Growing a tech company is hard at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic. Here to help, Upscale 6.0 is Tech Nation’s free programme that helps the UK’s most promising digital tech companies accelerate their growth – and you can apply today.
Upscale Programme Lead Liam Ward is particularly excited about our sixth Upscale, which he says is crucial for founders working to tackle Covid-19-related challenges. We spoke to Liam to find out why founders won’t want to miss out.
Why should scaling tech founders apply for Upscale?
Liam Ward:Upscale now more than ever is a crucial programme for founders and their companies. When everything is going up and to the right, it’s easier to continue scaling, growing your customer base and attracting investment.
Upscale comes into its own when founders and leadership teams are working through tough challenges, both with seasoned coaches and through peer-to-peer learning with companies at the same stage. Now more than ever we have the opportunity to widen our ability to support companies digitally – it’s about really deepening our networks and covering more content online, blending that with offline learning.
I think that Upscale 6.0 will feature many companies who are solving Covid-19-related problems, so it’s going to be a really exciting cohort; we’ll see everything from advanced healthtech to the future of work and commerce. There are going to be some really ground-breaking companies who have grown through the pandemic and are going to be able to shape our world and economy moving forwards. Being part of a cohort like that, learning during this period with others, is really exciting.
Tell us more about how Upscale has been adapted to run online
A large part of the Upscale programme is delivering content and workshops for both founders and senior leaders. We have shifted the programme online and the majority of those sessions will take place virtually.
We will also be digitising many of our previous activities, such as introductions to investors, corporates and Tech Nation’s alumni companies. We’ll be using new tools to bring together key stakeholders and really help founders solidify and build connections that can help them to scale, as well as using our new alumni platform to connect our founders into the growing Upscale alumni network.
We have also created an online library of scaling resources that has been used on our programmes, including Upscale, over the last few years. We’re really excited about publishing and allowing access to that early 2021. Covid-19-allowing, we will still look to try and get our cohorts together at some point next year because we understand how important those face-to-face connections are for founder and senior leaders.
Who can attend Upscale’s sessions?
Upscale is broken down into two key groups: founders and CEOs looking at key strategic challenges, and then their heads of/C-suite members of their senior leadership team. We have sessions that run throughout the programme and ongoing community support for heads of operations; marketing; finance; tech, product and HR. We also cater for junior managers who might be growing in their functions.
What are some typical themes that founders will learn about?
From a founder perspective, we cover some of those broader strategic challenges. They include hiring and retaining talent as an organisation across the board (rather than just functionally); maintaining and growing company culture; finance and fundraising; and what your next fundraising round might look like; international expansion; and managing your psychology as you move up from a startup founder to a scale-up CEO, transitioning on that curve.
How can Upscale help heads of functions?
It tends to be a lot more around functional growth on the senior leadership side. Taking operations as an example, our sessions will explore how an operations function scales within a high-growth tech company. We’ll dig into some of those deeper challenges, such as how companies can use OKRs, what progression structures might look like, frameworks for scaling your operations team. Unlike the broader founder topics, they’re about really narrowing down key strategic challenges for those functions.
What does a good Upscale company look like?
Upscale judges on the programme are looking for a few key elements. Firstly, those who are really addressing the scalability and potential of their products, and are able to communicate that clearly, will always stand a great chance. Post-Covid-19, I think we’ll see a lot of companies able to articulate how their product can help society deal with the impact of the last six months.
The ones that really get judges excited are those that understand the power of a network like Upscale. It is a programme where you will get more value if you put more in, engaging with other scaleup founders who are facing the same challenges. It’s about how you can share your experience of hiring talent or landing large corporate deals with others, exchanging your learnings with the cohort as well as taking from the coaches.
Upscale companies are the kind that create growth and jobs for the economy and really drive the UK forward as a tech ecosystem. We’re looking for companies that want to champion digital tech in the UK and are doing good and positive things for the world, who are able to have an impact on people’s lives as well as create economic value. Outside of that, it’s typically companies that are looking to expand their headcount, grow their team and significantly increase revenue.
Have there been any memorable Upscale sessions?
Unruly cofounder Sarah Wood ran a founder session talking about her journey – from starting at the company right the way through to exit. She described what that looked like, how non-linear it was, and the many challenges she faced. It was fascinating hearing about what it takes to become a leader, implementing leadership frameworks for herself, her team and the whole company. That’s especially important during the time of Covid, when leadership has become really challenging. Being able to bring that calibre of leader to speak to our next Upscale cohort – at this time – is really exciting.
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