The accidental incubator

In one corner of Red Gate, next to the giant mural of the coloured pencils and about 20 feet from where I sit, you’ll find a curious bunch of people:

Start ups_0002

Curious? Why curious?

Martin and Conrad are working on a start-up called (Martin’s also starting his PhD in the Cambridge University computer labs in a few weeks’ time – topic of ‘analysing the social web’). Peter, Lee and Jamie are working on They want to change the way you get your daily news. Jamie is also working on his own start-up (Binary Cake), and is running the Cambridge Geek Day later on this year. Sam, Rahul and Stew were working on Unfortunately that didn’t work out so now they’re figuring out what to do next. Mat and Amir are working on Mat is past the start-up stage: he’s also the founder of (soon to become the youtube of radio) and wakari, and his Facebook apps (including the ones for Rambo and Quantum of Solace) have been used by tens of millions of people.

Martin, Conrad, Peter, Lee, Jamie, Sam, Rahul, Stew and Mat might work at Red Gate, but they don’t work for Red Gate. We’ve accidentally built ourselves a start-up incubator, and it’s going pretty well. The Accidentals (as we’re calling them) get free food (from our awesome canteen, the SQL Servery), a free desk and the chance to mix with other start-ups and people here. We get the benefit of having even more smart, energetic people we can beat at foosball. It’s a great people cocktail: take smart people from us and them, add free food, internet access, and shake.

The next step is to take what we’ve learned so far, mix in some brazenly stolen ideas, and formalise our accidental incubator into something we’re calling Springboard.

Here’s how it’s going to work. If you’re a UK or European start-up and want to spend three months in Cambridge, UK turning your idea into a product then go to If your application is successful, we’ll provide:

  • A three-month program with weekly talks over pizza and beer with the likes of Joel Spolsky, Ryan Carson and Dharmesh Shah. We’ll also hold half-day seminars with world experts on topics such as usability, software sales and product management.
  • A free place to live (if you want it) as well as some cash to keep you going.
  • A place to work, full of smart people, free food and fast Internet access
  • Advice

In return, here’s what you have to do:

  • Be good

That’s it. No strings, no legal work, no giving us stock. No seat on the board, no paperwork. None.

Here are some questions you might have:

Why are you doing this? What’s in it for you?

We think that getting to know smart people doing interesting things will, in the long term, be good for Red Gate. In the future, we might end up licensing your technology, investing in your company or maybe even buying it. Or maybe we won’t. Ultimately, all deals come down to relationships. So we want to build them.

Plus, it just feels like a good thing to do. We don’t know what they’ll be, but we think interesting things will happen

Why won’t you take a stake in my start-up?

Frankly, we don’t need the hassle. Introduce lawyers and things get complicated. People get hung up on valuations, deal structures. The paperwork increases. We have to think about incorporating companies, or restructuring them. We don’t need that. If Red Gate succeeds it’s not going to be because we take 10% stakes in start-ups. It might, however, be because we manage to build long-term, meaningful relationships with people creating the products of the future.

What’s the ideal start-up profile for you?

Ideally, two or three people working on business-to-business software. We’ll give priority to start-ups working in markets adjacent to Red Gate’s since that’s where we can be the most useful Take a look at the Red Gate website if you want to find out more about what we do.

We’re looking for people who can ask us great questions and who are interested in learning. People with something to contribute.

Where can I find out more?

Visit to find out more about the program and to send in your application. The deadline for applications is 1pm on Friday 28th August so it’s not for away.

You can also stay up to date with Springboard updates by following @springboardnews on Twitter. I’ll be posting updates too (I’m @neildavidson), as will @amirmc (he’s doing all the hard work – thank you Amir).

12 responses to “The accidental incubator”

  1. Dan says:

    It all sounded awesome until you mentioned Ryan Carson. Instant credibility killer.

  2. Andy Brice says:

    Sounds like a coll idea. I hope it works out all round.

  3. Stephen Mattison says:

    Wow this is an amazing opportunity! I’m currently pursuing the YCombinator route, but this sounds like an incredible opportunity for European start-ups.
    I hope to see more projects like this in the future. Hopefully some will come to the US 🙂

  4. Paul Harris says:

    Hello to everyone who is considering starting a start-up!
    As much as i would like to make my own startup i currently have few ideas that could be made commercially available (mainly due to my lack of language knowledge around web apps!). What i am good at and what i do for a job currently is testing specifically automated and load testing! (Although i have previously been involved in all of test analysis!)
    If anyone has need of my skills I would be more than willing to chuck my skills into the hat so please contact me at pharrisuk121 at hotmail . com !!! (im sure bots can pick that up anyway!)

  5. it is all about figuring out: what to do and how to do it ?
    but if i say that it is already figured out — my mind was constantly working day and night during the last 15 years, and now I have it clean and ready – the ultimate idea of what should be done and how !! So now what ? I guess nothing much happens, due to the intrinsic and ever-present inertia of life, of course, even that I say so here.
    In any case I tried, I cried. Just like with finding another civilized Earth in space — all one has to do is to shout out very very loud, and they will come, some day, we will see 🙂

  6. Paul, you are correct in your assumption that bots can still pick your email out!

  7. Massimiliano Bariola says:

    Congratulazions Red Gate, I think it will be a winning experiment. I wish my idea could be fully developed in three months – I’d take a sabbatical from Italy and get there on the double.
    Maybe I will send the idea to you just to know iff you might be interested 🙂 do you dig web-mobile convergence towards e-governance? 🙂

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