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Nova seeking ambitious founders for its co-foundery programme

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by Startacus Admin

Nova startup team

The lowdown on the Liverpool-based Nova programme that is on the hunt for ambitious, early-stage founders and teams from throughout the UK to join its next cohort...


Nova Team member presentingAiming to change the way that startups are founded, funded and scaled, the Liverpool-based Nova programme combines the best parts of accelerator and incubator programmes and then adds its own unique elements. 

If you’re an ambitious founder or a team at a pre-seed stage, this could be the programme for you. You might be a solo founder with the bare bones of an idea, or a small team with an MVP or perhaps even an established startup that hasn’t yet had any significant funding or customer traction. What matters is that you have a problem that you are trying to solve and that you are passionate about doing just that. The Nova programme is tried, tested and proven and can help you turn that idea into a successful and sustainable startup.

As Olivia Greenberg, Chief Growth Officer explains: “Nova is so much more than an accelerator or incubator. We are venture builders. We partner with passionate and knowledgeable entrepreneurs to turn interesting problems into successful, scalable tech startups. We build, we market, we advise, we invest. We have a talented team of experts from designers, to successful entrepreneurs and everything in between.”

This “co-foundery” programme works with startups from an early stage, helping them to fully refine and develop their ideas. Each startup gets support and guidance from an experienced team for the first 12 months, enabling them to build, launch and progress their startup.

Nova Startup Founder 1There is no financial investment required from any of the startups and the programme welcomes startups from across the UK as it can be completed remotely. Startups simply have to commit to 2 days a week part-time (worked around applicants’ existing commitments) during the first 12 months. In addition, it’s an evergreen programme so applications are always open, meaning you can join at any time!

The programme itself has four key elements:

Mentor - During the mentoring stage, founders work alongside Nova’s startup consultants to prove that they have identified a real and viable problem. They will also seek out potential users or customers who will help test out and provide feedback on the future product or service. The consultants will also help with the development of a business plan that can be used to pitch to investors.

Explore - In this stage, it’s all about developing a viable solution to the problem. Founders are partnered with a co-founding team and work directly with them to develop a prototype and in gathering and collating feedback from potential users. Time is also spent in refining the business model with the aim of course being to help turn this idea into a sustainable and ultimately scalable business. 

Validate - In the validation stage, the Nova development team works with founders to further evolve and refine the prototype and create a commercially viable product, whilst continuing to gather and of course use valuable customer feedback. 

Grow and Scale - Once the proven prototype and business model has been created, it’s then all about continual improvement and growing and scaling the business! 

Nova Startup Team strategy sessionIf you’re thinking of applying, Luke Thomas, lead startup consultant has given us some great advice on some of the key areas that the Nova team looks for when they’re evaluating startups for the programme, namely the problem, the viability of the business model and the feasibility of the startup, its uniqueness, the founder / market fit and the stage the startup is at. Luke explains:

“Is the problem real and do enough people feel this problem? We try to understand how desirable the startup is from a customer perspective - is the problem so painful that the customers are crying out for a solution or is the problem more acute? We also consider if this business model and market is realistic?

The investment made needs to generate a return, if the startup cannot achieve and exceed that level of growth and revenue then it makes the opportunity less compelling to the investment team. We also want to assess whether the potential solution for the problem is realistic and we want to understand how quickly & easily our software/hardware engineering teams can articulate a tech solution to solve the problem”.

In addition, Luke explains how the team also looks at the startup’s uniqueness, the founder / market fit and the stage it is at: “We ask is this startup truly unique? For Nova, the challenge is to find a problem worth solving that you can offer a solution that is unique in terms of the value proposition - not ‘features’ - as this is critical for you to stand out in the market and gain traction faster without worrying about direct competition from the off-set.

What is your background or association with the problem & market? For example, If you are a Surgeon or a Vet looking to build a startup to solve a problem in animal or human healthcare, then great, to us it demonstrates you have good knowledge in the market you are wanting to enter - we call this domain expertise and it is extremely valuable to a startup Founder. However, if you can gain access to it through building an advisory panel of experts this also works well for us, so don’t be discouraged if you are not the world’s number 1 expert. 

We also consider what stage of the startup lifecycle you as a Founder are at. Nova is best supporting really early stage startups, often at Idea Stage. We are really keen to understand what progress you have made to date & where you are up to in terms of traction, product & customers. There are no ‘correct’ answers as we are trying to understand how best to help you with your application & your startup”.

Some great advice there for any prospective applicants!

Nova Startup Founder.For those startups who do join the programme, the benefits are clear, as Paul Dodd, Nova’s Head of Marketing explains:

“Working with early stage founders, the biggest risk for them is that they can very easily waste lots of time, and money, building something that nobody wants. This is the biggest reason for startup failure, and our programme eliminates that.

We ensure that from the outset founders are validating their ideas and the products they're building in a 'lean' fashion. We provide a framework for them to follow, with regular check ins, to keep them accountable and ensure that they have market validation and a number of people who want their product before we start to build.

Importantly we also don't ask for any investment from founders, so if you're successful in progressing through our programme we can take you from an idea, to a live product with market adoption and the ability to scale. All fully supported, meaning you can do this part time so that you can maintain an income, and without having to self-fund or find team members.

It's in those early stages of a startup's life when so many founders are put off, or make bad decisions, that cause them to fail. Our programme significantly reduces the risks involved for founders in those early stages, and this is where I believe we add most value”.

The Nova programme has co-founded many leading tech startups in a diverse range of sectors including EdTech startups Picturepath and Welbee, FinTech startups PaidYou and Kalgera and Digital Health startups such as Clik.Audio, Hy-genie and Bitbaby

aquarate-9Compressed-compressorAmongst its alumni also is Aquarate, a digital health startup that is on a mission to reduce hydration related illness.The company designs and develops innovative healthcare solutions to support individuals with fluid monitoring both in home and healthcare settings.

Rebecca Taylor, founder and CEO of Aquarate, describes the huge impact that being on the Nova programme had for her and her startup: "Working with Nova allowed the business to have a complete team around it including development, marketing and finance which otherwise I wouldn't have had. Participating in the programme also meant that we were able to secure follow-on rounds of funding which has helped us continue to grow and develop the business.” 

As we mentioned previously, Nova are keen to work with ambitious, early-stage founders and teams from throughout the UK. So if you’ve got an innovative idea that you believe could be turned into a successful and sustainable business, then it’s time to apply. Best of luck to all who do!







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Published on: 15th October 2020

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