Can you tell us about the background of Launch22? We hear you’re an amalgamation of the charity Catch22 and LaunchPad Labs.
That’s right. Basically, in the beginning, there was Launchpad Labs and Catch-22. Our CEO Eddie Holmes founded the former with his partner David Hardman to provide early-stage entrepreneurs with subsidised workspace, on-site mentoring, and signposting to finance. Catch22 has been around in one form or another for two hundred years, and they believe that enterprise can raise vulnerable young people out of poverty. The two organisations realised that they shared the same aims, so came together for a joint venture: Launch22. We both want to improve the outcomes for less advantaged and under-represented entrepreneurs. At least 30% of our members are from disadvantaged backgrounds and enjoy our space for free.
How important is co-working to the success of a business? Especially a startup business?
One of the reasons why many startups fail is because those who set them up work in isolation. They usually work from home or in coffee shops. If they live alone, the isolation can be terribly depressing for early-stage entrepreneurs; if they have a family, they can find it difficult separating their work life from their private life. Co-working spaces allow them to socialise with other entrepreneurs, as well as push them to be as successful as their new peers and friends – that’s the ambition of our space.
Did you come across any obstacles with the opening of Launch22 London, that you have built upon to make the launch of Launch22 Liverpool a success?
Both locations have provided their own specific challenges. Whereas London has an established culture of co-working spaces, the Liverpool scene is only really just beginning. Our challenge has been the same as other incubators in the city: persuading people that these spaces are the future of the workplace. Forking out thousands of pounds on multi-year leases for office space undermines startups as much as helps them.
What makes Launch22 an inspiring and productive place to work?
It’s productive because of the facilities we provide: 500MB broadband, a huge co-working space, free coffee and tea, as well as opportunities to relax with our swings, table tennis, and fussball. It’s inspiring because the people who come and work here have an idea to make the world, however slightly, a better place; and are actually putting it into practice. And it’s our job to break down the barriers that may stop them.
The co-working industry has grown massively over the past couple of years. With spaces opening up globally all the time – what makes Launch22 different to the rest?
We offer mentoring from experienced businesspeople, as well as co-working space. Launch22 is all about developing an entrepreneurs’ potential. We believe that by providing them with somewhere communal to work, as well as guidance from those who’ve experienced the challenges of setting up businesses, we can positively impact the growth of their startups. That’s what makes us different from typical co-working spaces. As well as the fact that, as a charity, we don’t take equity.
Liverpool has been named the UK’s ‘Startup City’ – was it this title that brought Launch22’s first branch to Liverpool?
After seeing the burgeoning start-up scene [in London], we believed that Liverpool had the potential to become the UK’s ‘Startup City’. Our CEO, Eddie Holmes, wrote about this in the Guardian recently. We opened our first site outside of London here because we believed that we could help make that dream a reality.
Was it a conscious decision to base Launch22 in the old commercial district of Liverpool as opposed to in the Baltic Triangle, where an abundance of startup companies are already based?
We felt it was important to further develop the Commercial District into a hub of startup activity. Santander’s inaugural business incubator is just down the road from our office and they are doing some fantastic work. We want to contribute to this effort by opening another space in this area for entrepreneurs to come and realise their dreams.
What’s the vision? Do you have any plans to roll Launch22 out to other cities?
Yes. Our ambition is to break down the barriers that stop entrepreneurs from succeeding. By opening up spaces in other cities and giving our members access to all of them, we furnish them with the opportunity to expand nationally.
Does Launch22 receive any support from investors in the local area?
We have received some incredible local support. Bill Currie, who’s from Liverpool and strongly believes in its potential, is a key investor. Gary Dewhurst, who runs one of the most successful recruitment companies in the UK along with several other businesses, has also been invaluable.
How important is it for a co-working space to engage not just with the people inhabiting its space, but with the outside community as a whole?
I think it’s vitally important. We really want our events space to be an asset for the community; as well as hosting things like preparations for Liverpool’s Internet of Things bid, it has also been used as the meeting place for collections for the homeless. Helping the city generally is as important to us as helping its entrepreneurs.