Ignite Founders’ Challenge

Your passport to the world-renowned Cambridge ecosystem

Are you a founder or co-founder with an early-stage idea who is ready to take up the challenge of translating your idea into reality with the support of the knowledge, expertise, and infrastructure of the unique Cambridge entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Or have you created a new venture and would benefit from investing in the challenge to gain some fresh perspectives and advice from coaches and speakers drawn from this ecosystem?

Ignite Founders' Challenge.

Contact us

For other enquiries about the Ignite Founders’ Challenge please contact:


The Cambridge ecosystem is renowned for enabling innovation and entrepreneurship. It has helped the development of world-changing ideas like the jet engine, the Raspberry Pi, the webcam and a host of others. This same ecosystem continues to produce innovation and is the home of hugely successful companies such as DeepMindArmDarktrace and Improbable.

We are now backing the next generation of ambitious entrepreneurs who are looking to get their venture successfully off the ground.

Programme overview

The Ignite Founders’ Challenge is a specially designed four-week online programme for early-stage startups that consists of workshops and coaching sessions. It will challenge and support you to explore the potential in your idea and develop a clear plan of action. It will also give you the opportunity to connect with fellow entrepreneurs drawn from a wide variety of different backgrounds and build important networks.

The programme consists of a series of eight online half-day sessions and will take place over a month, on Mondays and Fridays.

The Mondays Injection sessions will consist of seminars and workshops covering specific topics, delivered by academics and practitioners. These are followed by Friday Reflection sessions, facilitated by experienced business coaches. Reflection sessions will run in small groups of six to seven people supported by a lead coach to help you apply the learning from the seminars and workshops to your idea and to benefit from sharing your thinking with your fellow participants.

Throughout the programme, there will be plenty of opportunities to practice your pitching, develop your pitch deck and receive feedback on your venture.

This unique online format will enable you to develop your idea and build momentum over an extended period, surrounded and supported by peers, experts and experienced coaches, right at the centre of the Cambridge ecosystem.

  • Identifying the trends and influences impacting on this market and why it is important to have then on your radar
  • Current competitor analysis
  • Identifying possible new entrants
  • Current and emerging customers
  • Assessing the size of the market
  • Identifying the value your idea or new venture can create for this market
  • Your differentiation from the competition
  • Crafting your value proposition
  • Your customers or customer segments
  • Intellectual property
  • Developing a mission statement
  • Business models and business model innovations
  • Prototyping and mapping the user experience
  • Marketing – delivering your idea to the marketplace
  • The Financials
  • Resource audit
  • Who do you need in your internal and external team?
  • Assigning roles and developing a company culture and core values
  • Identifying who you must motivate and influence
  • Telling your story to different stakeholders
  • Developing a pitch deck

Completion of the Ignite Founders’ Challenge

By the end of the programme, you will have:

  • a clear and validated value proposition via the coaching sessions
  • a business model that you can develop and experiment with
  • in-depth insight into your customers and markets and how to gain traction with them
  • a process to help you with your prototyping and understanding the user experience
  • tools and techniques to help you develop your mission statement and consider becoming a mission led company
  • insights into your entrepreneurial motivation and how this can help you build your team
  • a great network
  • achievable and clear action plans for your next steps.

On completion of the Ignite Founders’ Challenge, you will receive an official certificate of attendance from Cambridge Judge Business School.

You will receive a 20% discount for attending the Ignite programme in Cambridge in July 2022 and you will also have the opportunity to pitch for a place on our prestigious Accelerate Cambridge programme.

Eligibility criteria

This programme is suitable for you if you have the following:

  • A valid innovative idea and have started working on it.
  • A commitment to attend all sessions of the programme.
  • A passion and drive and will benefit from workshops and support from coaches, and access to the Cambridge ecosystem.

The venture can be in any country, sector and focused on any idea or market.

This programme is not for you if you are already trading or have already received a third-party investment. If you received a non-dilutive funding (grants, loans, etc) from the Government or another organisation you can join the programme.


Cost per individual: £750

Cost per founding team of two: £1,200 

Cambridge Judge Business School alumni are eligible for a 20% discount. University of Cambridge students, alumni and partner organisations are eligible for a 10% discount.

There is limited BBSRC funding available to researchers/postdocs from Cambridge University (eligibility criteria apply). Please email ignitefounders@jbs.cam.ac.uk for more details. 

Please book a call with the Ignite team to discuss how best we can support your application and the opportunities available.

Book a call with the Ignite team


Babita Devi

Accelerate Cambridge Coach, Cambridge Judge Business School

Babita Devi is an experienced coach and mentor with over 30 years of expertise in driving growth across various business domains, such as business development, strategic marketing, and commercialisation. Her extensive interaction with numerous business owners and founders is the foundation of her program, The Alignment Accelerator. This program is based on the idea that personal and business growth are interconnected, leading to inevitable success when they align.

Early in her career, Babita excelled in Enterprise Resource Planning, constructing pipelines for average sales of £1 million through well-defined strategies with measurable outcomes. She quickly progressed into management in her early 20s and went on to join the world’s largest optics company. There, she played a pivotal role in European Marketing, focusing on brand strategy, communications development, and implementation planning. Babita believes that effective marketing acts as the driving force behind all business areas.

Founding bStrategic in Australia in 2003, Babita’s focus on strategic marketing led to her transition into a Coach and Mentor role. Returning to the UK in 2006, she continued supporting large corporates and early-stage ventures across various sectors, including games, party, licensing, gaming, health and med tech, software, and education. Her tech venture in 2015 contributed to shaping The Alignment Accelerator, which helps founders understand the relationship between personal growth and business success.

Babita collaborates with multiple organisations as a Coach and Mentor, including Barclays Eagle Labs, Raising Starts, and Oxford Innovation Space. Alongside her business efforts, she has shared insights through lectures on entrepreneurial marketing for MBA and Business Studies students. Babita mentors the Masters in Entrepreneurship students at the University of Cambridge Judge Business School, advises early-stage companies in Edtech and Games, and serves as an Advisor to a Venture Capital fund.

She’s also a Non-Executive Director for the Global Entrepreneurs Network UK, connecting entrepreneurs from 200 countries.

Babita’s enthusiasm lies in connecting people, fostering strategic partnerships, and cultivating networks of innovators, thinkers, and change-makers.

Andrew Hatcher

Managing Director, Applied Knowledge Network

Andrew has a long history of identifying, developing and managing innovation within corporate environments and notably created and implemented an innovation management system while working for Reuters, the European media group. His career at Reuters culminated in a role as CEO of an Asian-based Internet trading corporate spin-out in Singapore which he took through initial VC funding and on to a trade sale.

He has been involved in the creation and development of a series of companies including Investing for Good, Working Knowledge and The Mapp and is involved as a non-executive director at several growing technology companies.

With a personal corporate history that includes journalism, software development, project management, marketing and strategic sales. Andrew draws on a wealth of experience in all aspects of business management gained through working internationally, predominantly in the US and UK.

Andrew is an accomplished author including, Inventuring – why big companies must think small (McGraw Hill, 2003), Services (Kogan Page 2013), Marketing Metrics (CMP 2015), Innovation in Marketing (CMP 2016), Marketing Strategy (CMP 2016) and Contemporary Challenges (CMP 2017). These books reflect Andrew’s extensive experience in the areas of business startup and in the specialist area of innovation management, marketing and corporate venturing.

Sarah Hewett

Finance Business Partner at Abcam PLC

Sarah is a finance professional who loves helping entrepreneurs to understand their finances and make their businesses grow. She has worked with small and medium sized organisations, with corporate finance roles at Innocent Drinks, an FMCG company, and Abcam, an AIM- and NASDAQ-listed life science business based in Cambridge.

She has partnered with diverse business functions, from research, manufacturing and logistics, to digital and sales. Sarah has also found time to work as a finance trainer and coach for start-ups. She’s particularly passionate about social enterprise and opportunities for business to be run both for profit and for good, and spent two years growing her own social enterprise, which she successfully sold in 2017.

Anthony (Tony) Harris

Accelerate Cambridge Coach, Cambridge Judge Business School

Anthony (Tony) Harris is a business angel, entrepreneur, technologist, and thirty-year tech-industry veteran. He co-founded Software 2000/Software Imaging in 1989 and the company’s OEM software revolutionised colour desktop inkjet and digital copier printing worldwide. After exiting in 2007 he completed an MA at the University of Oxford and an MA(Res) and has recently completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge.

Tony’s areas of business expertise cover intellectual property, corporate finance, development team structure and management, and international export. He is a Cambridge Angel, a member of Cambridge Capital Group and Henley Business Angels, and sits on the Investor Committee for Oxford Capital Partners. In terms of charitable/unremunerated work he is the honorary Treasurer of Regent’s Park College (Oxford), sits on the finance committee of Kellogg College (Oxford), and is the Registered Treasurer of the Liberal Democrats (National Party), a non-executive unremunerated role, focusing on finance and compliance.

In his spare time, Tony enjoys skiing, cycling, and is a keen private pilot of helicopters and light aircraft including floatplanes. He is also a National Rowing Umpire.

Paul Bourne

Fellow in Arts (Creative Engagement), Cambridge Judge Business School

Paul works in Creative Engagement in four connected ways; as a Theatre Director, a Business Storyteller, an Entrepreneurship Teacher and as a Corporate & Start-up Consultant.

He is the Artistic Director of Menagerie, a Cambridge-based professional theatre company which creates and tours theatre productions worldwide. Formerly Artistic Director of The Frankfurt Playhouse and of Center Stage New York, Paul regularly freelance directs and teaches theatre in the UK, Europe and the US. Over the past 30 years he has directed and produced over 90 professional productions in 12 different countries. He has also been the Artistic Director of The Hotbed Festival of New Writing since 2002 and Co-Director of Divadlo 6-16 (Prague) since 2016. He is Chair of the Jury for two International Theatre Festivals; in The Czech Republic and Bulgaria. He teaches directing and performance skills as an international expert at Theatre Schools in Brno, Belgrade and Prague.

In Executive and Entrepreneurship Education, Paul’s key areas of interest and research are; working alongside artists exploring creativity in the workplace, presentation skills, enterprise thinking, collaborative working, communication impact, storytelling, pitching skills and transformational leadership.

He has most recently focused on two key areas: Cultural Transformation (running his EPIC programme: Engage. Perform. Inform. Challenge), with The Dubai Stock Exchange, Liverpool Football Club, Slaughter & May, Zurich Insurance and Nike, and Communication Impact (CSI Lab: Content. Style. Impact), for McLaren Formula One, United Nations Young Global Leaders, Fairtrade, United States Armed Forces, Novartis and Infosys.

Paul’s work as a Personal Coach has been utilised by many companies and individuals worldwide including Lloyds of London, Procter & Gamble, TTP and Nike. Paul is also currently working with CARBON13 Cambridge as Storyteller-in-Residence, supporting over 100 Venture Builder Start-ups focusing on developing new Carbon Reduction businesses.

Paul teaches Enterprise and Creativity as an Associate at St Andrew’s University, as well as on the Masters in Entrepreneurship, EnterpriseTECH, MBA and EMBA at Cambridge Judge Business School and as an Associate Professor in Enterprise at Stockholm School of Economics.

As an International Arts Consultant, Paul works with a wide variety of organisations including Trans Europe Halles (Arts Planning), Wroclaw and Kaunas ECOCs (European Capital of Culture; Audience Development) and Creative Kosice (Artistic Interventions in the workplace).

Paul has three TEDx talks; “How to Tell Stories That Matter.“, “The Power of Personality.” and “How to be Lucky.”

Paul Hughes


Paul has worked for over 30 years with tech entrepreneurs, start-ups, scaling ventures and multinational businesses around the world. He has worked in a range of industries at CXO and board level, including for health pharma and medtech, bioscience, agritech, cleantech, hardware, and software and data driven business.

He specialises in strategy and corporate, funding, value creation, scaling, finance, mergers and acquisitions, and operational planning and development.

Paul currently serves as the COO of BIOS Health, a world leader in the development of neural digital therapies for the treatment of chronic disease, where he is driving its strategy and scaling it internationally.

Paul began his career in finance with the UK’s leading home/educational computer company. He later moved to a Group finance role in a US-based agritech innovation company. After spending several years as Principal at a Wall Street investment bank, primarily focusing on middle-market M&A and funding on a global basis, he returned to the UK and co-founded a significant biofuels technology business. Prior to joining BIOS three years ago, Paul led the creation and development of a UK accelerator and incubator business (with the support of one of the world’s leading banking organisations) that focused on identifying and supporting exciting impact start-ups (which included BIOS).

Paul lectures at Cambridge Judge Business School from time-to-time and is a Business Mentor for Cambridge Enterprise (the University of Cambridge research commercialisation arm). He also mentors a handful of start-ups, particularly around growth/scaling, commercialisation strategy and funding.

Stylianos (Stelios) Kavadias

Margaret Thatcher Professor of Enterprise Studies in Innovation & Growth


Charles Nixon

Entrepreneur in Marketing Knowledge

Entrepreneur in Marketing Knowledge. Charles has experience in the telecommunications, publishing, finance and education sectors, and has had hands-on involvement in the IT revolution from the first days of PCs. Charles established one of the UK’s first computerised marketing intelligence systems, co-founded a Fintech startup in the 1980s and then founded Cambridge Marketing College in 1991, growing it to a dominant position in its sector before retiring in 2016 to run a publishing venture and establish his Foundation.

Charles is on the Advisory Panel of Harvard Business Review, and is an advisor for Astia. Fellow of Royal Society of Arts and Chartered Marketer.

Charles has developed skills over 40 years in market research, marketing and business development. An author, creator and occasional presenter of the Marketing Review podcast, Charles has a degree in Modern History and Economics from Manchester University and an MBA from Warwick Business School.

Visit Charles’s LinkedIn profile

Visit Charles’s Amazon profile

Xann Schwinn

Full Stack Strategist


I am a Full Stack Strategist with the aim to change the way that people perceive and interact with brands. I work to proactively change how startups, non-profits and classical music ensembles can develop a more productive and positive experience for their consumer.

The convergence of choral music & experiential design has been at the heart of my work since 2011. There is something in music that is entirely enveloping. I strive to create new vehicles for audiences to interact with music. I want to be clear: classical music is not dead. It’s just time to adapt to a new kind of listening experience.

Frequently asked questions

No. If you have a team, two members can participate on the discounted fee. We can place you in different coaching group so you will receive a more diverse coaching and feedback.

Successful applicants will be provided with the opportunity to attend a series of ‘injection’ and ‘reflection’ sessions which will be delivered and facilitated by our academics, experienced professionals, and industry experts with final pitches of selected ventures at the end of the programme.

The programme is accessible to anyone in the world and will take place in UK time zone. All you need is an internet connection.

No. The Ignite Founders’ Challenge is a programme run over four weeks, on Mondays and Fridays. You are expected to participate fully in all sessions of the programme.

If you are shortlisted by our programmes team you will be notified via email about the next stage. We aim to inform applicants of the outcome of the application within two weeks of applying.

There is limited BBSRC funding available to researchers/postdocs from the University of Cambridge (eligibility criteria apply). Please contact us for more details.

There are also many organisations that provide funding for this sort of programme, so it is worth searching locally and nationally for funding sources.

Refunds are not possible once you have accepted an offer to take part in the Ignite Founders’ Challenge.

Yes, you will receive a digital certificate from Cambridge Judge Business School.

Yes, there will be the opportunity for you to pitch for a place at our prestigious Accelerate Cambridge programme and we can provide you with information about many of the other programmes run by the Centre.

You can email our programmes team via ignitefounders@jbs.cam.ac.uk. We aim to respond to all queries within three working days.

Yes, you will only need to complete one application form and provide details of founders participating in the programme.