Ignite Bermuda sparks entrepreneurial spirit
Enthusiasm, innovation and passion for entrepreneurship were evident as the third cohort on the Ignite Bermuda business accelerator programme laid out their stall in a fascinating pitch contest.
Participants had the opportunity to present their enterprise idea to a panel of judges, and their fellow Ignite colleagues — but they had to do so in a rapid-fire 60 seconds.
The challenge was met, and what emerged was a rich tapestry of ideas, some already up and running, others still in an embryonic phase, but all firing the imagination and receiving supportive cheers.
After the success of the Ignite programme's first two cohorts, there were plenty of applicants eager to follow in their footsteps on the business springboard.
In the pitch competition at the start of the third cohort programme, the ideas ranged from an app that allowed mobile payments for goods and services using your phone, to instant scooter-hire, recipe boxes of fresh produce for home cooking, and video conference coaching to teach others how to improve their abilities in front of a camera.
For the first time a few non-profit organisations, described as social enterprises, were part of the programme as they sought to increase their potential and, as with the others taking part, learn from each other and from the Ignite mentors.
Since its launch, Ignite Bermuda has seen a snowball momentum effect.
Don Mackenzie, chairman of Ignite Bermuda, said 70 to 75 per cent of the cohorts had come through referrals, and the pitch competition and the boot camp orientation, which took place the previous day, were opportunities for the participants to get to know each other.
The programme gives advice and support to local start-ups, small businesses and social enterprises looking to scale and grow. It does this through mentoring and workshops over a six-month period.
Ignite Bermuda has adapted to Covid-19 safety protocols, and is now a mixture of in-person and online gatherings.
Laura Lyons, manager of acceleration and entrepreneurial enablement at Ignite, said: “We are extremely grateful to the support of Argus who allowed us to gather for boot camp, which is best experienced in-person.
“Our co-working space, The Hub, is open and available at a limited capacity to ensure social-distancing protocols are respected. For our larger group sessions, Ignite will host them online for the next few months.”
The second cohort on the Ignite programme was under way earlier this year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and the island went into lockdown.
Ms Lyons said: “As a result of world events, Ignite pivoted alongside our programme participants and community members. The importance of connecting with a supportive community, of asking for and being of help, and the ability to cultivate a strong belief in our capabilities are key factors to resilience and developing an entrepreneurial mindset; these are at the core of the Ignite programme, if anything, virtual delivery of the programme highlights these as essential skills.“
For each cohort there are a limited number of spots, and those who were chosen this time faced strong competition from other hopefuls.
Ms Lyons said: “With each application period, the Ignite Team has the challenging task of selecting programme participants — it definitely did not get any easier when selecting the 34 community leaders who successfully secured a place as part of cohort three.
“I would say that, after the first half of this year, they might be a little more resilient, determined, and ultimately motivated to make positive change right from the start of the programme. The high calibre of this cohort was evident in the pitch competition, and we want to take this opportunity to thank our guest judges for their time and decision making — Jennifer Burland Adams and Gordon Johnson, both members of cohort two, who pitched to stay in the programme as resident advisers; Angell Kasparian, director, KPMG; and Joe Mahoney, ED, Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative and Ignite Board member.”
Mr Mahoney, speaking to participants at the pitch competition, said there was a “very impressive set of businesses with this cohort”, and that the bar had been set high for those involved even to win through the application stage to secure a place in the group.
He added that one of the great advantages of the programme “is that you learn from each other”.
Ms Lyons said: “All of this is made possible by our sponsors and volunteers, a big thank you to them and congratulations to all successful cohort three applicants and pitch winners. They are ready to accelerate and the Ignite Team is here to support them.”
• Ignite Bermuda has a website at https://ignitebermuda.com/