Seven ways we’re diagnosing what startups need as they scale

There’s a point in a startup’s growth journey that’s particularly treacherous.

You’re taking on risks like being beholden to a VC, having far more employees to feel responsible for or entering new sectors or geographic markets where success isn’t guaranteed. And you’re having to make everyone around you believe not just in your mission, but that you’re the one to take everyone there.

That’s what our Cyber Runway: Scale stream is designed to support founders with.

We’ve spent time talking to founders about what startups really need at the crunch point and why some startups fail as they scale.

We’ve also taken in what we’ve heard from industry, investors and the government to pinpoint ecosystem-level opportunities to address some of systemic challenges that are out of the hands of any one startup.

Below is a summary of some of the issues we’ve found and the changes we’re making to our accelerator.

We’re excited about the new approach to Cyber Runway, if you’re interested in learning more about either Scale stream, or you’d like to support our startups, get in touch on

Not enough cyber startups are focusing on the critical challenges

The manufacturing sector – including the semiconductor supply chain – operational technology and connected places and devices are increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks. Manufacturing is now far more attractive to bad actors than the financial services sector: it’s not as well-defended and the chaos you can cause is immense.

According to the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology’s latest Sectoral Analysis 2023, just 5% of the companies in the sector represent IoT, while 4% focus on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and industrial control systems (ICS).

Meanwhile, challenges like disinformation and securing new frontiers such as space – and the supply chain involved in the sector – aren’t a glint in the eye of most founders in cyber. While the startups that are trying to sell to these emerging markets find that lead times are perilously long.

What we’re doing:  

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is already working with startups to help them develop technology to meet mission-critical challenges through NCSC For Startups.  

Cyber Runway will help startups understand the market opportunities and lead times so they can make informed decisions about whether they want to point their tech to a new challenge. We’ll also help them partner with the right people to help them make that shift.  

We’re also introducing an Innovation Forum to Cyber Runway. This hand-picked group of CISOs and security leaders will give our cohort insights into emerging market needs and tailored feedback on how their solution might be used in a particular sector, or for a new use case.

Tough geopolitical and economic conditions mean forward planning is key

As well as long client lead times that our community is reporting, inflation and jittery VCs are added pressures that could threaten growing startups.  

This is especially true for startups that have spent time in stealth mode on product development and haven’t adequately planned their funding and commercialisation strategy to give themselves enough runway.  

What we’re doing: 

We’re bringing in experts to help our cohort understand their risks and plan ahead. This may mean being more ambitious about how much they need to raise, adjusting their timescales or considering when and how much to invest in marketing and recruitment. More than that, we’re helping founders communicate these decisions – something they’ve told us they find difficult.  

Founders crave community and peer support

Even at the infant stages of starting a company, founders have told us about how they crave having a peer group who they can trust with all the problems they usually feel they have to bottle up or are too sensitive to air in public.

We’ve also heard that founders believe accelerators shouldn’t just broadcast theory – they want to hear from people who have been through it before and they want a chance to work through their challenges with peers and experts.  

What we’re doing:


  • grouping founders into small batches during our in-person events so they have a chance to speak confidentially 
  • making sure every session has plenty of time for questions 
  • scheduling sessions for founders to reflect on the week’s topics together 
  • offering office hours with experts 
  • making targeted introductions wherever we can  
We need to help founders get match-fit ready before they grow

Cashflow or poor product-market fit aren’t the only startup killers. Research has shown that the mental health of the founder as well as their leadership skills can be factors too.  

Athletes know that taking care of their heads has an impact on their performance, and it’s time founders prioritised their physical and mental wellbeing. There must be sacrifices, but we see too many leaders experiencing burnout, stress and anxiety directly caused by their jobs. This shouldn’t be normalised or glamourised.  

At the same time, as businesses experience growth spurts founders must often upskill quickly in new areas, like culture-building, delegation and communication.   

What we’re doing: 

We’re hosting small sessions with seasoned founders who are happy to open up about their experiences as well as building in stress management and leadership training into the programme.

Pitching is an art form

Being able to succinctly and convincingly articulate what challenge you’re solving, what your mission is and what makes you different is crucial. But even later-stage startups haven’t nailed this.  

What we’re doing: 

As well as bringing in storytelling and pitching experts, our startups will work in small groups throughout the programme to practice their pitch.  

This will all build up to our graduation day, where we’ll assemble investors, buyers and sector leaders for our cohort to present to.

Global growth doesn’t start and end in the US

Most UK startups cite the US as the destination they have in mind when they first start thinking about expanding overseas. But while the market size and investor scene might make it tempting, it’s also crowded.

What’s more, startups don’t always go in armed with all the facts about how much time and money it might take, or what the market differences are on a state level. 

What we’re doing: 

Having spoken to startups and industry experts, we’ve mapped out global opportunities in countries like the Netherlands and Singapore.  

As well as sessions designed to help startups plan their internal expansion strategy, we’re introducing market deep dives that will explore the realities of what it takes to make the most of opportunities in specific locations in the US and beyond.

The sector can be more inclusive

While the sector is broadly representative of society, it’s not nearly as inclusive enough. The NCSC’s Decrypting Diversity report found that a fifth of cyber security professionals still feel like they can’t be themselves at work. At the same time, 19% of women experienced a gender-based incident (up from 15% the previous year). 

What we’re doing: 

We’re helping startups access advice on building inclusive cultures, processes and policies, with a focus on women, ethnic minorities and people who are neurodivergent or disabled people. We’re also introducing a Women in Cyber meetup for our community – so if you’re interested in coming to one of our events or speaking get in touch with us.

Over six months, we’ll give 20 cohort members the connections, mentors, community and expert advice to help you turbocharge your startup’s growth. The deadline to apply for our Scale programme is 11.59pm on Sunday 20th August 2023 – complete your submission to our programme to get the help required to fast-track your growth journey.