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Duffy enters incubator debate

Entrepreneurial Spark founder says ‘things need to change’

Jim Duffy, who founded the Entrepreneurial Spark network of incubators, has today said “things need to change”.

Defending its record of helping sustain hundreds of businesses across the UK, he concedes in a newspaper column that despite the range of help available for start-ups there is a need for “more disruption to make it more relevant and effective”.

Mr Duffy, who is stepping down from the incubator, made his comments after questions were raised over E-Spark’s claims to be helping companies to “scale up”. Analysis of its newly-released Impact report shows it creates just 1.8 jobs per company – or less than one full-time employee if the company owners are included in the figures.

Mr Duffy, writing in The Scotsman, says: “It’s time for Scotland to be congratulated on how it supports its new start and early stage businesses – with the caveat that things need to change.”

He says: “Scotland has a whole group of people that are employed and committed to supporting, incubating, accelerating and growing constant crops of new business builders.

“Is it all working well just now? No, it is not. Are some agencies and organisations defending territory that means they get public money in the door each year? Yes, they are. Should we be encouraging more privately funded initiatives like that of RBS’s powering of Entrepreneurial Spark? Yes, we should.

“However, all this aside, Scotland has a pretty comprehensive offering. Yet, somewhere in my gut, I get the feeling that it really needs more disruption to make it more relevant and effective.”

Critics this week said Entrepreneurial Spark was supporting too many “lifestyle” businesses and that it could not justify its “Blow your mind” claims to be scaling up businesses.


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