Creative & Cultural Industries

Learnings from the Barcamper accelerator

Caroline Wendt
June 10, 2019

As the Barcamper team started their journey with the camper van to meet entrepreneurs, they invited researchers from Sten K Johnson Entrepreneurship Center and Halmstad University to follow suit. During the project, they collected data and insights to evaluate the work of the accelerator and soon the analyzed results will be presented. Diamanto Politis and Jonas Gabrielsson are the professors leading the research project and are almost ready with the report. They discussed their work during the final in The Creative Business Cup that was recently hosted at Mejeriet.

The unique idea of Barcamper (where the original idea originated from Italy) was to meet entrepreneurs at their home turf and let them present their idea during informal circumstances, in this case, in a camper van. This informal way of meeting together with experienced coaches in this case, Swedish and Italian, has proven during several years of touring in Italy to make more people take the entrepreneurial step and talk about their creative idea. Now was the time to do it in Sweden. During the Barcamper tour in the spring of 2016, the camper van rolled into six Scanian locations and met 81 entrepreneurs, of which eleven reached all the way to the final. Field researcher, Solomon Akele Abebe, also joined the tour to collect data and insights about the work throughout the process. This work has now lead into ground breaking research by prof. Diamanto Politis, Sten K. Johnson Centre for Entrepreneurship Lund University and prof. Jonas Gabrielsson, Halmstad University.

- Academic researcher are very interested in what works and what doesn’t work when you organize for entrepreneurs, says Professor Johan Gabrielsson. We are interested in what happens to entrepreneurs when they go into an accelerator process and what they gain. It is interesting how you raise the pool of entrepreneurial competence in the system - not how many start-ups that are coming out but what the individuals take with them. We also had a discussion with the people who are organizing for entrepreneurship and talked to the policymakers to find out about the entrepreneur ecosystem.

Many surveys focus on the entrepreneurs' ideas or business models - this survey was made from a slightly different angle.

- We have seen a lot of descriptive studies on incubators and accelerators supporting entrepreneurship. The studies tries to evaluate how effective they are by counting the numbers of companies and what comes out of the participation of the programs. We look at what it is within this learning environment that facilitates and trigger the learning among these participants, says professor Diamanto Politis.

Do you have any good advices to people who do the accelerator program?

- One advice is to keep in mind that it’s not only one way to train entrepreneurship or to support entrepreneurs, says Diamanto. You need an open mind set when it comes to the heterogeneity of the individuals who want to undertake entrepreneurship and expect to have a broad spectrum. One other advice is to communicate what you can expect to get by being in a support organisation such as Barcamper.

What kind of advices would you give to entrepreneurs?

- We have a number of findings and implications for entrepreneurs. My advice is to participate in these types of accelerator programs and take the opportunity to share experiences with each other. One advantage is the Peer atmosphere, to share experiences. Often you face the same type of problems and challenges and you can solve these problems together. Peer learning and collaborative learning is crucial, says Diamanto Politis.

- We found that the strongest learning outcome was the creation of an entrepreneur identity. You do that when you build a community with others, and that identity becomes part of you and stays even after the accelerator. By meeting with other people in an accelerator you create a common ground and a way of thinking. Accelerators are a good learning environment, especially if you are sitting alone with your business, says Jonas Gabrielsson.

How will the work proceed from now?

-  We have continued to follow the Barcampers processes, says Diamanto Politis. Now we are focusing on the coaching, the interplay between the coaches, advisers and the participating entrepreneurs. Often there are different expectations. We have been observing the different camp sessions and have done interviews with participants, coaches, investors and all the people around the program. We have a really rich data, so that’s what we are going to do next.

The team: Lars Mattiasson, Katarina Scott, Hossein Lavi, Mats Billberg Johansson, Solomon Akele Abebe, Christian Tellin, Elisa Grasso, Niccolo Sanarico, Gianluca Dettori

Barcamper was followed by The Creative tour:

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