Tag Archives: entrepreneurial university

Enterprise in the Community

Entrepreneurship doesn’t happen in isolation. Think about it, its true. So why do Universities think they can create entrepreneurs without developing a sustainable community around them. So what is best practice from universes in the UK?

Network of Entrepreneurs – Open the doors and get all who start and own businesses to bring their networks into the university and also get those startups to go out into the network of local entrepreneurs. This open door policy helps reduce costs but also helps foster stronger links between those starting a business and those who have strong businesses.

Mentors – The vast majority of entrepreneurs will mentor a student or graduate who is looking to start a business. However you should be provide training, support and knowledge enhancement for these mentors. How and what is mentoring, when should I do it and what should a say, how far can I go in forcing them to do something? Once you set the ground rules and provide clear guidance they are a great resource. Its about giving before taking.

Local Customer – A lot of startups think global sales without seeing that just outside the university there are thousand of customers. The fact is the global and local customer are the same distance from them, about a million miles. By bringing local customers to the university and the startups you build a customer base who will provide feedback, cash and support to these startup business.

Fail Safe – The majority of startups will fail within the first 2 years and the landing pad for this ride should be prepared. Allowing them to understanding the learnings from the business and develop a real knowledge base which can be applied to the next star up will help create better businesses in the future.

Connected Events – Co-sponsored events which student, entrepreneurs and business professional attend from around the city ensure that students get to understand the wider context of entrepreneurship and able to pitch and network with potential investors.

The trinty structure for an entrepreneurship centre

Last week I attended GCEC 2014 and was able to spend time with practitioners of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship. It was a very worthwhile experience, especially when so many of them were from the USA which have a much more advanced culture of enterprise.

It became clear to me that there are three elements for a successful entrepreneurship centre within a University:

Entrepreneurship Research

Everyone knows if you start a business in Silicon Valley its great for technology businesses and the eco-system, network and financial institutions are set up to start, grow and IPO these businesses. This is a one place and the rest us don’t live there or want to start a high tech high growth business. This eco-system DOES NOT exist in any other part of the world. Cambridge also has its own eco-system. So we would expect each location, cluster and university to have a set of features that facilitate the growth of certain businesses? We would expect the university to have researched these and further more be able to articulate this through its research papers, education programmes and practical support for startups and growth businesses.

Enterprise & Entrepreneur Education

The core business of a university is education. We are experiencing great changes in the higher education environment and universities need to react in real time to the needs of their students and business community. The majority of universities in the UK get more revenue from CPD training than research grants. This is why local business is so important to them, as it provides a great sustainable revenue stream and also the opportunity to understand their local business needs, which helps feed the research. It also brings educators from cross disciplines together which is needed to build robust community focused institutions.

Enterprise Practice

The development of students into entrepreneurs and the development of entrepreneurs to leaders of high growth businesses is the most important part of the trinity. It enables the university to substantiate its research in the ‘real world’ environment and provide a practical outlet for the costly education resources. Moreover, it provides the feedback loop which all research and educators need to contextualize the theory.

I know some universities in the UK have some of these parts, but there is not one University in the UK, which ensures these three parts work together for the common development of the university and its community.

Looking forward to hear from those that think they do!!!

Choosing an entrepreneurial university

Even if you don’t what to start a business after university, you should think about leaving university with some amazing enterprise skills and experience which you can use in business, your own or someone else’s.

The development of these skills is important in building knowledge and experience which business can use, want to use and can use. Enterprise skills are employable skills which businesses want.

When selecting a university you need to think about what is and is not available in term of enterprise development, So what is best practice within the sector?

The first items to investigate are student societies. So look for an enterprise society, which is a student lead organization which allows like minded students to develop ideas, network and build business relationships while in a university environment. The second society is called, SIFE, Students In Free Enterprise which allows student with social responsibility to developer both their entrepreneurial skills while helping others.

Does the university offer an additional enterprise extra- curricular module for all students and does this create additional credits towards your degree. Employers like enterprising people and this is a great way of ensuring it enters your CV.

Then take a good look at the careers, enterprise and innovation departments will run skills development workshops which are outside the students course. These skills should include networking, ideas creation, sales, marketing, business and financial planning.

The entrepreneur in residence is the centre of the university enterprise culture, they have done it, started a business and don’t just speak about it. They have real experience which can be used as a sounding board which young students can use to explore, develop their ideas and find mentors which can help take the idea forward.

There should be a place where students can just walk-in and talk about their ideas about business and have an informal chat. Is this accessible and do any of the staff know anything about business, enterprise and development of skills.

Once the student has an idea, they are a number of options which should be made available to the student. The first point which most students needs is some funds, so the university making micro loans available can help move the idea forward. So ask what financial support is available?

Once you have an idea, an incubator can provide a space where you can get a desk, network with others and get a lot of business start-up support in the early stages. Its important to have a support network, which you can use to develop the skills and network.

The majority of universities will provide business start-up bootcamps which allow students over three days to develop their idea and plan the progress they need to build an idea into a start-up and then onto a growing business.

Not everyone will want to start a business, but the skills are very important, especially when working in small business, which accounts for 97% of UK businesses.

While at university having an internship with entrepreneur or a small business will help. Some universities offer this intern year spent developing the students’ own businesses.

To conclude, a university which allows you to gain real experience in which you can learn by doing and network with like minded people should be your choice. This will set you up for life and is worth every pound you will have to spend.