London Art School Founds Business Accelerator, Seeks £20 Million
A new business accelerator launches today bringing together one of Silicon Valley’s leading design companies with London’s prestigious Central St. Martins art and design school with the aim of bringing some 20 new British designs to market every year.
At an event ahead of the launch at the school’s Innovation Centre, Method Design Lab, as the accelerator will be called, was introduced by Kevin Farnham, CEO of Method and the organization’s new Managing Director, Santiago Matheus.
Mr. Matheus, who until recently was the U.K. director of Method and is aiming to raise a fund of some £20 million, said the accelerator plans to bring its first product to market within two to three months of launch. Method is funding the project until the venture fund is raised. Mr. Farnham said its exposure was in the region of £500,000.
He was optimistic that the money would be raised. “There is a ‘halo’ effect,” he said. “The association with St Martins is very attractive for a lot of companies.” He was also hoping to attract angel investors.
The decision to base in London, said Mr. Matheus, was that of all European cities it was the one with the unique combination of huge talent and access to capital. “This makes it a very attractive place to be launching an accelerator,” he said.
Central St Martin’s students will be among those able to submit ideas and products for development. Ideas are selected through an online voting system which uses some 100 or so experts in design, innovation and user-experience.
Those voted for will be put through an internal vetting process. If it passes, the intellectual property behind the idea is transferred to the accelerator in return for a revenue split.
According to Mr. Farnham, that split varies from “a few points for someone who comes with an idea on the back of a napkin, up to something like 30 per cent for a fully formed model with a business plan and a strategy.”
One idea that the accelerator hopes to get to market within weeks comes from 24-year-old CSM graduate Jeremy Innes-Hopkins. A brightly-colored suncream packaged to look like a giant marker pen that allows children to apply suncream to themselves in a fun and playful way. He said his product should be commercialized within weeks.
Mr. Innes-Hopkins, who works in Munich for IDEOS, had also produced an innovative phone for Nokia as part of his degree course. An electromagnet in the base of the phone shifted a small weight allowing the round-bottomed phone to stand up when a call was received.
“Nokia weren’t too pleased,” he admitted. “The liked my design, but it was leaked—not by me—at the time they were launching the N8. I don’t think they were very happy that my phone generated more publicity than theirs did.”