Q&A with Business Growth Specialist, Ammar Mirza

Ammar Mirza CBE is a sought after leadership and business management consultant that has helped several hundred new and existing businesses within the North East, including Tees Valley SMEs through the DigitalCity Accelerator Programme.

With a vast amount of knowledge and experience, we were delighted for him to join us for a Q&A session talking all things digital start-ups!

What are the main ingredients needed for creating a digital company?

Anyone creating a company needs to ensure their service or product is desirable:

  • Will people want it?
  • Is it feasible?
  • Will you be able to create and deliver the product and service?
  • Is it viable?
  • Will you make money?

What advice would you offer a digital start-up?

  • Make sure you have identified your target customers and are clear on the value you will bring to them – your value proposition.  
  • Develop a long-term plan and work backwards on identifying the objectives and key results to enable you to reach your long term ambitions. 
  • Patience, perseverance and positivity are three key traits associated with successful businesses, but most importantly is having a clear plan.

Why do some businesses fail?

Statistically up to 97% of businesses fail and the number one reason they do is because they simply haven’t tested the market to make sure there would be demand for their product or service. Other factors include not knowing their target audience, not having the right team or having enough money.

Why should digital businesses join the Accelerator programme?

I genuinely believe this is the best Accelerator Programme any business could participate in.  We deliver the activities based on Design Thinking, Agile and Start-up principles, which are renowned for providing the most appropriate framework. 

We stay away from too much theory and instead provide world class insights, practical tools and techniques all underpinned by real life experience and expertise.

What type of businesses can join the programme?

The Accelerator Programme is a unique initiative that has been designed for early-stage digital/tech businesses based in the Tees Valley.

To become the best you have to learn from the best and our team of experts has created the perfect environment in which talented, hard-working entrepreneurs can achieve or often exceed their ambitions.

The Accelerator Programme offers the perfect platform for founders and teams to build first class digital businesses that are sustainable here in Teesside. It has a track record of having produced some of the most influential digital businesses in the UK and works to inspire and support the digital business leaders of tomorrow.

What makes the DigitalCity Accelerator programme different?

The programme is person and business centred which allows us to provide a tailored bespoke experience making sure that everyone develops personally and professionally. 

We tackle barriers to growth including mindset, beliefs and behaviours and we share details of the best growth enablers with a particular focus on innovation and digital transformation.

What can businesses on the programme expect to do/ learn?

With the advent of Covid-19 we have had to adapt the delivery to a virtual approach.  However, this focus on digital has enabled us to deploy a range of collaborative tools that help facilitate more and better learning. 

The virtual sessions include exercises and break-out sessions, all underpinned by world class expertise.  In parallel we provide all of the resources, videos and reference material for all participants to access in their own time.

We use a blended range of some of the foremost practical methodologies including business model canvas, value proposition and agile, alongside leadership and development materials from the Institute of Leadership and Management.

What does the programme consist of?

The programme is fully blended to make sure that all learning covering all major business principles, is practically reinforced with live examples.  We provide all of the tools and resources, deliver these in a virtual workshop environment and provide 1-2-1 mentoring.  

The community aspect is key and we encourage organisations to come together and explore collaborative opportunities through peer-support and learning.

We work towards a demo day that focuses everyone’s attention on being able to sell their business and raise investment, preparing each business to succeed after the programme.

What are the main challenges that digital businesses are faced with? How can the programme help to overcome them?

The key challenges digital businesses face is making sure that there is a market for their services.  In addition, skills, finance, leadership and sales are key areas for consideration. 

The programme takes each business through a practical business development journey to help them map and validate their offer and ultimately be able to lead, manage and maintain their business successfully. 

Our goal for the programme is to help businesses start, survive and thrive by providing the right support at the right time.  The programme lives up this promise having worked with some of the most successful digital businesses in Tees Valley.

What can I expect to take away from the programme?

A fully validated business model, all of the resources you need to grow and to become part of a growing community that helps one another.  Ultimately to become part of something special that enables organisations and individuals to grow. 

You’ll be a part of a fantastic, vibrant community that supports one another and we will continue to keep you updated on the many different business opportunities that we are aware of through our broader network. Including the likes of funding schemes, PR, bids etc.

What happens after the programme?

As part of our Alumni businesses have access to many opportunities that wouldn’t typically be available elsewhere:

We monitor funding, bids and tender opportunities and support the businesses in our networks with grant applications and contract tenders. In 2020 alone we have helped businesses in our Alumni secure in excess of £150,000 worth of funding to ensure their sustainability during an extremely challenging time.

We signpost our Alumni to other business support organisations that are on our radar. As a trusted organisation we also receive a lot of commercial enquiries from across the region which we are able to share with these businesses.

As DigitalCity is based within Teesside University we are able to facilitate large scale collaborative or research-based projects with internationally renowned academics in the schools and research institutes.

We offer PR support and are always keen to help businesses in our alumni to promote new products, services or success stories in the regional and national media.

And perhaps more importantly, DigitalCity’s doors are always open. The team is available to offer impartial advice to any business leader that wants to talk through an idea or an issue that they might be faced with. Because our mission is simple – we are extremely proud and passionate about the region and with our stakeholder partners, we are working to make Teesside the epicentre of digital excellence in the UK.

How can I apply to the Accelerator programme?

Good news! Applications are open to join our next programme starting Wednesday 24 February 2021.

Apply here before the deadline at noon on Monday 1st February 2021.