Pre-seed programme Ignite unveils nationwide expansion plans

Leading independent pre-seed programme Ignite has unveiled ambitious plans to expand across the UK.

The North East-based programme, which supports teams of first-time entrepreneurs building innovative web and mobile-based businesses, is raising £1.8m to operate six programmes in Newcastle, London and Manchester through until July 2017.

Each programme will invest in 10 early-stage businesses and provide three months of intensive coaching, networking and workshops.

Entrepreneurs will be supported by some of the biggest names in technology, including Softlayer, Sendgrid, Twilio and Sage. Teams can also take advantage of exclusive deals with programme partners such as Google and Amazon.

As well as operating programmes in London, Manchester and at their Campus North venue in Newcastle, Ignite will also employ its first full-time staff in the capital, to support startups outside the programme. The new accelerator programmes will launch in Newcastle in September 2015, London in January 2016 and Manchester in April 2016.

A third of the new investment round has already been raised from existing investors, including: Friends Reunited founder Steve Pankhurst; prolific angel investor Doug Scott; former Barclays Wealth MD Simon Bichara; Manchester-based entrepreneur Laurence Marlor; and Newcastle-based Northstar Ventures, which manages funds on behalf of the Finance for Business North East programme, a super-fund managed by North East Finance.

Paul Smith, CEO of Ignite said: “As well as supporting Newcastle’s nationally renowned tech hub, Ignite has been working with startups in both London and Manchester for several years.

“Unfortunately, there’s a still lack in quality coaching and support for early-stage tech teams in both cities. In London, there hasn’t been a quality programme for pre-seed teams since Springboard merged with Techstars, which rarely considers first-time entrepreneurs – that’s a key motivation for our expansion to the capital.

“Ignite is one of the few programmes in the UK with a demonstrable track record in leading businesses to success and creating value for investors. For example, our 2013 cohort now has a collective valuation of over £35 million, an 8x increase in value for our angel investors in just 18 months.”

Steve Pankhurst, founder of Friends Reunited and angel investor in Ignite, added: “I invested in Ignite a year ago and it’s not just opened my eyes to a new way of angel investing, but it’s been fun. The startups are solid teams that you get to know well through mentoring over the course of the year, meaning you can make an informed decision on whether to invest more.

“Ignite’s team is a breath of fresh air in a tech scene that is often full of hot air.”

Investors can choose which of the three programmes to invest in; they receive equity in every team that joins a programme, as well the option to participate in team selection and mentoring, plus preferential investment rights when a team raises further capital.