The UK IT industry is getting together to help young software companies survive in the vicious global and home markets.
The Software Business Network (SBN), launched last week by the DTI and the Computing and Software Services Association (CSSA), aims to provide management, marketing and finance skills to companies whose main expertise is in technology.
The government is injecting #860,000 into the project over three years, and a further #750,000 is being raised from both private sector sponsorship and contributions-in-kind through unpaid time. Members will pay an annual subscription of #150 and negotiable fees for add-on services.
While the CSSA is the Network's headquarters, its events and services - including training, business mentoring and investor introductions - will be run locally by its four regional managers.
Neilson Kite, the SBN's South West manager, sees 2,300 potential members in his region, and expects to hold monthly workshops or meetings as well as organising specific contacts.
"There is a lot of energy out there which could be turned into something greater," he said.
Small firms minister, Barbara Roche, added: "Small start-ups with creative ideas and innovative products often find it hard to grow because they need more management skills. If we are able to help them to access support services and industry know-how, then we are helping them create employment and wealth."
Patrick Christian, technical director at Vegastream, a startup specialising in voice conferencing Internet products, said: "All small companies have areas of expertise and gaps. If this initiative fills that gap then it will be very valuable."
He continued: "It's a very aggressive business and there are a lot of West Coast US software companies who already get a lot of support from various sources."
Sponsors of the scheme include Sun, Close Brothers, EM Warburg, Pincus & Co. and Price Waterhouse.
Software Business Network: 0171 395 6700.
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