Jim Duffy

Jim Duffy16 posts

Jim Duffy is a Scottish businessman. He is the Chief Executive Optimist at Entrepreneurial Spark, a startup business accelerator that started in Glasgow, and is now in multiple cities across the UK and has launched in India. Duffy was a police officer for many years, before starting his own businesses. After he sold those he started Entrepreneurial Spark, with the aim to help ease the startup process.

11 Aug, 2016

Earn money or answer key question of life – why?

Writes Article

Duffy writes an opinion piece for The Scotsman, titled, Earn money or answer key question of life – why? He talks about the purpose of life.

It’s very straightforward and simple, yet for so many of us we do not do enough thinking on our own “why”. I meet so many people in the role I am in across the country. Many think they want to run a big business or create a brilliant new disruptive technology that will transform the world. But, after some direct questioning and a tough conversation, more is revealed. Many people think they have to do something that is different. However, they are doing it for the wrong reasons. Starting a business to become a millionaire is a recipe for disaster. Starting a business because you are passionate about it, believe in it and get excited getting out of bed in the morning is far better; if you can create a profitable model along the way, then even better.

23 Jan, 2016

TEDxUWE talk – The Leadership Lens

Gives Talk

Duffy speaks at TEDxUWE, an independently organized TED event, at the University of West England, in Bristol. He talks about “the leadership lens”, using Sir Alex Ferguson as an example.

If you’re going to lead you need three things: a vision and a goal, an outcome, and you need it to be attractive to people. My vision and goal is to inspire and enable positive social change through the action of entrepreneuring, to make the UK the most entrepreneurial country in the world. My outcome is better enabled entrepreneurs, who are backable, credible, and investable. I attract people to it by having impact and actually doing what I say. More entrepreneurs, more wealth, more jobs, and more people get on board.

The leadership lens | Jim Duffy | TEDxUWE

29 Jul, 2015

ESpark-Viridian interview


Duffy talks about the partnership between Entrepreneurial Spark and Viridian, to launch hatcheries in India.

We are launching a brand-new 18-month program in ten cities, where entrepreneurs can come, get enabled, have access to mentors, get taught about finance, what it’s like to be an entrepreneur…We’re going to be launching in August. The vision is to create over 10,000 jobs, 60 entrepreneurs in ten centers. Make them all investable. Create a brand-new network of entrepreneurs, that grow together. That have confidence that they can pitch, but have great humility. They understand grassroots and giving back. They understand the value they bring to the communities that they serve and the cities they live in.

Sparking A Change - Jim Duffy

7 Jul, 2015

BBC News interview

TV Appearance

Duffy appears on BBC News to talk about Entrepreneurial Spark.

We de-risk startups. We have three Hatcheries in Scotland, and we are about to open ten with NatWest and KPMG in the UK. We bring them into a space. There’s no cost for the space, so the entrepreneur keeps all that equity. We look at the mindsets and behaviours. We look at how they build teams. Their emotional intelligence and leadership. And through that 18-month program we make them investable, and it doesn’t cost them a thing…[We don’t provide funding] They have to have [their own] money to get started. But every entrepreneur thinks they need money, but what they actually need is customers, and a better validated idea.

Entrepreneurial Spark CEO Jim Duffy chats Entrepreneuring® and vision with BBC News

12 Jun, 2015

TED Glasgow talk

Gives Talk

Duffy speaks at TED Glasgow on what stops people from living their dreams, concentrating on brain chemistry, upbringing, education and media.

The way to recombobulate is…to think and act like an entrepreneur. Not to start a business. You have to think and act like an entrepreneur in everything you do in life. Entrepreneurs all all about the go-do. Not can-do, not “must-do, not to-do. Two verbs. Bang, bang. They are all about outcomes. Engineering stuff to happen. Action. They have to deal with volatility, uncertainty, chaos, complexity, ambiguity, every day of their lives. They don’t clock on at nine ‘o’clock and finish at five. They are always on. That means they have to deal with risk, but they are not risk takers. They are cognitively comfortable with the notion of risk, a big difference. They build up a tolerance to risk. But that moves them outside their comfort zone.

Our brains – what stops us from living our dreams? | Jim Duffy | TEDxGlasgow

12 Jul, 2014

60 Seconds with Jim Duffy


The Fife Business Journal asks Duffy questions about Entrepreneurial Spark. On why he started the program.

I realised that the support services available to start-ups in Scotland weren’t very joined up and that other countries which were fostering start-up businesses for the first 12 to 18 months helped them achieve traction more quickly. If you look at the likes of the ecosystems in Boston and New York, for example, they have great entrepreneurial hubs in which businesses really look after each other. I saw that similarities could be applied over here in Scotland but you can’t just take a US model and plonk it in this country and expect it to work. I had to look at the business psyche in Scotland and assess the mindsets and perceptions of its entrepreneurs. It seemed to take a lot more over here to make people ‘oven ready’. I had initially planned to launch E-Spark as a private, limited company but I did nine months of research beforehand and went out to Babson College in Boston. When I told them I’d raised a quarter-of-a-million to help fund it, they said ‘don’t do it; go home and start it as a social enterprise instead’. Everything seemed to pick up right away and, before long, Sir Tom Hunter became involved.

11 Dec, 2013

ESpark TV – The Nest


Duffy answers questions about The Nest on ESpark TV.

The Nest is a new 12-month program. It’s a space in three areas in the Central Belt of Scotland, and it’s also has an executive education module…It is based in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ayrshire. We’re doubling the space in our facilities to create the Nest spaces…You get a full time executive enabler, who will work closely with you on your business. He or she will review your business every month. You will also get an executive education programme wrapped around you. Every month you’re all going to get together as an elite bunch of professional people, and we’ll dig down really deep in your business proposition, your team, leadership and finance.

ESpark TV - Professor Jim Duffy Talks The Nest

13 May, 2013

One Is The Loneliest Number

TV Appearance

Duffy appears on BBC2’s The Entrepreneurs, a two-part show that follows him and some of the Entrepreneurial Spark companies.

We are creating a new culture. A new way of doing things. Nowhere in Britain is giving entrepreneurs an opportunity like they are in Glasgow and Ayrshire right now. It’s disruptive. It’s creative. It’s all-consuming just now. Ideas are easy. People say entrepreneurs have got ideas, they take risks and they lose money. But the real entrepreneurs go for an idea and they bang it through right to the end. What I’m getting out of it is between age of 45 and 48, if I don’t drop dead of a massive heart attack, is a Wow Experience, what a journey.

4 Feb, 2013

TechBritain TV interview


Duffy talks to TechBritain TV about his most important piece of advice.

Make sure you have customers. Make sure you have tested and validated it. Don’t fall in love with your idea or product, and think everyone’s going to buy it…Get a wee bit out, let customers taste it, and if they want more then you’ve possibly got a business.

Jim Duffy - CEO, Entrepreneurial Spark - Share60

29 Aug, 2012

Chief Executive Optimist video

Video appearance

Duffy introduces Entrepreneurial Spark.

We want to develop entrepreneurial mindsets and behaviours. The vision between Entrepreneurial Spark is a brand new group of people in Scotland, thinking differently, acting differently, doing different things in a different way, but collaborating with each other. Sharing ideas, sharing information, being more open, thinking global, looking at trends abroad. That’s what we want to do over the next three to five years.

Jim Duffy - Chief Executive Optimist

26 Jul, 2012

Evening Times profile


In an interview withe the Evening Times, Duffy talks about Entrepreneurial Spark.

It’s not an accelerator or an incubator, it’s an incu- accelerator, where the chicklets are hot-housed. I love getting involved with the entrepreneurs and all their different business models, maybe it’s the teacher in me. They know they can come in here and they’ve got someone to talk to, someone who’ll support them and challenge them…We want to increase our bank of mentors and get the investment community wrapped around us. Sometimes I feel like the luckiest guy in Scotland, this is the best job in the world.

18 Mar, 2012

Be A Mentor video

Video appearance

Duffy invites mentors to join Entrepreneurial Spark.

We’ve set up Entrepreneurial Spark in Glasgow. We’ve set it up in Scotland. We feel Scotland needs it. It will be good for Scotland. It will boost Scotland. It will collaborate with other businesses. But we can’t do it all ourselves. We’ve had fantastic support from Willie Haughey. Fantastic support from Sir Tom Hunter. And what we’re really looking for is — we want other businesses, other people who feel they could be ambassadors, other people who feel they could be supporters, other people who feel they could be brand advocates. Or simply a mentor. Someone to come forward and help. We’re reaching out to you to help us crystalize what we’ve started here.

Entrepreneurial Spark - Jim Duffy

8 Mar, 2012

Glasgow Caledonian University interview

Video appearance

Duffy talks to Glasgow Caledonian University about his career, how he started Entrepreneurial Spark, and the project’s aims.

It’s absolutely unique. We call them ‘Chicklets’ because Entrepreneurial Spark is the Hatchery. The Hatchery is the “hard” part. Within that we give free desks, free space, free printing, free computers, software, free cleaning, bins emptied, wireless broadband, printing, stationery, meeting rooms, ideation space, enablement. So it doesn’t get any better for a business to start up. That particular space has been provided, and paid for, by Willie Haughey OBE, a successful Glasgow businessman. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you, if he hadn’t put his hand in his pocket. He was the first to do that after we got a donation from Tom Hunter. He’s opened up his business. He’s put us on his executive floor level.  And these Chicklets can benefit from all that. The whole idea is the fail fast, they fail smart, and fail cheap…if they fail.

Jim Duffy discusses Entrepreneurial Spark

7 Mar, 2012

GCU talk

Gives Talk

Duffy gives an opening address to GCU students about Entrepreneurial Spark.

We are delighted to have GCU as our academic ambassador as the university is grounded in what we call positive realism. We have a great relationship with Principal and Vice Chancellor Pamela Gillies, who is one of the most progressive academic leaders in Europe. GCU students will benefit from sharing out entrepreneurial thinking and from inputs within the university campus.

4 Nov, 2011

Entrepreneurial Spark launches


Duffy launches Entrepreneurial Spark in Glasgow with office space supplied by Haughey, who gives over an entire floor of his City Refrigeration headquarters in the Gorbals, for the project. Duffy:

The whole ethos of the Entrepreneurial Spark is helping start-ups to get to their first and second birthday. We have wrapped around a whole lot of business professionals – we call them ambassadors – legals, accountants, PR firms. The whole idea was that these people would come on board, give free stuff, support Entrepreneurial Spark and then support the start-up chicklets, as we call them, that want to go through our hatchery…A fair number of young companies die very early unfortunately and what we are trying to do here is take away barriers such as cost. Some of these young businesses pay for expensive business plans and for start-up advice and it’s not really what they need…When someone walks in the door, you can tell if they are the real deal, or you can tell if someone has the potential to be that. They will be sparky, they will have an idea, they are willing to collaborate – that’s a big one in Scotland.


A fair number of young companies die very early unfortunately and what we are trying to do here is take away barriers such as cost. Over the years we are probably going to put £1m into this project, but if we get one, two or three decent companies out of here that create 20, 30 or 40 jobs, then it will be money well spent.

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