7 November 2019
Starting an accelerator: Frank thoughts.
How many lawyers does it take to run a startup accelerator?
When Jasmine Koh and James Bull – who head up Frank, Hall & Wilcox's dedicated startup practice – decided that the firm should run its own accelerator program they had little idea what they were in for. Fast forward 12 months and they reflect on the experience.
JB: We had both worked with startup and entrepreneurial business for a long time and decided that we really wanted to make an impact in the space and give something back. There are so many talented and driven founders out there and many of them could really use some support, legal guidance, help with strategy, and encouragement to get through those tough first few years.
Supported by partners Jacqui Barrett and James Morvell, Jasmine and James set about devising a program to support founders with practical, responsive business solutions. The end result was the first Frank Lab program, which ran for 12 months for 12 startups (for profit and for impact). The 12 startups were selected from a broad range of industries, and the inaugural cohort included everything from a cutting-edge new contraceptive to sugar-free ice cream to reusable rocket engines.
JK: While the program is legally focused, it is about much more than just the legals. It's about sitting down with founders to properly understand their business and their objectives, and prioritising their business and legal needs.
JB: In addition to legal advice, we deliver expertise and resources relating to strategy, innovation and technology, business development, marketing and communications… and at times, when founders feel like it's all getting a bit too much, we are there to reassure them.
JK: I was keen to figure out a way to combine my passion for startups and the law. I love the energy in startups. Getting the opportunity to run Frank Lab with James let us create an environment where startups and law firms can learn from each other by working side by side.
JB: It has been so rewarding watching the startups in our cohort grow. Over the 12 months we've seen them successfully raise funds, validate their minimum viable product (MVP) and sign major supply contracts. On the flip side, we are very aware that the journey of a founder can be a challenging one, and understand the need to support founders and ensure they are looking after their mental and physical wellbeing.
JB and JK: We are often asked what advice we would give to startups thinking of putting their hat in the ring for an accelerator program. So here's our best tip: If you're worried that you're not 'killing it' enough to apply, don’t worry, we love working with authentic founders to put the building blocks in place for a sustainable business.
It has been an eventful first year for the two Frank Lab founders – attempting to navigate the always-on world of social media while still doing their day jobs, frequently forgetting to bring business cards to startup events (are they still even relevant?), and all the while telling you why you should never give away equity in your startup like it's candy on Halloween.