Business in Shoreditch: IncuBusLDN the First Start-up Incubator…on a Bus.

by Emma McWhinney

Launching in the New Year, IncuBusLDN will be London’s first start-up incubator…on a bus. With the dramatic hike in tuition fees and the rapidly changing world of start-ups and app development, co-founders Rishi Chowdhury, 25, and George Johnston, 20, have geared their business towards 16-24 year olds who have decided that university is not the right path for them.

“We’re not discouraging people from going to university, but those who would rather start a business than study have the opportunity to do so,” Chowdhury says. “IncuBusLDN can provide them with the support, resources and introductions they need to help them build a solid foundation.”

IncuBus Ventures Founders

The bus, which will be based in Red Market, Shoreditch, will welcome aboard five high-growth start-up teams every six months, providing them with a community space, pop-up shows, code clubs (for local schools), mentoring, workshops, office space and introductions to investors, as well as a six-month internship at partnered businesses.

Successful entrants will be chosen from the pair’s network within the London technology sector.

Johnston explains: “We have spent years following trends and filtering high growth start-ups through our own meet-up groups such as Flagons Den (which has over 1000 members) and have recognised the best people in the scene.”

The programme will cost entrants £3000 for the 12-month programme and once participants have completed the scheme, they will give away up to 10 per cent in equity after leaving IncuBus.

“We applied to IncuBus as it offered us something different from the traditional incubation space London typically offers,” explains hopeful applicant, River Tamoor Baig, 23, from Hive, an online collaboration tool which offers a secure platform for business communications.

“The focus on mentorship, with in depth weekly workshops and skills training will be really useful for us as we look to get our business off the ground. We hope to gain a better understanding of how start-ups work and how we can take our prototype and turn it into a fully-fledged business.”

Chowdhury started his career at university where he studied Business Management and started two of his own businesses in his spare time. Fresh out of university and working as an online marketer at Huddle, where he met co-founder Johnston, Chowdhury simultaneously started YHPOnline, a media company dedicated to encouraging and showcasing entrepreneurship, and started to host Flagons Den socials for London’s technology entrepreneurs (again with George).

Johnston, who has a background in the technology department at Goldman Sachs and experience in launching his own early stage mobile companies, adds a technological dimension to the IncuBus duo, who, despite their young age, are clearly no strangers to the challenging world of start-ups.

The hardest challenge the pair has faced has been raising initial start-up finance for the first bus. “Once we have this finalised, there will be nothing stopping us,” says Johnston.

“The successes so far can be seen via the overwhelming support from the local community, prospective start-ups who want to come onto the programme and the corporate sponsorships we’ve secured. We are now working with KPMG, Deloitte, NatWest, Enternships and several university partners. Our continuing success will be dependent on what we can leverage from this network.”

With Tech City becoming more crowded, the IncuBus founders went in search of AirBnb-style spaces, and after considering a boat for their HQ, they settled for the more affordable option of an iconic London bus based in the heart of Tech City and the Shoreditch start-up scene.

“We will be running a lean, agile development programme for the start-ups and the bus also has useful advantages that it can be mobile, helping us transport our start-ups to the best pitch events, summits and conferences,” Johnston says.

“Once we have tested and refined the opportunity with one bus, we can easily spread the franchise to others.”

With a wealth of start-up experience under their belts, initial investment secured and some big-name partners on board, IncuBus appears to have mastered the route to success.