The Programme feature image
What will happen?

Who’s It For?

The First Bourne accelerator programme will offer 8 investments to product-led digital companies. We’re looking for strong digital-based ideas – including app, mobile, data, gamification, internet of things, and software.

We’re really keen on applications which focus on ‘Applied Digital’ – i.e. where digital is being applied into other sectors. This includes B2B models, as well as those which provide real innovation to sectors which may not be seen as traditionally digital – like healthcare or financial services etc. Depending on the sector you’re aiming at, we can provide specialist advice, guidance and introductions from mentors working in those industries.

We’re also really keen on concepts around 3D modelling and Virtual Reality. We can’t support projects which primarily create content though; such as the creation of films, TV programmes or games development for instance. There’s lots of help from the EU’s MEDIA programme or Creative England if that’s what you’re looking for.

As a condition of our funding, companies must be based outside of London. By the time participants receive investment, they must be a registered company based in England outside of London.

What Should Your Company Look Like?

First Bourne is aimed at startup and early-stage digital companies, up to 2 years old. Older micro business that want to launch a new product idea (less than 2 years old)  are also eligible. The accelerator programme will accept 8 participants. Companies ideally should have two or more active partners with a stake in the business (although the partnership doesn’t have to be equal). Sole founder/trader businesses are eligible if you can make a convincing case that you have the ability to make the business succeed by yourself. 

The core team must possess one or more of the core skills needed to deliver your prototype. The work cannot be primarily outsourced.

The programme will focus on the prototype development, whilst providing intensive support to help achieve early product market fit. By the end of the period, participants are expected have a demonstrable, functioning prototype or MVP (minimum viable product), backed up by a strong business case to present to investors. Applicants who have already built a prototype can focus more on the available support to take it to market.

Programme details

The Investment

All participants will receive an investment of £25,000 at the start of the programme. This is offered in two ways: either as an unsecured, interest-free convertible loan, or as an equity investment. Once accepted, this will be negotiated with you before joining the programme. The fees for participating on the programme will be deducted from the investment.

Creative England have allocated follow-on, equity investments of £50,000 for two of the programme’s participants which in their opinion demonstrate the most compelling business cases. This is discretionary, and will be awarded on the strength of the pitch to investors during the programme’s final event.

Workshops and Master-Classes

There will be structured workshops staged throughout the programme. These will focus on a specific point of business such as: Business strategy and planning; Brand and customer targeting; Sales and marketing; Business management.

Master-classes will be delivered every week by successful industry entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators, based on their specific areas of expertise. These will include discussions and chances for questions on specific individual needs. Many master-classes will be delivered by people on the mentor panel.


The programme has a panel of mentors. Each mentor will commit at least an hour of support for every company, during the accelerator. The programme will provide a bookings database. Each mentor posts times when they are available to meet, so participants can book a one-hour session. This is on a first-come first-served basis. Participants will have access to many mentor sessions, but can dictate their own pace to fit in with their development schedules

Some mentors will also put themselves forward to ‘adopt’ a company for the duration of the programme. He or she will become a personal mentor for each company, providing a couple of extra hours of their time during the programme, as well as some advice via email.

Peer to Peer

All participants will deliver short a ‘show and tell’ each week – which the mentors are invited to, so they can find out more about the companies in the early stages. Understanding what your business is for and what you do – and knowing how to communicate that – is essential for connecting with customers and investors.

We believe that the more you talk about it the clearer and easier it becomes. The show and tell is also a great way to explain your progress with the rest of the group. This allows you to share ideas and experiences, and allows you to help each other from your own successes and failures. Not only is it great to understand you’re not alone with the challenges you face, the feedback you get can be every bit as useful as the advice from the mentors.

The Residency

To make the most of this peer to peer feedback loop, all participants will be expected to locate themselves at the First Bourne offices in Bournemouth. Every participant will have access to 2 desks each, although more can be made available as available. To get the most of this experience it makes a big difference to be located together. We realise that this might not be practical all of the time, but we expect at least one partner to be there most of the time.

The Accelerator is located in a new space right in the middle of the growing commercial district of Landsdowne in Central Bournemouth. It is a 5 minute walk from the principal train station, close to the A338 main road into the town and 40 mins from Southampton Airport. The space shares a building with the very successful digital agency RedWeb, but has its own dedicated space. This includes full facilities with kitchen and meeting areas.

One-Off and Special Events

Some of the master-classes will be open, and attendees from Bournemouth’s wider digital cluster will be invited. This will give participants a chance to meet with the wider sector, make contacts with other companies, find out who can provide services, as well as find out what’s happening around the town and where to go.

Some of these events will include the participants as presenters. In the final month (Nov) of the programme, we will host Friday lunch meet ups, which are open to anyone to come to. At each lunch two participant companies will present their company, their product, perhaps some of the tech involved and their ambitions. They are fantastic opportunities for you to get used to pitching your product before having to pitch to investors.

First Bourne is also exploring the potential to connect with MBA and other post-graduate students at the business school at Bournemouth University. The aim is to give participants, especially those who come from a technical or creative background, access to people who are fully focused on commercial strategy. Where mentors can provide excellent advice and guidance, the post-graduate business students might be able to help action the actual work needed.

Pitch To Investors

The programme concludes with a pitch to investors. We’re working with the Dorset Business Angels network. The network is made up of a wide range of investors and high net-worth investors. The programme has a growing network of investors outside of Dorset, in particular London, which it will use to widen the levels of investor interest for participants.

The accelerator also offers two follow-on investments of £50k from Creative England. These will be offered to the two companies which, in its opinion, provide the strongest business case for further funding. These are discretionary.

Why Bournemouth?

In 2015 Bournemouth was identified as the UK’s fastest growing digital startup economy, eclipsing cities such as Bristol, Brighton, Manchester and even London. The 2016 report showed economic growth at 68%. This highlighted a thriving and active digital cluster gaining national recognition and offering brilliant support to new businesses.

Bournemouth also provides a fantastically well-connected route to client bases. It’s a leading UK cluster for financial services, and has recognised strengths in health and social care, marine, advanced manufacturing, environment and tourism.

Some of the leading organisations in the area include: JP Morgan, Barclays, LV, Amigo loans, Vitality Health, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, Sunseeker, RNLI, QinetiQ, Cobham. There are also specialist skills at Bournemouth University in Cyber Security, Dementia, VFX and VR amongst many others. The First Bourne mentors come not only from the digital sector but also from these client bases as well, and include highly experienced individuals from these sectors – e.g. financial services, healthcare etc.

The support of Silicon South provides the First Bourne team with fantastic access into all of these other sectors and organisations. This means we can and will expand the mentor panel to reflect the aims and needs of all participants and give direct access to advice and connections in areas where which are specifically relevant.

Bournemouth is also famed for its 7 miles of sandy beaches and an amazingly benevolent micro-climate.

Investment Funds


Each company will receive an investment of £25,000. This investment will be in the form of an unsecured, interest-free convertible loan or as an equity investment. Once offered a place on the programme, you can negotiate the preference which suits your business most.

An unsecured loan means if for any reason your business does not succeed, you will not be personally held responsible for the loan or for any associated default. If you go for the loan option and the business fails to gain revenue, the investment is written off. Repayments are linked to profits so you would only start to make repayments once you can afford to. Equity investments will be negotiated with you directly. We do not state a fixed equity rate in advance so we can fairly reflect the value of your business at the start of the programme.

The aim of the accelerator programme is to promote innovation, so the risk the investment remains with us as funders, not you as entrepreneurs.

The investments are subject to the following fees
⦁ A 5% arrangement fee for the investment payable directly to Creative England of £1250
⦁ A programme participation fee of £3750, payable directly to the First Bourne team. The second payment covers all costs for business coaching, masterclasses, access to the mentors, catering for events and workshops, and secures access to two desks and full office facilities, tea and coffee etc. for the duration of the programme.

There will be opportunities to retain desk space at the end of the programme at very competitive rates, which will be discussed during the programme.

Regional Growth Fund

The investment is sourced from The Regional Growth Fund, which means all companies have to meet a couple of conditions, as follows:

  • England-Based – Your company must be based in England outside of London (for this project London is defined as within the M25).
  • Match Funding – You should plan to be spending a further £25k or more running the business at the end of the accelerator, over the subsequent year . This could be through existing funds, additional investment or through natural turnover after the programme finishes.

Initial offers made to companies will be subject to due diligence and must be accepted 2 weeks before the start of the programme. If the offer is not accepted within this time frame it will become void. On successful completion of due diligence a final agreement will be issued.

For the follow-on funding of £50k, Creative England will negotiate terms directly with the business. 

Please direct any questions about the investments or eligibility directly to Tim Evans at Creative England. [email protected]. Questions about the programme in general can be directed through the enquiry page.