Author: Claire Jones

PRESS RELEASE: New venture pioneer joins ASPIRE startup reskilling and outskilling programme

1 December 2020, London, UK: Participants of the ASPIRE programme, will now have access to assets and support from MOHARA, a venture development specialist that also specialises in ‘low-code’ venture growth.

The pioneering ASPIRE programme from Rainmaking and Startupbootcamp is designed for anyone that wants to take an idea and turn it into a revenue generating business. It is available to corporates and governments as a reskilling tool for internal innovation and outskilling programme for workers who are being made redundant and can also be booked directly by people who want to de-risk the shift to self-employment or create a side-hustle.

ASPIRE is based on a combination of Rainmaking and Startupbootcamp’s proven methodology and is designed to improve the 10% survival rate of idea-stage startups. Over three quarters (76%) of the 950 startups that have graduated Startupbootcamp are either still active or have exited.  As well as teaching the entrepreneurs the skills to succeed, it also gives them access to early-stage VCs, angel investor, mentors and exclusive partner deals from leading technology and wellbeing providers.

MOHARA will initially be developing tutorial videos on its low-code approach for the course programme, as well as advice for scaling organisations. These will give practical details on how the participants can simplify application development so that they can design, build and scale early-stage businesses without spending money on a single line of code. ASPIRE and Mohara will also be running a free webinar for would-be entrepreneurs on the 7th of December.

Startups have proven themselves largely resistant to the pandemic, with European VCs staying course to continue the record-breaking fundraising trend seen since 2015 and startups themselves becoming a leading engine of job creation in Europe. Mid-sized businesses and enterprises have fared much worse. In a survey of 300 global CEOs, nearly a third (29%) said they were cutting staff costs to help navigate the crisis.

Chris Locke, CEO of ASPIRE: “Companies are making huge cuts to their permanent workforce and this trend is set to continue. In the UK alone, a record 314,000 people were made redundant from July to September, and there are still 2.5 million people on furlough who face an uncertain future. The world of work is changing at an unprecedented rate and market forces are aligning to make it a positive environment for startups to take advantage.

“ASPIRE has been developed to enhance the success rate of starting a new business. Having a great business idea, or desire to succeed, is just one part of the equation. We want to give people the tools, skills and mindset needed to transform ideas into a business. This is why we are so pleased to be bringing in innovative companies, like Mohara, who can help our entrepreneurs achieve their ambition.” 

Richard Sams, CEO, MOHARA: “We are pleased to be sharing our expertise and insight into how the “low-code” movement can enable startups to get their MVP to market faster and get their runway to last longer.  By being able to quickly accelerate the build, test, learn cycle through rapid prototyping, startups will be able to validate core assumptions without having to invest time and capital in coding. It removes the barriers to growth and enables startup founders to prioritise efforts on getting market fit.”

Entrepreneurs who are interested in joining the ASPIRE programme can choose from three courses:


About Rainmaking

Rainmaking is one of the world’s leading corporate innovation and venture development firms with 12 offices around the world, including major tech hubs such as London, Copenhagen, Dubai, Singapore, New York, and Sydney. They create, accelerate, and scale new business with the world’s leading corporations and entrepreneurs to solve big problems.

Rainmaking has launched over 50 ventures worth over $1BN in value, including one of the world’s most active global investors and accelerators, Startupbootcamp. Since 2006, they invested in nearly 900 startups who went on to raise almost $1bn. Rainmaking has partnered with 10% of the Fortune500 companies to bring new strategies and market-based solutions including IKEA, VISA, Airbus, Engie, HSBC, Jaguar among others. They are also a proud member of the UN Global Compact, driving major initiatives on a broad spectrum of social and environmental impact issues. 


MOHARA is a digital product development agency, founded in 2010, with offices in London, Brighton, Bangkok, Cape Town and Dallas. They work with start-ups and corporate businesses as an innovation delivery partner, bringing their clients’ ideas to life and enabling them to flourish.

MOHARA follows a robust user-centred process, ensuring they validate assumptions and de-risk development.

To deliver a winning product, you need to know your users, address a definite pain point and be a great developer. These parts need to be joined to succeed – MOHARA specialises in helping teams join the dots and bring products to market.

MOHARA’s proven SCUBA model takes products from identifying the problem to reality. SCUBA aims to surface innovative and viable product ideas, choose the best idea to pursue, de-risk the engineering process and ensure products deliver ROI. The model helps to plot your roadmap, which creates alignment and a clear line of sight.

For more information please visit: or

Rainmaking press contact:

Tel.  +(0)7826 528900


MOHARA press contact:

Tel.  +(0)7935 762225


The evolution of Redundancy: a business mandate

HR News, Posted on Nov 26, 2020

According to the BBC, British employers planned 58,000 redundancies in August, taking the total to 498,000 for the first five months of the pandemic. That’s nearly half a million Brits now out of work, scrabbling for new opportunities in a very difficult job market. Don’t just take my word for it, according to the latest jobs market report from employment website CV-Library, the number of job vacancies in the UK fell by 62.7% in the second quarter of 2020 – and for those jobs that are being advertised, the average application-to-job ratio has risen to 84%.

Making lay-offs is one of the most difficult tasks of the HR division. However, doing it at a time when talent has nowhere to go is even worse. No wonder it’s starting to take its toll. A recent report by LHH found that 93% of HR decision are feeling under more pressure than ever before, and quarter (25%) believe they were not handling redundancies and layoffs as well as they have done previously. There is also an, often forgotten, impact to the businesses in this new connected world. If handled badly lay-offs and redundancies can lead to negative reviews and a bad employee brand which has serious impacts when recovery comes.  A study by Randstad USA showed 57% of job candidates avoid companies with negative online reviews. And customers are also paying attention with many defecting after a company conducts layoffs.

Unprecedented times require new thinking. It’s not good enough to follow old processes that simply don’t mesh with the new world of work. There is an alternative – HR teams can rethink their redundancy process and offer new startup outskilling and reskilling pathways. Whereas jobs may be falling, startups are thriving, which makes the solution obvious – create a pathway that helps exiting talent learn the skills to start their own business.

A 2019 report from Direct Line uncovered that more than a third of workers who have been made redundant used the experience as an opportunity to start working for themselves. The process is tried and tested. Nokia was faced with making over 40,000 job cuts. As well as open centres across Europe to help employees being exited with career advice, it also formed ‘Bridge,’ an entrepreneurial stream for employees that had an idea for a startup.

Helping your employees building a startup in a downturn may feel counterintuitive but data and history shows that in times of rapid disruption there are ample opportunities for new startups to take advantage, in fact IBM, HP, FedEx and Microsoft were started during recessions. Consumers needs and behaviours radically change when there’s a shift in the economy, which open up market opportunities that didn’t previously exist.

So how can HR leaders create these new pathways? They need to align ‘talent’ that enables departing employees from different disciplines such as engineering, marketing and sales to come together and share ideas as well as offering a range of support from seed funding to providing access to unused IP, assets or data to not just build the skills but the opportunity to kickstart their success.

To capitalise on the positive impact and use this to actually grow brand equity, there needs to be a planned and sustained comms campaign inside and outside the organisation and to find the right partner to deliver the best experience for your people to maximise success.

As with any downturn there will be a new generation of high growth startups. Unlike, before there is a window for businesses to decide what role they want to play.  Do they want to demonstrate their brand and live by their ‘people first’ values and take a proactive role in reshaping the future?  Do they want to be seen as the company that took action to innovatively help the talent they are being forced to exit, whilst also helping stimulate the economy to enable Britain to return to growth faster?

Those companies who use this crisis to live their values and empower their people to create the future is something that won’t resonate with those departing but can play a critical role in talent attraction and retention for the future.



Why HR is uniquely placed to boost innovation during a downturn

HRZONE, 11th Nov 2020

The pandemic has created a huge number of job losses and investment in innovation has been particularly hard hit. HR has a crucial role to play in generating innovation through redeployment and helping exiting staff launch startups.

Light bulb graphic luckyvector/iStock

The field of human resource management has changed dramatically in the last century. Initially developed as a function to interface with unions, it evolved to become a ‘personnel’ division to have a strategic role in business operations. 

Fast forward to today and most forward thinking companies have a Chief People Officer on the board to ensure the voice of the employee is considered at the highest level.

However, the evolution hasn’t finished – external factors have always played a part in the changing role of the HR division – from the industrial revolution, advances in behavioural science and the technological progress we have experienced in the last twenty years. 

New innovation partnership

Today we are seeing a new shift, brought on by Covid-19 pandemic. Working models are changing, fuelled by the unprecedented levels of job losses and the huge rise of the white-collar gig economy. The International Labour Organization has predicted global unemployment rate of 250 million as a result of Covid-19.

Organisations are facing more difficult market conditions than those experienced during previous recessions or the 2008 financial crash. Future growth is being side-lined in favour of conserving cash and runway.

The winners from the last recession were those companies who stepped up their investment in innovation early during the crisis.

In May we released findings from a survey of 300+ C-suite leaders. The findings revealed that before extensive Covid-19 restrictions, just 8% of businesses surveyed said they would not be investing in innovation activity this year, with that rising to 25% during the current crisis – a 213% increase. 

The survey also outlined that businesses predicted 2020 revenues have fallen by almost half in just one month as the implications of Covid-19 have become apparent. Over 29% were planning redundancies to help them navigate the crisis.

The study revealed over 90% of business leaders will not invest more in innovation in order to kickstart growth in their businesses, despite nearly half of respondents (46%) confirming that investment in innovation had helped to spur growth over the last year. 

This paradox is evidenced by McKinsey research, which demonstrated that the winners from the last recession were those companies who stepped up their investment in innovation early during the crisis.

What role can HR play?

With these changing labour dynamics and innovation shortfalls, what is the role for HR? Put simply, there is a huge opportunity for them to step up and take a leading role in supporting corporate’s innovation strategy. 

Corporates previously ran innovation programmes in three ways: investments and acquisitions, corporate accelerators and startup partnerships. With the mass exit of talent happening across industries, there is an opportunity to add ‘outskilling’ to the list of innovation programmes.

When businesses undergo changes that make reorganisation necessary, redundancy needn’t be the only option.

This ‘outskilling’ could happen in one of two ways – either through internal redeployment, or through ‘start-up outskilling’. When businesses undergo changes that make reorganisation necessary, redundancy needn’t be the only option.

Hard skills can be taught, soft skills cannot. It makes no sense to lose amazing talent when they can be trained to excel in another division. The key is for the HR division to work with the business to identify where the opportunities lie – whether it be a new innovation team within a department, or a division that is still growing so the business needs to double down on it and shift resources.

Start-up outskilling is different – it’s about creating a new pathway for exiting employees. Many employees that are being made redundant will want to work for themselves, perhaps as a contractor or to scale their own company. However, they would benefit hugely from training to learn the skills they need to succeed, which will derisk the venture.

Social responsibility

This isn’t just a feel-good activity, it’s also good business. Aside from enabling the company to live its people-first values, it helps the company deliver a positive impact in the local communities via fuelling new growth and new local job creation. 

Crucially though it can support innovation. Many of those wanting to build a start-up wiil be looking to solve a critical issue for the industry or the company and therefore offers an opportunity to keep connected and potentially help drive future growth for the organisation.

Nokia cut over 45% of its jobs and formed Bridge, an entrepreneurial stream for employees that had an idea for a start-up.

The process is tried and tested. Ten years ago, Nokia cut over 45% of its jobs and formed Bridge, an entrepreneurial stream for employees that had an idea for a start-up. Since its inception, Bridge has helped over 1,000 start-ups.

Out of the companies started, nearly 20% entered into commercial agreements with Nokia as they were solving key challenges facing the business and actually helped accelerate their innovation.

As we enter the next phase, the end of furloughing, the second wave of Covid-19 and an increasingly bleak outlook for recovery, it is time for HR to move from executioner to hero. Taking the strategic lead and evolving and innovating on the pathways open to departing talent can influence the health and survival of an organisation.


Shifted logo

The white-collar gig economy could be the secret to faster innovation

Sifted (FT), Tuesday 27th October 2020

According to a recent FT article, the speed and depth of COVID into a companies P&L has been so cataclysmic, that 20% of all European companies will exhaust all of their working capital, severely hampering their ability to contribute back to renewed growth.

It is having an impact on corporate innovation teams. When we interviewed 300+ C-suite executives for our recent white paper, an overwhelming majority said they were cutting innovation budgets. They also said lack of funding was stopping effective innovation inside the business.

But there is a way of keeping innovation going — even with these limited budgets. The answer lies in the growing gig economy. Increasingly, this is not just about delivery drivers and taxis, but people who are offering professional skills.

If companies can harness the trend to create a marketplace for talent, they can run innovation projects even in more straightened times.

Being able to access a talent pool at a faster, more cost-effective way than recruiting employees, can help drive faster innovation. It enables companies to go from only being able to run 3-4 experiments to running 30-40, building diverse teams across the world at speed and overcome many of the normal internal challenges when trying to release employees onto these ventures.

There are a number of ways companies can get started:

  • Harness departing talent As we see organisations making significant cuts to their workforce, how can innovation teams help build a startup outskilling pathway, that provides those who are leaving that want to build their own startup the ability to access existing IP or challenge areas and offer support and a potential chance for future investment or partnership opportunities?A great example of this in action is Nokia. Nine years ago, Nokia cut over 45% of its jobs. It formed ‘Bridge,’ an entrepreneurial stream for employees that had an idea for a startup. Since its inception, Bridge has helped over 1000 start-ups get their beginning. Out of the companies started, nearly 20% entered into commercial agreements with Nokia as they were solving key challenges facing the business and actually helped accelerate their innovation.
  • Use your alumni network Using talent that already knows the organisation can help bypass some of the difficulties that startup partners can have with corporate bureaucracy. Former employees can bring some of the new skills they have acquired since leaving the company to solve some of the challenges they already understand well.
  • Create a new marketplace The existing freelance platforms out there don’t cater for this skillset, therefore there is an opportunity to create one that helps access a global talent base that enables innovation to occur at an unprecedented scale for the organisation and respond rapidly to shifting demands by market.EY started this thinking back in 2015. Jeff Wong, Global Chief Innovation Officer at EY recognised on-demand workers as “a lever we could pull five years ago” to “a key part of our strategy.” In 2017 his team established GigNow, a platform used internally to find contract talent. It’s now live in 35 countries, with 36,000 workers registered. In his words: “there are all these projects around the world that we couldn’t take on before, but we can now — because now we have a talent base.”

However, to be clear in pursuing this type of strategy, there are some critical things to consider:

  • A new business model is required. A day rate/project fee is not a sustainable approach, it doesn’t create the attract the right type of talent needed for this to be successful, companies will need to become comfortable with equity models and potential co-investment.
  • The core innovation team moves from doing to managing. This is a significant shift, this approach means that for it to be successful, the core team needs to manage the teams and the portfolio and not be the ones creating the ventures. It will require a different skillset for the core team.
  • It’s not a binary choice, the reality is there are some markets that make this approach a lot easier to execute in, others where this could be a long term vision, so innovation leaders will need to identify the markets where to pilot this.
  • Training is required, to improve the chances of success you need to ensure that everyone has the foundational skillset, tools and — most critically — the mindset. If done correctly this training can help scaled more widely and build a continuing talent of pipeline from places such as universities and research institutes

The time is now to be pioneering such an approach, as companies face these times of rapid disruption, it requires businesses to quickly evolve. Pivoting models and developing new products or routes to market can be achieved faster, making innovation teams more agile and able to respond more quickly and at scale to a larger number of new business opportunities.

Chris Locke is chief executive of the innovation consultancy Rainmaking. 


Startups magazine

The Lessons of COVID-19: Connecting Entrepreneurship and the Environment

WRITER Alex Farcet

One of the few positive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic had been the renewed focus of the climate agenda. Over the past few months we have seen companies like BP begin to divest from their traditional oil and gas business and set aggressive net zero targets. For startups this represents a huge opportunity.

After all, addressing the UN’s Sustainable Development goals (SDGs), cannot be achieved solely by big companies. Startups will play an essential role in helping to address some of these planet-sized challenges.

The planet is currently on track for a 3.2° global temperature rise. A survey of 1,000 global CEOs found that nearly two-fifths of bosses believe that the failure to link sustainability with business value has undermined the management of climate change.

Yet Accenture estimate that UK businesses alone could make around £100bn in productivity savings, and that there is a £200bn opportunity for businesses offering more sustainable products..


In 2016 the United Nations passed the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A study by the Danske Bank in 2018 showed that already 10% of all Nordic startups are Impact-Startups, which address at least one of the SDGs. However, this is just a drop in the ocean.

150 businesses and trade body leaders urged the Prime Minister to put the UN SDG goals at the centre of the UK’s COVID-19 recovery plans. The pandemic has shown us how governments can act when they need to – and how willingly people can respond.

As we look to the future, sustainability will sit as a key driver for innovation. Businesses will start to apply tools of entrepreneurship and innovation to connect CSR with growth and revenue – and partnering with the right startups will be the key way businesses can do this effectively.

There is a real opportunity for startups and corporates to collaborate across industries, combining innovation and pace with scale and structure and working together on everything from product design, sourcing materials to manufacturing. This need for partnership has also been recommended by the World Economic Forum’s report: ‘New nature economy report’.


Last month we surveyed 300 C-Suite level business leaders to get insight into how investment in innovation was changing pre and post the pandemic. It revealed an alarming increase in businesses saying they will not invest in innovation due to the COVID-19 crisis – a 213% increase among the same execs when questioned before and during the pandemic. You can view the research here.

The cutting of innovation budgets will not just impact a company’s resilience and growth but their ability to meet their sustainability goals and targets, which have become more important than ever with public and stakeholder expectation. The same research showed that 43% of executives confirmed sustainability was a key challenge they needed to address this year and over half (53%) believed that innovation would be at the heart of achieving their sustainability targets.

While it is understandable that many business leaders are prioritising economic recovery and short term cost savings due to the COVID-19 crisis, the pandemic has also provided a stark reminder around the need for businesses to innovate in order to create a fairer society and more positive impact. The SDGs are setting the agenda for business in the future, and a long term approach is vital in order to not just revitalise the economy but create a socially and environmentally sustainable planet.


As a company we have done a great deal of research into the next wave of sustainable startup talent. Over half of Rainmaking’s projects are focused on innovating for good. We recently launched a comprehensive tool to help businesses innovate for good in a more cost effective way. The database comprises over 4,000 startups and can be accessed by businesses for free to help them gain valuable insights into trends within each SDG, to see where there are emerging clusters of startup activity and to explore the full range of Impact startups operating within each.

Some of the exciting startups we have identified, include:

  • HumanIQ – Self-deploying financial infrastructure giving true hope for the unbanked. (SDG 1: No Poverty
  • EO Charging – Design and manufacture smart electric vehicle chargers for home, work and destination. (SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Ripple Energy – Making clean energy ownership affordable and accessible for everyone. (SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • GrowUp Urban Farms – Sustainable commercial urban farms growing food for local markets. (SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production

There is a vast world of innovation around the SDGs. For businesses that want to align their entrepreneurial efforts with the environment, partnering with a startup that focuses on SDGs is a great place to start. For the startups themselves – it has never been a better time to launch a business that helps solve an environmental challenge. Consumers and governments are behind you – and future generations will benefit from the work you do now.


Shifted logo

New incubator to turn jobless energy workers into entrepreneurs

A wave of redundancies in the oil and gas sector could turn into a wave of new startups.


A huge wave of redundancies is heading for the energy sector, as companies cut back on staffing levels in the face of low oil prices. BP is cutting 10,000 jobs, or around 15% of its global workforce. Centrica is cutting 5,000 jobs, while OVO Energy announced 2,600 job cuts.

Rosa Stewart, a UK-based energy project finance lawyer, however, is hoping to turn the wave of redundancies into a wave of new clean energy startups through a not-for-profit initiative that would help job leavers become startup founders.

Nokia created hundreds of startups ten years ago through its Bridge programme. Could the energy sector do the same?

“All the energy companies are decarbonising and have net-zero targets but no idea how to reach them. Now we have all these energy experts becoming available who could work on the problem,” she says.

Stewart set up a project called Spinning Reserve (named after the energy industry term for the spare capacity that energy operators need to build into their systems), which aims to match energy sector experts either with existing clean energy startups or with potential co-founders interested in forming a new company together.

“It is a pre-school incubator, helping people get started, putting them in teams, making their own startups, getting them ready to join an incubator,” says Stewart, a contractor with SSE Energy who has found her own work outlook uncertain as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Set up just two months ago, following a LinkedIn post that went viral, Spinning Reserve is run by a team of 10 volunteers from the energy sector and has a growing listed of people uploading their details. Stewart is already collaborating with 60 or so low carbon incubator programmes, and 20 smaller clean energy companies, but would like to see more big oil companies come on board to support the initiative.

Getting big companies to back employee spinouts rather than simply making job cuts was an idea put forward in a recent Future Proof article by Chris Locke, chief executive at Rainmaking. Nokia ran a successful programme like this ten years ago when it shed 40,000 jobs. Employees who had been made redundant were able to get €10,000 in backing for a new business idea, a scheme that created some 300 new startups and transformed the Finnish startup ecosystem.

Stewart, a Finn, says she was inspired by the Nokia example and wanted to create something similar for the energy sector.

She says energy companies would benefit from the creation of specialist startups working on the clean energy problem. Many of these could become future collaborators to partner with.

“It is better than calling in a consultant, why not get people who already know the industry and even teams that have already worked together?” she says.

Spinning Reserve is looking for individuals with energy sector experience and for businesses interested in supporting the programme. Find out how to get involved here.

La Rebpubblica logo

Il piano per fare di un milione di disoccupati degli startupper


Il tema della disoccupazione post covid è troppo serio per essere trattato con una battuta. Infatti Chris Locke fa sul serio quando dice che vuole provare a trasformare in due anni un milione di disoccupati in altrettanti startupper con un corso di venti settimane, lanciando mille e settecento nuove aziende al giorno. Se non fosse una delle figure chiave dell’innovazione europea la cosa la potremmo anche liquidare così. Epperò Chris Locke è il capo di Rainmaking, base a Copenaghen e uffici in nove paesi del mondo dove dal 2007 accelera startup su cui investe assieme a grandi aziende. I numeri: ha accelerato 850 startup, ne ha fondate direttamente 27 e ne ha già vendute 9. Insomma quando tre settimane fa ha scritto su un blog il suo piano (RISE: rialzarsi) tutti hanno capito che non scherzava.

Rivolgendosi ai capi delle grandi aziende colpite dal covid-19, ha detto: “Invece di licenziare i vostri dipendenti, aiutateli a diventare loro stessi imprenditori”. Il suo modello è quello che fece la Nokia una decina di anni fa, quando era ancora un colosso delle telecomunicazioni ma era sul punto di collassare licenziando subito 40 mila persone. “Allora aprì dei centri in Europa, Stati Uniti ed India per aiutare quelli che stavano perdendo il lavoro a ricollocarsi e creò il progetto “Bridge”, il ponte, per sostenere i dipendenti con spirito imprenditoriale a realizzare la propria startup”.

“Bridge” ebbe un impatto formidabile: si dice che grazie a quel programma siano nate più di mille startup tra le quali alcune che sono diventate unicorni come Supercell e Rovio. Insomma Locke vuole rifare il “Bridge” di Nokia ma molto più grande visto il numero di licenziamenti causati dalla crisi economica della pandemia. Ma è il momento giusto per lanciare una startup mentre anche le startup esistenti faticano a restare a galla? Locke ne è convinto, dice che Uber, Airbnb, Disney e Microsoft sono nate durante una recessione. E’ un piano oggettivamente folle eppure ha un senso perché scommette sul valore del capitale umano di chi perde il lavoro: “Le aziende in crisi, dice, possono pagare una buona uscita e condannarli ad un futuro in cui dovranno mandare il curriculum a chiunque, oppure pagare questo corso (1200 euro per 20 settimane) e invitarli a crearsi un lavoro, magari realizzando il sogno che hanno sempre avuto”. Sarà dura ma non si può non sperare che un po’ abbia ragione


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