Richard Downs started to put together his business plan for Iglu.com while a full-time MBA student at London Business School in January last year. The original business plan was based on retailing property on the internet, said Downs, but was quickly focused on the ski market to take advantage of the correlation between skiers and internet users as well as the fragmented nature of the market. Having met his partner, Emmanuelle Drouot, Iglu.com needed to be ready by October 30—the Ski Show.
As the countdown began, the company was lucky enough to find a home in the newly-created LBS incubator giving them the time to focus on the business rather than hunting for suitable office space. The website was completed at 2am on the morning of the show, explained Downs, noting that even half a week spent looking for office space would have been disastrous. “If we had missed the ski season we would have been marginalised. The market opportunity would not be there,” said Downs, noting that a 12-month delay would have seen competitors steal the top slot.
The LBS incubator was launched in September last year to provide accommodation for LBS alumni setting up in new media and technology companies. Iglu.com was its first occupant and because of that the process took longer than it would now, said Downs. The incubator now houses eight companies and offers a seamless transition from school to business.
The space offered is scaleable and is charged by the number of people. This makes the incubator relatively inexpensive for companies of two or three but relatively expensive for larger groups, said Downs. “If a company is successful – although it is debatable whether headcount is a proxy for success – there is an economic impetus to move out.”
Iglu.com, which currently consists of a team of eight, is preparing to move out of the incubator as it has outgrown its original needs. The company is moving as a private tenant to another part of the building and hopes to keep a close association with the incubator and be on hand to provide advice to other companies starting now.
“The other benefit is the network—being in an area with people in the same industry to throw around ideas,” Downs said.