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The University of Southampton

Southampton graduate returns as Director of Future Worlds Startup Accelerator

Published: 1 March 2019
Future Worlds Director Ben Clark
Southampton alumnus Ben Clark brings extensive leadership to the role of Director of Future Worlds.

Startup expert and mentor Ben Clark, appointed as the new Director of the University of Southampton’s start-up accelerator Future Worlds, is pursuing a vision of Southampton as a global powerhouse of tech start-ups.

Clark, a Southampton alumnus (Master of Business Administration, 2002), brings extensive leadership experience to the role including spells at several tech start-ups and spinouts. He succeeds Future Worlds founder Reuben Wilcock who has taken up a new role with venture capital firm Blackfinch Ventures but will now support the unit as one of the network of mentors helping students and staff convert their own ideas into valuable businesses.

Ben has assisted University entrepreneurs as a Resident Mentor in Future Worlds for the past two years and was previously the Interim Director for six months in 2017. He will oversee a growing core team, which hired an Events and Marketing Officer early in the New Year and will welcome a new Tech Acceleration Manager in the coming weeks.

“I always resonated with Future Worlds’ vision, which is what drew me back to the University, and I am honoured to have been selected as its new director,” said Ben. “As every start-up knows, momentum is key; we now have a great opportunity for Future Worlds to propel Southampton towards becoming a global powerhouse for tech start-ups. There are so many more success stories to come, which will have a lasting impact on the University, the city and the world.”

“The number of start-ups emerging from the University – and the City – of Southampton has multiplied and the scale of their achievements keeps on growing,” he continued. “Start-ups from this University are right now standing shoulder to shoulder in Silicon Valley with the most promising start-ups from around the world. But more than that, the examples emerging are inspiring others, impacting the culture on campus and lifting everyone’s expectations of what is possible. Each success story builds the momentum and compounds the impact created, which is why I’m so excited to continue this transformational journey.”

Ben was on the leadership team of HIPPO in the early 2000s during its period of rapid growth from start-up to national waste management business, including raising several multi-million pound rounds of equity investment before working for several years with start-ups and a venture capital fund in East Africa. He has since orchestrated the growth of start-up companies in Hampshire, including roles with Snowflake Software, University of Southampton spinout Symetrica, and as Chief Operating Officer of SaaS start-up iPresent.

“The opportunity before us is immense, but to seize this moment I’m looking to connect with potential mentors, investors and external partners who want to help some of the most talented and ambitious start-up founders in the UK. We have many staff and student innovators across the University who have ideas that can change the world, so if you can them to achieve that potential then I would love to hear from you.”

Future Worlds, which opened its new on-campus Accelerator Space last Autumn, is a unique and vibrant start-up accelerator at the University of Southampton which helps nurture aspiring entrepreneurs and cutting-edge technologies through events, one-to-one support and its network of seasoned founders, investors and millionaire entrepreneurs.

The accelerator’s monthly 20MINFOUNDER event host founders of successful start-ups to share their journey with aspiring entrepreneurs on campus and inspire people to take the first step. Emerging start-ups are helped to launch through investor pitching events and an annual Dragons’ Den style event in which over £200,000 was committed last year to four student/graduate start-ups including £100,000 pledged to Aeronautics and Astronautics student Connell McLaughlin for his Route Reports embedded sensor system and web-based dashboard designed to detect and report hazards like potholes and overhanging branches on public transport.

Future Worlds is also the delivery partner for the Z21 Innovation Fund, an initiative founded by the Web Science Institute, also based at the University of Southampton, as part of a collaboration with the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP). The mission of the Z21 Fund is to accelerate University Web start-ups towards investment and growth, and create high-tech jobs in the Solent region.

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