Words & photo: John Baron
Could the next Bill Gates come from Pudsey? That’s the aim of a new £15 million initiative to support new inventors with financial backing for 100 new app prototypes.
They are encouraging new app inventors – including children – to take their ideas to market with a £15 million campaign funded by multi-national organisation Excelledia, who chose Leeds for its first Dezign Space in the UK.
Harry Sekhon, founder of Madison Offices, has high hopes that the scheme could help create a ‘unicorn’ business – a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. He said:
“Becoming the first UK partner of Dezign Space is a real honour, they’re offering encouragement to anyone who may have a fantastic idea has never been done before and we are now able to extend our offering to the ever-expanding digital SME market. It’s about making a great idea a reality.”
Mr Sekhon hopes to work closely with local schools and businesses and aims to encourage schools to put artificial intelligence – the fourth revolution – and innovation onto school curriculums.
Each successful app could be awarded with up to £150,000 to develop it. He added:
“This is a springboard, particularly for school children who may have potential to create the next ‘unicorn’ business. We are hoping we will find these kind of people and businesses.
“We want to go into schools and encourage kids to come up with an idea for an app. Under Dezign Space it will be made into a prototype, at no cost to the individual, and then it will be offered to angel investors around the world to see if they’re interested in the idea. We’ll then discuss it with the person whose idea it is to scale it up on a regional, national, or global level.
“We’d encourage anyone who may have a fantastic idea that has never been done before to get in touch.”
Mark Burns, managing director of Excelledia in UK, said the aim was to encourage anyone from anywhere to innovate. He said:
“This is a great place to work. This initiative should help fully realise people’s potential and help put Pudsey on the map.”
Mr Burns said existing small and medium businesses based at Madison Offices were already taking up the challenge.
Speaking at the launch event, Stuart Andrew MP welcomed the moves to bring the initiative to Pudsey and investment into the town. He said:
“It has been one of the most extraordinary and challenging 18 months anyone could have imagined. The fact that Harry took the bold decision to persevere in this climate takes real determination. He’s helping dreams to become a reality.
“Initiatives like this are going to become critical as we come out of the pandemic. Government can do its bit but it is the people here today who can make a real difference. I wish it every success for the future.”
Pudsey councillor Trish Smith was also a guest of honour at the launch, alongside Mr Andrew. She was thanked for her ongoing support of the initiative.
Madison Offices offers office and co-working spaces, storage facilities, design spaces and meeting rooms to small and medium businesses.