How We Work With Startups

Mark Lazar

18 April 2018

Mark Lazar, PUBLIC’s Head of Platform, surveys the growing accelerator landscape, explaining the role GovStart plays in opening up the public sector to startups.

There are more organisations than ever helping startups grow.

In the last 5 years, there has been an explosion of ‘accelerators’, ‘incubators’, ‘startup labs’, ‘growth programmes’ and ‘maker spaces’. Both Techstars and Y-Combinator forged this path by accelerating over 1000 companies each. This success has spawned a huge number of programmes across the world. By last count, there are 179 in the UK alone. The market is saturated – and companies are increasingly playing with the traditional models in order to provide different support to startups.

Entrepreneur First, for example, puts an emphasis on bringing great founders together to form companies. SwiftScale introduces startups to C-level executives at corporates. 500 Startups’ Distro programme focuses on a single topic: ‘growth marketing’. Founders Factory builds companies in house and spins them out.

The public sector, however, has remained reasonably untouched. Despite it being the world’s biggest, most lucrative and most socially important market, startups have barely scratched the surface of public sector opportunities.

The reason? Working with the public sector is very hard. Startups need to have a deep understanding of procurement and the public sector sales process. They need extremely strong networks – both at the decision-making level, and the execution level. They need a product that is applicable, able to integrate with legacy systems, and robust enough to comply with public sector data privacy, security and procurement regulations. They need help to identify public sector problems, opportunities and to build a viable route to market strategy. They need help executing that strategy through writing tender bids, pilot proposals and beyond. They need amplification across the public sector. They need help raising money to support these ambitions.

This is why the team at PUBLIC have built GovStart: a programme to provide all those things – to help great startups transform the public sector.

At PUBLIC, we believe that companies of all stages can be thinking about the public sector. We believe that pre-seed companies can build a public sector strategy into their first build, and that more mature companies should bid for public tenders. This is why GovStart is a stage agnostic programme. We support companies wherever they are in their lifecycle.

How did GovStart come about? Read Daniel Korski’s blog here.

Of course, pre-seed companies need very different support compared to companies at Series C. So, we commit to build a bespoke programme for every company we work with depending on their stage, public vertical, and priorities. We want to set joint goals, and support our companies to effectively meet them – not provide unnecessary ‘help’. As a result of this model, our previous GovStart cohort have succeeded in different ways.

Last year, Flynotes entered the programme as a single founder company, with an idea and some wireframes. Through GovStart, Flynotes developed its MVP, raised £550k in seed capital and developed partnerships with a number of major UK medical and dental providers.

 Adzuna, conversely, started working with PUBLIC with operations in several countries and millions of pounds in the bank. Thanks to GovStart, Adzuna was successfully awarded a  £2.5m p.a. contract with the Department for Works and Pensions to power Universal Jobmatch: the Government’s job board.

The public sector is vast. We have worked with companies that could be labelled as: FinTech, Cyber Security, HealthTech, HRTech, CivTech and beyond. We think of them as GovTech. This sector is just starting to open up to startups and there are so many opportunities for new technologies to make a huge impact on society.

Applications for the next round of GovStart shut on April 30th. If you are interested and would like to discuss how your company might work in the public sector, please get in touch.

Join us at The GovTechSummit in Paris on 12 November 2018 to bring entrepreneurs to the public sector!

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