Increase in Dragons’ Den-style funding to benefit Cambridge graduates

Daniel Rowe 14 January 2013

Changes were afoot in funding to start-ups in England this week as David Cameron announced that a further £30 million would be poured into the coalition’s Start-Up Loans scheme over the next three years and that the age limit for applying was being raised from 24 to 30. The scheme, available only in England, and designed to support young entrepreneurs, offers loans to those whose business plans are deemed “robust”; the money can then be repaid over five years at a relatively low interest rate.

The news comes as a particular bonus for Cambridge graduates as the number of entrepreneurs among them rises. According to figures obtained this week from the University Careers Service’s annual survey, in 2010/11 64 people responded to say that they had graduated from their first degree to set up their own business compared to just 21 in 2004/5.

David Ainscough, Deputy Director of the Careers Service (offices pictured above) , and who has previous experience of working with Cambridge start-ups, told The Cambridge Student: “The offer of any sort of additional financial support from government to graduates emerging into what remains a difficult employment market is welcome news Of perhaps greater worth is the offer within the announcement to also help provide “an experienced mentor to guide success.””

He added that “Cambridge graduates have always been attracted to the entrepreneurial; the qualities required and abilities needed to succeed are enhanced by the academic, collegiate and extra curricular environment.”

One such student is Benedek Csorba, a second-year Economics student who has started selling his own mobile phone application. He praised the scheme but suggested that it did not go far enough to help entrepreneurs in his situation. £2,500 – the amount a start-up typically receives under the scheme – seemed too little, he suggested, “enough only for IT start-ups without significant physical capital needs”.

He continued: “I also hope that the promised mentoring service linked to the loan will get strong emphasis. I know from personal experience that having someone you can call up when you don’t know how to proceed or to solve a problem is sometimes worth more than any financial support.”

Daniel Rowe