Finding Masters students to incubate new startups at Falmouth Launchpad

The Challenge

Launchpad is an innovative postgraduate incubation and acceleration programme designed to help entrepreneurs to develop the skills and solutions to solve real-world industry challenges. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and allows successful applicants to receive £16,000 tax-free and study for a fee-free MSc from Falmouth University. Launchpad aims to create a community of successful startup enterprises in Cornwall.

One of the main challenges for the Launchpad is sourcing attendees for its three cohorts each year. Unlike traditional Masters programs which typically look to existing University students, Launchpad applicants are expected to already have a very strong understanding of the rigours of entrepreneurship, workplace experience in technology and innovation. Applicants may already have ideas and concepts, developed in their current line of work, that they wish to use within the incubator environment and so finding these individuals, who are likely to have other more traditional employment opportunities open to them, can be challenging.

The Result

Quarsh took up the unique challenge of sourcing and screening applicants for the cohorts. This was previously advertising-led, but Launchpad needed more to hit its targets. This meant we had to go out and find candidates to apply for a Masters programme, often people who are already early or mid career. Presenting people we found with a unique opportunity to create and grow their own business was an exciting challenge. We initially focussed on filling the cohorts, a target we quickly hit. We’re now focussed on ever-improving the quality of cohort applicants.

One of our biggest hurdles was attracting high calibre candidates to a location that is quite far from traditional tech and innovation hubs such as London and Manchester. Key to this is a focus on the uniqueness of the candidate offering, highlighting the multiple proposition of a MSc degree, incubated company and external partner involvement to create an investment-ready business. Developing the processes for assessment have been key to improving candidate quality, and so Quarsh and Launchpad make use of specific aptitude and skills testing for candidates, alongside multiple competency interviews and a portfolio analysis. The result has been 1,081 entrepreneurs screened, 192 assessed and 37 candidates secured for the cohort.

Ben Sewell - Head of Technology Strategy, Launchpad

"Recruiting to Launchpad is a challenge - the offer is sometimes described as 'too good to believe', but is in fact a complex proposition including funding, training, study, starting a business and building a product. Every person comes to the programme has a subtly different mix of skills and motivations. The active, highly tailored approach taken by Quarsh has significantly increased the number of quality applications to Launchpad. They have integrated into our recruitment process, and they feel like part of the team."