BeTheSpark is a movement whose mission is to create a more visible, simple and connected ecosystem in Wales – three words which may seem obvious yet will take the collaborative impact and drive of an entire ecosystem to achieve.

The movement was born out of MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s) Sloan Management School, known as the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme – or REAP.

Through REAP, Wales had an opportunity to collaborate with MIT and other participating regions on a global basis to develop a tailored strategy to put innovation-driven entrepreneurship at the heart of job and wealth creation.

Nine of Wales’ most prominent figures from business and academia joined forces to launch this movement back in 2017. Each individual offering inspirational leadership to combine innovation and entrepreneurship to transform Wales into a world-class destination for companies of all sizes to grow. 

Caroline Thompson (pictured), CEO of BeTheSpark, and her team ignited this movement with an aim of fostering innovation-driven entrepreneurship by ‘Enabling Welsh businesses to win and grow fast by connecting you with the brightest minds in Wales’. 

In order to achieve its vision, BeTheSpark actively encourages and engages key stakeholders (entrepreneurs, risk capital, academia, government and corporates) across Wales to join forces to create a more visible, simple and connected ecosystem for entrepreneurship to thrive. 

During the first year, BeTheSpark created an action plan to address the Must Win Battles identified by the five stakeholder groups at the BeTheSpark launch event where 300 representatives made their contributions and pledges of support.

Of course, a single entity cannot generate a movement so during the first year of execution, BeTheSpark illustrated the movement ‘in action’, making vital connections between the stakeholder group and encouraging radical collaboration. 

Examples of activity to date include connecting risk capital, entrepreneurs and academia by launching and hosting Pitch It Wales. 

The event facilitated an exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch directly to a panel of investors to win up to £50k of equity investment each and was delivered in partnership with Cardiff Metropolitan University and Inspire Wales investment consortium.

The investors agreed two deals during the event worth a total of £100k as well as giving the audience first-hand insight into the workings of an investment consortium. Pitch It Wales has also influenced a further two Pitch It events throughout Wales.  

A further Must Win Battle from the original 300 event was the need to improve the visibility of entrepreneurial support in Wales. 

With so many incredible business services, co-working spaces, tech facilities and membership organisations available throughout Wales, BeTheSpark took on the challenge of gathering all of these resources together and published an ongoing living Blueprint Map which is available to the public on their website. 

The need for a trusted forum to share knowledge, experience, celebrate successes and discuss methods of improvement within academic institutions was also raised at the 300 event. In response to this, BeTheSpark held its first Higher and Further Education Conference on in January 2018. 

This event attracted 120 attendees from across Wales’ academic institutions. Ideas, actions and best practice from the event held at USW Newport were shared and Georgina Campbell-Flatter of MIT Legatum in Boston joined the conference. 

Using their growing profile, BeTheSpark brought knowledge sharing opportunities from outside Wales, into the Welsh ecosystem helping highlight Wales on the global map. 

Michael Schrage, a Fellow in the Imperial College Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at MIT, brought his expertise to Wales as a keynote speaker. 

Michael’s talk was arranged by BeTheSpark and hosted at the offices of DevOpsGroup.
Members of all stakeholder groups left with invaluable knowledge for either their own businesses, or those they support.  

In July BeTheSpark hosted ‘Joining Forces – Entrepreneurship Across Borders’ event in the Old Library, Cardiff.

This event was set to bring together people and organisations from across the five stakeholder groups to discuss and explore the thriving economy within Spain and open the potential for new business opportunities as well as exchanging ideas on how the most effective way to support entrepreneurship.

The event welcomed the Spanish Ambassador, Carlos Bastarreche Sagues to open the event and hear from a selection of inspiring keynote speakers from ICEX, MediTech Pharmacy, Ffotogallery followed by a live panel Q&A.

BeTheSpark exists to support entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and make entrepreneurship accessible to all. With that in mind BeTheSpark’s methodology has been threaded throughout the recent Welsh Government initiative called ‘Supporting Entrepreneurial Women in Wales: An Approach for Wales’. 

This initiative has been developed in collaboration with several key organisations across Wales who have joined forces to develop and launch an approach to better support women entrepreneurs in Wales.

It sets out what women entrepreneurs would ideally like to see from business support organisations in Wales, allowing these organisations to tailor their services more to meet the specific needs of women entrepreneurs. 

In addition to continuing to grow the movement in 2019 and beyond, BeTheSpark have just announced their plans to host a large-scale summit of excellence in entrepreneurial thinking which will be held at the International Conference Centre, Newport. 

This summit will facilitate a core agenda of globally recognised speakers and renowned experts who will deliver engaging talks and provide inspirational insights from across the globe. 

BeTheSpark3000 promises to be a day of immersive learning, opportunities to connect with like-minded ambitious individuals as well as provide a source of profound inspiration. 

The summit is a first for Wales and is set to attract a significant audience from across the UK and beyond helping put Wales entrepreneurial ecosystem firmly on the global map. 

BeTheSpark is a movement, a mindset and way of acting. Only by working together, in collaboration can we create a visible, simple and connected ecosystem in Wales. 

Whether you’re a business leader, entrepreneur or entrepreneurial supporter you can play a part in helping the movement grow by visiting www.BeTheSpark.Wales for ideas on how you can get involved. 

If you’d like to partner, exhibit or attend BeTheSpark3000, visit www.BeTheSpark3000.Wales for more information.