A NatWest accelerator hub in London

NatWest to double reach of its accelerator network

NatWest has announced plans to support 5,000 entrepreneurs this year through its comprehensive accelerator programme.

NatWest has announced plans to support 5,000 entrepreneurs through its comprehensive programme of free mentoring, insight and bespoke coaching developed for entrepreneurs who want to grow and scale their business. 

The NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator is the UK’s largest free business accelerator network and is capable of supporting 1,000 entrepreneurs simultaneously in its 12 hubs macross the country.

To reach its target of supporting 5,000 entrepreneurs in 2018, NatWest has created two distinct growth and accelerate packages which focus on the key driver to success – the entrepreneur.

The Acceleration programme is a 6 to 18 month programme for entrepreneurs with high growth businesses looking to scale up. Designed to ensure that these businesses get the best chance to succeed, entrepreneurs will receive free office space, free wi-fi, free business advice and mentoring, bespoke coaching, and access to the bank’s networks and supply chains.

The Pre-Acceleration programme is an intensive, 12-week programme for up to 50 early stage start ups. Run simultaneously in each of our Hub cities, entrepreneurs benefit from an introductory immersion day, online learning materials, webinars, digital ‘nutshells’ and a concluding celebratory awards event. This programme is complemented by a variety of events, run by the bank’s Business Growth Enablers as well as the bank’s local partners.

The digital-led Pre-Acceleration programme is a transferable and scalable proposition, allowing NatWest to offer it in cities where there isn’t currently an Entrepreneur Accelerator hub.

All of this support is provided to entrepreneurs fully funded with no strings attached. NatWest doesn’t take equity or a stake in their businesses, and the entrepreneurs don’t need to be NatWest customers. NatWest has partnered with Dell EMC and Pinsent Masons who will also be offering entrepreneurs their expertise and advice.

The announcement coincides with the release of the latest NatWest Entrepreneurship Monitor which reveals only 17% of people think now is a good time to start a business. The report also shows that the proportion of people wanting to start their own business has dropped from 39% to 14% over the past three years. While Brexit has contributed significantly to this drop, many people also mention fear of failure (30%); the current economic climate being too difficult (24%); and the belief that they lack the right skills to set up their own business (20%), as barriers to starting their own business.

Earlier this month, NatWest announced that it had come to an agreement with Entrepreneurial Spark to transfer its network of 12 entrepreneur accelerator hubs to be 100% managed by the bank. Today’s announcement outlines the bank’s commitment to build upon the partnership’s success over the past three years which, according to the programme’s latest Impact Report, supported nearly 4,000 entrepreneurs. In turn, these entrepreneurs have raised £255m in cumulative investment and created over 8,000 jobs. The businesses supported in these hubs have a remarkable one-year survival rate of 87%, well above the national average of 50%.

Alison Rose, CEO of commercial and private banking at NatWest, said: “As the UK’s biggest supporter of small business, we understand that helping businesses succeed, not just through traditional lending but with full wraparound care, connectivity and know-how, is crucial if we want a strong economy. 

“The comprehensive programme of mentoring, insight and bespoke coaching that we have developed over the past three years has revolutionised the way we support entrepreneurs, and is really working. By building on this success and bringing the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator network in-house, we can dramatically increase the number of entrepreneurs we’re able to support. 

“We also want our staff to develop entrepreneurial mindsets to help them think differently and to problem solve in the same way business owners have to do on a daily basis. We have set ambitious targets for the bank’s unique Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs-accredited Entrepreneurial Development Academy. To date, more than 6,000 people have volunteered and by the end of the year we anticipate over 8,500 employees will have joined the course, with a quarter of them achieving external accreditations.”

NatWest is also also launching four specialist FinTech accelerators based in its Bristol, Edinburgh, London and Manchester hubs. Underpinned by NatWest’s core Accelerator offering, up to 80 FinTech businesses will benefit from Dell EMC’s expertise through regular technology reviews and sales strategy analysis. Entrepreneurs will also be assigned a technology team mentor, have the opportunity to pitch to the bank’s Innovation Scouting Team and be introduced to key contacts at the Department of Industry and Trade.