Shortly after starting my Full-Time MBA at Imperial College Business School in September 2016, I launched MBA Connect. The aim was simple, to create a bridge between the Business School students and the thriving entrepreneurial community at Imperial College.
Imperial College is well known as a hub of innovation, science and technology, so it’s no surp
rise that you read of success stories like Magic Pony (an Artificial Intelligence company purchased by Twitter for $150m in 2016) that were born in the laboratories and research departments of the 110-year-old College. There are hundreds of Imperial born start-ups popping up throughout the year from undergraduates and postgraduates to PhDs and professors. To make these projects viable they need to balance the scientific expertise that they are built upon with sound business expertise.
Then, when you consider that my class is made up of 67 people from 29 countries, all with unique skills and industry experience, plus many of us have entrepreneurial ambitions, setting up MBA Connect made sense. The opportunity to support and mentor start-ups from across the College is part of the attraction for MBA students to get involved, but it’s also a chance to be exposed to the forefront of scientific innovation, an experience many of us have never had.
So, with this interesting dynamic between technology and business in mind, the response to MBA Connect has been hugely positive. To date, we have a team of 34 MBA students who have worked with and mentored over 30 Imperial born start-ups. Examples include MaterializedX, who developed an adhesive to use with low-value biomass remaining from biofuel production, creating a durable and biodegradable surface. This type of material science innovation could have a huge impact on packaging and decrease the net cost of biofuel production. MBA Connect helped MaterializedX with business model strategy, specifically with the question of whether a licensee or direct model is the best approach.
Another example is Yoo-Go, an online platform to help people with mobility issues navigate around London. Yoo-Go recently made the final of the London Mayor Competition 2017. The team needed support with pitching techniques, so we helped them to tell a compelling story and sell the true potential of their idea in a pitch scenario. Often these softer skills end up being the most useful. Many of the founders come from a scientific background and, even though they are hugely passionate about their ideas, a session on selling never hurts.
A major factor in the growing awareness of MBA Connect among the Imperial start-up community comes from building relationships with the many entrepreneurial focused initiatives that exist around the college. Our main partnership is with the Imperial Enterprise Lab, a physical space found under the library that supports and fosters entrepreneurial activity. In addition, we work with Imperial Innovation, the technology transfer office for Imperial College London, Imperial College Advanced Hackspace, who focus on the ideation and prototyping of ideas, and ACT Now, an incubator programme for social entrepreneurs. These partnerships across the College help maintain a steady flow of exciting start-ups through the MBA Connect doors.
As I move into the second half of my MBA, the challenge for me is ensuring that MBA Connect lives on, past my time as a student here at Imperial. I truly believe that the unique position of having a Business School attached to a wider College famous for technical and scientific innovations is an amazing opportunity and if the MBAs can play a role in helping to transform the next world-changing idea into a viable business, then that can only be a good thing.
Byron is a student in our 2016-17 Full-Time MBA class.