
Mr O'Donoghue added that Barclays was hoping to launch another Eagle Lab in the East Midlands, as well as rolling them out elsewhere across the UK.