When my classmates and I chose Imperial College Business School to study our MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management, we came from various backgrounds with one common goal in mind – continuing our entrepreneurial journeys.
While lectures and readings certainly provide value for an academic and holistic approach on entrepreneurship, learning from the experience of entrepreneurs and investors, who have already accomplished the challenges that lie ahead of us, is invaluable.
Since most of us will not peruse an academic career but rather start our own business or work for startups, the TechCity event provided us with another excellent opportunity to expand our network among the vast entrepreneurial community here in London.
Leaving the campus in South Kensington behind, we met for an exciting day at Wayra, the accelerator of Telefonica in Soho. Welcomed by Anthony David King who is an entrepreneur in residence at Wayra and a veteran in building startup programmes for incumbents, we kicked the day off with a panel discussion with Charlotte Dugdale, Analyst at Toucan Ventures, Ozan Dagdeviren Author and Founder at Culture Boom and Henry Ludlam, founder at Percent, about challenges and advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
After a lunch break in which we had the chance to connect and network with the panellists, we continued our day with keynotes from Charlotte, Ozan and Henry. The pool of experience we could dive into from each speaker was huge. I believe every student took away something different from the speakers, and I present my top four takeaways.
#1 Plan your energy, not your time
When solving problems as an entrepreneur, managing your energy is vital to achieving your goals. Ozan emphasised during his presentation that every entrepreneur should set personal goals, and to plan their daily activities depending on the energy they require to achieve these goals.
To demonstrate, Ozan presented his own yearly goal list and also how he derives sub-goals for weeks and plans his daily to-do list – always with a focus on energy and not primarily on time. Goal-setting is, therefore, an important instrument not only in large organisations but also on a personal basis, especially for an entrepreneur.
#2 Great startups do not always need to be focusing on tech – but on creativity!
While many people associate great startups and entrepreneurs with technology, there are a lot of opportunities in creative businesses. Charlotte demonstrated that all you need is passion and creativity to build a startup in the food and beverage, lifestyle, or retail industry. She invited Doris the co-founder from Full of Goodness, a creative business that sells food products made of tiger nuts from Ghana. Doris explained how they got their products on their first shelves and how they benefited from the support from Toucan Ventures and their network.
# 3 Hire people for their strengths – not lack of weaknesses
During the panel discussion, Henry mentioned a point to which all panellists agreed – hire people for their strengths, not lack of weaknesses. As a founder of a startup it is crucial to find people that bring in complementary skills that are missing among the founder team. This also requires tolerating that employees will have some weaknesses, but that does not matter as long as they are “savage” at that one skill that will push your business forward.
Panel discussion with Anthony, Charlotte, Henry and Ozan
# 4 – Your first idea always sucks
Most successful startups do not start with a great idea. Instead, most of the successful startups begin with a pretty bad one, but they can refine this idea by getting early feedback. Henry’s advice to us was to find our “why” and build a company around it. What eventually became the company Percent started as a hustle to raise funds for his universities’ rowing team. While his why “to raise money for causes you care about” has not changed, it was very illustrative to follow Henry’s story how he tried to raise funds and ended up creating Percent.
Overall, the TechCity event was an excellent experience for us students of the MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Management programme. I believe that everyone who attended the event could take their own insights home and continue to build their network.
Becoming an entrepreneur is a hustle, and it was inspiring to talk and listen to Anthony, Charlotte, Ozan and Henry. For us, our entrepreneurial journey continues, and I am excited to be back at our beautiful campus in South Kensington with fresh impressions from this day.
Acting on behalf of the whole MSc Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Management programme I want to thank all of the speakers for this exciting day and thank the programme team for putting this highlight of our Master’s together.