Lisa Matthews, Business Incubation Manager: The new SETsquared ‘virtual reality’ bringing opportunities for tech ventures

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Lisa Matthews

It was 5:05pm on a Tuesday evening, in the SETsquared office at Engine Shed. Steve Edwards (Centre Director) turned to me and said “well I guess tomorrow’s a good a day as any”. The full realisation of what had just happened started to dawn on me. We’d spent the day in Covid-management planning meeting (just like COBRA, but fewer biscuits), and had made the decision to migrate all our business incubation services to online delivery. What had Steve just laid down? My deadline. 

22 hours, and a herculean team effort later (involving typing the words ‘please check your browser compatibility’ more times than I will ever care to mention), and we were there. In our first four days we delivered 43 hours of business support by video. By the end of the month we hit 215. And we’re still going. It’s not perfect, deprecated versions of Safari still haunt my dreams and probably always will. But for the most part, we’re winning. 

Social distancing forced us to deliver incubation in a new way. But what’s also critical at this time is moving at the pace that our companies need us to move at. Responding, innovating and adapting what we do, to reflect changes in their circumstances, not just in ours 

So, as well as maintaining our usual services of Entreprenuer in Residence coaching, professional advisory residencies, workshops and forums, we’ve also been adding and extending our programme to match the new circumstances our members find themselves in. We have a new weekly forum for sharing news and insight around Covid-specific challenges, government response and business support, and to hear from companies about their current needs. And we are bringing new workshops online, such as Crisis Management, to give our founders really practical tools to manage their businesses through the pandemic. 

Our purpose at SETsquared is to support founders to grow companies. People and network are key to what we do, and now, more than ever, connecting people with each other, with advice and with resources, is critical. The pandemic has challenged us to do this in new ways, and we’re starting to look to the future and to the opportunities for a new normal that this might create. Our sights are set now on our flagship annual event, Tech-Xpo, where our companies and community exhibit, pitch and network. This year technology will give our companies and partners a bigger audience reach than ever before 

And we’re also looking to some of these new delivery models to become permanent features of how we do what we do. If it’s better for our companies, for our community and for the planet, it’s a win-win. 

As we move to a new Covid normal beyond lockdown, we see a huge opportunity to provide bigger, better support to more ventures and our own experience of transition has shown us there are still plenty of opportunities for new tech ideas to meet the needs of a changed world. 

We’re here to help accelerate technology ventures in the new virtual-reality. Get in touch! 

Don’t take our word for it…

SETsquared Bristol’s weekly video forums have been super useful in keeping us connected to the wider Bristol tech community. It’s been hugely encouraging and supportive to hear what other startups are doing to overcome the challenges we’re all facing just now. I’d definitely recommend being a member of SETsquared to any tech startups, especially during a crisis!” Caroline Clark, COO of KETS

“Thank you to the whole team for the great work that you are doing to support us, your members. You’ve done a fantastic job of rapidly going digital to continue to deliver the services on which we depend.” Dave Balderstone, CTO of Barbal


Find out out more about SETsquared services here. Ready to grow your business? Apply online.


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