Bye bye, Birmingham. Hello London. The U.K.-based Oxygen Accelerator startup bootcamp is moving down south, from the Midlands city where it was born back in 2011 to take up residence in the heart of East London’s Tech City. Specifically it will be moving into Google’s Campus London co-working space — taking the floor formerly occupied by Springboard/TechStars — for its next 13-week programme, beginning October 1.
It looks likely that Birmingham’s ability to compete as a startup hub has lost out to the noise and momentum generated by London’s Tech City initiative — and the U.K. Capital’s general ability to stand taller on a global stage. “This is part of Oxygen Accelerator’s push to attract startups and entrepreneurs from around the world and become a truly international tech accelerator,” says Oxygen’s CEO Simon Jenner, commenting on the move.
Oxygen is accepting applications for its next intake until August 23. Ten successful applicants will get 13-weeks in Campus London to develop their proposition, with support from 150+ mentors — including Eze Vidra, Head of Campus London, Google and Sean Seton Rogers of PROFounders Capital — with expertise in finance, marketing, design, tech and entrepreneurship.
The programme offers €7,000 investment per founder (up to three founders) to each of the 10 startups in the intake, meaning it offers up to €21,000 per startup in exchange for 8% equity. Plus free office space at Campus London during the programme and access to lawyers, accountants and pitch trainers to prepare startups for an investment pitch day presentation.
In the U.K. Oxygen competes with the likes of TechStars, SeedCamp and Wayra to put budding startups through their paces in exchange for equity. All four accelerators are now based in London, so the Capital is clearly the place to be if you’re in the business of incubating startups.
There are a handful of regional accelerators in the U.K. — such as the North East’s Ignite100 (albeit, its programme includes time in London and New York as well as Newcastle) and Sheffield’s Dotforge — but there’s no doubt the centre of gravity for incubating tech startups is firmly lodged in the Capital. London has the international pull and access to VC cash to draw in entrepreneurs and ideas from farther afield and Oxygen’s move just underlines that.
Oxygen’s Jenner also makes that point that accelerators are increasingly competing with each other for their next intake — and that the U.K. specifically competes with rising numbers of incubators cropping up elsewhere in Europe. “London… definitely has the strongest tech scene of any city in the U.K. and probably in Europe which gives it obvious advantages,” he tells TechCrunch.
Despite London’s strength evidently making it tougher to operate outside the U.K.’s tech centre of gravity, Oxygen’s move is not necessarily a permanent one, according to Jenner — albeit, he could just be keen not to slam the door too hard on the way out of Birmingham.
“No decision has been taken on where future OxygenAccelerator programmes will be held — they may take place elsewhere in the U.K. or even outside of the U.K.,” he says, adding: “Birmingham was an excellent location for previous Oxygen Accelerator programmes, attracting high-quality startups such as Carhoots, Hobzy and Sorted — half of all the startups that have been through the programme so far have secured funding.”
Oxygen originally set up shop in Birmingham, the U.K.’s second largest city, in no small part because of the backing of entrepreneur and local resident, Mark Hales, who remains involved with the programme despite its move away from his home city.
Last month Oxygen gained UKTI approval as a recognised Seed Investment competition — putting it on a par with TechStars, SeedCamp and Wayra (the other three in the U.K. that have that accreditation) — perhaps giving it additional impetus to head down south. This UKTI Seed status makes it easier for entrepreneurs from outside of the E.U. looking to apply to these four programmes to gain a visa.
An email Q&A with Jenner follows below:
TC: Is it fair to say that the marketing noise around Tech City has made operating a UK-based accelerator outside London more difficult — in terms of competing with other UK accelerators (the bulk of which are London-based now)?
To be honest its not really Tech City that is making it more difficult is the 200+ accelerators across the world that has made it much more competitive. When we started in 2011 there were a couple of others in the UK and a handful in Europe now there are tons. We are looking for the best talent in the world so its a global competitive market.
TC: What makes London a better location for Oxygen than Birmingham? Is it simply because the capital can attract a wider pool of global startups?
Actually its swings and roundabouts not sure one is better than the other but they are different. The cost of running and surviving in Birmingham is significantly cheaper than London which is very attractive to us, startups and investors. London on the other hand is definitely has the strongest tech scene of any city in the UK and probably in Europe which gives it obvious advantages. When you are looking beyond the UK for talent most startups aren’t worried about where in the UK the accelerator runs they just want it to be in the UK because of our global reputation.
TC: How does Oxygen differ from the other London-based accelerators such as TechStars, SeedCamp, Wayra London etc?
The UK is lucky it has four of the best Accelerators in Europe (Oxygen, TechStars, Seedcamp & Wayra) the differences between all of them are small. We are backed by 10 angel investors, not a fund or a corporate so our investors are interested in exactly the same things as the founders of the startups. This alignment of the investor/startup agenda is a powerful one. Our journey does not end at demo day with our startups, we have just helped one of our 2011 startups close a 2nd investment round. I guess we are not about the numbers through the door we are about the results thats why we only run one programme per year.
TC: It looks like you take a larger equity share (8%) than TechStars (6%). Why?
We give more money than most.
TC: Who is funding the Oxygen programme? so who are your investors?
We have 10 angel investors. The ones that want to be known about are on our website here:
TC: Who is involved in mentoring on the Oxygen programme?
A big long and ever changing list of people. The great thing about being a high profile accelerator is we get lots of offers. Here is our current list:
TechCrunch’s Steve O’Hear contributed to this article