Springboard – accelerating a new generation of entrepreneurs

We want to turbo charge the deep tech founders developing game changing, sustainable technologies

Calling all founders working on building a sustainable planet!

Are you an early-stage deep tech business with a focus on sustainability, looking for support building your business? Then our Springboard initiative is for you.

Applications closed – 2024 dates coming soon

About Springboard

We’re a group of entrepreneurs and investors united by a common goal: backing the people, ideas and industries that will change the world. We believe entrepreneurs are society’s true agents of change and we want to support those entrepreneurs to launch new businesses that will solve society’s biggest problems. We have three key business themes: building a sustainable planet, revitalising healthcare and empowering people.

Following a successful pilot, we’re launching Octopus Springboard to create and scale new businesses across the UK and Europe. Our focus will be on deep tech businesses enabling a sustainable planet. Our bi-annual programme is designed to help entrepreneurs address some of the key barriers faced in starting a business: customer discovery and finding market fit.

What we offer

Octopus Springboard has been designed to address two of the key challenges faced by early-stage deep tech businesses; customer discovery and finding product-market fit.

Our three-month part-time programme is free of charge, hands-on, and with a strong emphasis on “getting out there” and engaging with target markets to test your technology and understand customer needs. We will support the selected founders in designing for product-market fit at the pre-seed stage by providing a unique mix of advice, training, 1-2-1 mentorship with industry experts, and access to an extensive network of corporates across several industries.

The programme will likely lead to investments of £500k – £1m by Octopus Ventures, in companies with a compelling technology addressing a large problem. This will be subject to Investment Committee approval and standard Octopus processes.

Applications closed – 2024 dates coming soon

What’s in it for you

If you’re successful, we’ll help you:

  • Become investor-ready with a stronger idea of target markets and product-market fit.
  • Gain access to Octopus Ventures’ extensive network of portfolio companies, corporates and experts.
  • Complete 1-2-1 engagements with industry corporates to establish relationships and the possibility of follow-on projects and pilots.
  • Gain access to experienced, sector relevant advisors – these are people who can mentor and share their learnings with you, as well as introduce you to relevant people.

Hear what our previous cohort have to say

“The Octopus programme was a game-changer for Vuala. The highlight of the entire experience was working closely with our mentor, Richard. He provided us with the support and guidance we needed to grow and thrive, and we cannot overstate how helpful his insights were. 

The connections we’ve made during the programme have been invaluable, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to have participated in such a supportive and transformative programme.”

Abiel Ma, founder & CEO of Vuala

What our founders say

Simon Rogerson

Simon Rogerson, Co-Founder and Group CEO, said: “We believe entrepreneurs are society’s true agents of change. They have the power to solve the biggest problems facing our society and the planet. But building a business capable of changing the world is laden with challenges. Securing funding is often highlighted as one of the largest hurdles, but in our experience of backing entrepreneurs, customer discovery and finding a market fit for their ideas rank equally high on the worry list.

As a business that is proudly entrepreneurial – I still run the business with my Co-Founder Chris Hulatt after 23 years – and that has backed some of the UK’s most successful businesses, from Octopus Energy to Zoopla, we believe we are uniquely placed to support the next generation of entrepreneurs through Springboard.”

Meet the team

Other Octopus Springboard initiatives

This initiative builds on other Octopus Group initiatives including an internal programme that supports employees to start their own business, and our annual Springboard Entrepreneur Awards which celebrates MP-nominated companies across the UK. Springboard is run by our venture capital team, one of the largest and most active venture capital investors in the UK and Europe. The team has backed more than 180 businesses, including success stories such as Zoopla, Depop, WaveOptics and ManyPets.

Springboard news

Before you apply, have a read of our FAQ’s

Use these questions to work out if we’re the best fit for your venture.

What are the benefits of joining the programme?

  • Become more investor ready with a stronger idea of target markets and product/market fit
  • Potential for pre-seed/seed investment of £500k – £1m by Octopus Ventures
  • Access to Octopus’ extensive network of portfolio companies, corporates and experts
  • 1-2-1 engagement and relationship building with industry/corporates, providing access to customer discovery conversations, product validation, and possibility of follow-on projects and pilots
  • Access to Octopus Ventures’ experienced team of deep tech investors and operators for support, advice and connections
  • Access to experienced, sector relevant advisors. Founder – advisor relationships have the potential to develop into more formal opportunities post programme and investment, including Chair, NED and CEO (subject to agreement between founder, advisor and investor)
  • In the case of those which secure investment from Octopus Ventures, ongoing support, including continued access to the deep tech team’s Network and organisational support

What are the key dates?

The programme will run for approximately three months from 26 September to 20 December 2023. Please see below for a detailed breakdown:

Application period: 20 July – 10 August
Meetings with shortlisted candidates & second round: Rolling basis, finishing by end of August
Finalists notified: W/c 4 September
Programme kick-off (in-person, London): 26-27 September 2023
Mid-programme check-in (in-person, London): 8 November 2023
Final presentations (in-person, London): 20 December 2023

What are the eligibility criteria?

– Deep tech (Based on significant tech/scientific advancement)
– Protectable IP (does not need to have been filed yet)
– ~TRL 4-6 (proof of concept/validated at lab stage)
– Founder intent for enabling sustainability through their technology
– At least 1 academic/technical founder
– UK or European based
– Raising pre-seed round in the next 12 months

Is there a deadline to apply?

Yes. We will be accepting applications until 10 August 2023.

What is the application process?

Glad you asked! The first step is to submit your application and pitch deck at the link here. The application should take 10-15 minutes to complete. Following this we will aim to get back to you by the end of the month. If shortlisted for the final round, we will invite you for a 30-45 minute meeting with the pre-seed deep tech team in August, and may request some more information.

When will I know if I have been selected?

If you are selected as a finalist for the programme, you will be notified by w/c 4th September.

What type of founders are you looking for?

We are looking for people who are changing the world and purpose driven founders working on solving some of the biggest problems through deep technologies. At least one of the founding team members should be a technical founder, as an academic, researcher or inventor of the technology/IP.

Do I need to have a company to participate in the programme?

You do not need to have a company incorporated in order to participate. However, to be considered for investment by Octopus Ventures you will need to be incorporated before the investment process commences.

What is deep tech?

We define deep tech as solutions based on significant engineering or scientific advancements. These often stem out of years of research and can be rich in IP. Broadly, deep tech can be categorised across, but is not limited to, six areas of underlying technology – advanced materials, artificial intelligence & machine learning, drones & robotics, electronics & photonics, biotech, quantum solutions – and is often a combination of these. We are sector agnostic.

What is the stage focus of the programme?

The programme is focusing on pre-seed and seed stage start-ups with technologies at Technology Readiness Level of 4-6 (i.e. at least being validated at the lab scale).

How will it help me and my start-up?

We will be providing the frameworks, network and support to empower self-starting founders to engage with their target market (potential customers, partners and competitors) to identify problem-solution fit and test the need and market(s) for their technology/product via customer conversations with relevant organisations and rapid iterative testing.

When will the programme start?

The programme will commence on 26 September 2023 with an in-person 2-day kick off in London.

What is the duration of the programme?

The programme will run for approximately three months from 26th September to 20th December. Please see below for a detailed breakdown:

Application period: 20 July – 10 August 2023
Meetings with shortlisted candidates & second round: Rolling basis, finishing by end of August
Finalists notified: W/c 4th September 2023
Programme kick-off (in-person, London): 26-27 September 2023
Mid-programme check-in (in-person, London): 8 November 2023
Final presentations (in-person, London): 20 December 2023

Where is the programme located?

Delivery will be largely remote, with three face-to-face sessions in London at the start, middle and end of the programme and fortnightly virtual sessions.

How much time will I need to dedicate to the programme?

The programme is designed to be founder led and aimed at driving your venture forward so this will be entirely up to you. However, we will expect founders to make 5 customer calls on a weekly basis. We suggest dedicating between 5-10 hours to the programme per week.

What will the programme cover?

It is a hands-on experiential programme, designed for founders to progress their venture. The programme will cover topics such as how to determine whether there really is an exciting market for your technology through to understanding how investors think and operate and how to pitch for investment.

How will the programme be run?

You, the founder will be in the driving seat. The programme operates a “flipped classroom approach” where you share your progress with your peers, advisor, and the Octopus Ventures investment team, who will support you and provide feedback. We surround this with a scaffolding of live training sessions and asynchronous content, such as videos, useful frameworks, readings and podcasts. The live sessions are all delivered remotely apart from the 2-day kick-off event, the mid-programme check in and the final presentations, which will be in person in London.

How will my advisor be selected?

Each founder/team selected for the programme will be matched with an industry advisor to assist and guide them along the programme. The advisor will be custom matched to the start-up based on technology area and/or target markets and/or near-term needs.

Will I get help with access to corporates for customer discovery?

Octopus Ventures will provide access to a large group of corporate partners from across several sectors, ranging from SMEs to multi-national companies. However, we expect founders to lead on finding and running customer discovery calls with support from the pre-seed deep tech team.

Do you have a geographic focus?

The programme is largely focused on the UK but we are accepting applications from all over Europe.

Do I need to pay to attend the programme?

No, the programme is free of cost for you to attend.

Will I continue to get mentorship after the programme?

The aim is to provide mentorship over the period of the programme with the option of extending the relationship formally/informally after the programme subject to agreement between founders and advisors. This will be in accordance with terms of engagement agreed at the beginning of the programme.

Who is the pre-seed deep tech team?

Zoe Reich, Rubina Singh, Richard Anson and Ruhitha Reddy

Will I get an investment by Octopus Ventures at the end of the programme?

The pre-seed deep tech team is likely to consider making investments in the most compelling technologies and propositions following the culmination of the programme. This will be determined on a case-by-case basis, subject to Investment Committee approval and other standard processes. There will also be opportunities to stay in touch to be considered for future investments at later rounds.

How much does Octopus Ventures typically invest in pre-seed deep tech?

We typically invest between £500k-£1m.

What do you typically invest in?

We are interested in technologies across the breadth and depth of deep tech that can enable a sustainable planet directly or indirectly. This includes AI/ML, quantum solutions, advanced materials, electronics/photonics, biotech, drones and robotics, 3d printing and new manufacturing/processes. We are industry agnostic and will invest across a range of sectors ranging from but not limited to energy; water; food, land and agriculture; industry; construction; biotech; transport, buildings, controls and communications, etc.

What don’t you invest in?

The Octopus Ventures Pre-Seed Deep Tech Fund doesn’t invest in:

Businesses without any technical founders
Pure business model innovation
Purely medtech, health or life sciences
Innovation with no direct or indirect impact on improving sustainability
Where no protectable IP identified
Companies without a base in the UK or European base