LaunchPad helps blast start-ups into cyberspace

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The Independent Online
Management consultancies and technology firms are ever ready to spot market trends. So it is hardly surprising that one of the effects of the rush to start up internet-related businesses is a boom in incubators - facilities to help entrepreneurs with funding, technology or general advice in return for a stake.

Strategy consultancies Bain & Co and McKinsey & Co have launched the Bainlab and Accelerator, while the Silicon Valley stars Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Oracle are moving in with their own schemes.

But, says Credo, a specialist entrepreneurial consultancy launched earlier this year, not all those on offer are that helpful. So, next year, it is entering the field with LaunchPad, a scheme aimed at speeding embryonic businesses' time-to-market success.

Credo's Chris Molloy believes his company's attraction lies in the diversity of services it offers start-ups. By linking up with Hewlett-Packard, the grande dame of Silicon Valley, and FutureStep, the online arm of the executive recruitment consultancy Korn-Ferry International, he reckons it can help with "key things that young businesses need under one roof" - the launch of a business strategy, the right team and supporting technology.

it also promises to help with relationships with lawyers, accountants and marketing specialists. And to address the critical issue of funding - via its venture capitalists network.

Both Credo and HP have access to funds for start-ups in their early stages. Together with London Ventures, Credo is in the middle of putting together a pounds 3m "boot-strap" fund to make investments of up to pounds 150,000 in very early-stage businesses.

Mr Molloy hopes this will help deal with the "chicken-and-egg" trap. "Start-ups want funds to turn their ideas into something tangible, but they won't get funding as they've got nothing that's tangible," he says.

There is also a flexible approach to payment - start-ups can either defer fees or agree to pay according to success. Or they can give up a stake in the business.

Hewlett-Packard's involvement is seen as particularly valuable because it can help evaluate the business potential, put together a technical strategy and, in some cases, offer its own technologies to assist with the development of the idea.

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