Entrepreneurship Seminar – 4th November 2015
In collaboration with the Association of IIT Alumni UK Chapter (IIT UK), the Gandhi Centre for Inclusive Innovation recently hosted an evening seminar at Imperial College Business School, exploring the world of Entrepreneurship, on 4th November 2015.
Entrepreneurship is driving major economic growth at a global level, with young professionals and students focusing their attentions on setting up businesses. The evening featured diverse and influential entrepreneurs and panel discussion covering risk analysis, crystallization of the ‘Big Idea’, business plans, exposure and funding and legal frameworks.
Professor Kalyan Talluri (Munjal Chair in Global Business and Operations) opened the seminar, summarising the activities and mission of the Gandhi Centre, describing their focus in leadership in start-ups, digital innovation and the logistical expertise that the Centre provides in linking Imperial’s core competencies within, and between, global companies and institutions. He also touched on their research within the lower level of business and making innovation more inclusive, reflecting the experiences of the speakers and members of the illustrious panel. Prof. Talluri then handed over to the IIT UK team to chair proceedings, starting with Peter Chan (Founder of Heron’s Bonsai).
Peter gave a highly engaging talk on ‘Being an Entrepreneur’ – an inspirational walk through the obstacles he faced throughout his life, career and entrepreneurial journey, describing how with determination, adaptability and positivity you can overcome the biggest of hurdles, despite not having access to technology, adding that “no experience in life is ever wasted”.
Peter was followed by Pawan Lokwani, Co-Founder of TheLastWorkingDay.com, who focused on analysing demand and identifying ‘solution-driven’ ideas that could address industry ‘pain points’, and projecting your vision in order to be able to weather unpredictable markets. Pawan stressed the need for determination and a capacity for consistent hard work, adding that setting up your own business is a way of life, not just a job.
An insightful panel discussion with questions from the audience followed. Pawan was joined by Axel Wehr (Principal, Firestartr), Rahul Bansal (Deputy Director Education, Climate-KIC), Murthy Nuni (Founder, Marshal Funds) and Shankar Meembat (Co-Founder, Exaget), exploring Seed Capital vs Angel Capital, business model construction and how to convert plans into action, timing of funding propsals, application of technology, and using collateral as equity.
Axel made the point that finding a good team and/or co-founder is extremely important in the early stages of setting up a business, ensuring that their skills compliment others, which will make the business model a more attractive and secure prospect for investors. Rahul agreed, adding that “having an idea is not enough, you must invest in people”. Axel later went on to stress the importance of obtaining and understanding customer feedback, and adapting your activities/ideas accordingly.
When asked when it was the right time to approach investors for funding, Shankar urged that you must “tailor according to the opportunity, whether that be technology, people or design” and that there is no specific time – “if the funding is available, then take it!”. He stressed the importance of obtaining ‘buy in’ and conveying your passion for the idea.
Rahul gave some advice to the room on transferring ideas into a business proposition, explaining that there is no better way of learning than ‘doing it’. He highlighted Imperial College Business School’s efforts in teaching prospective entrepreneurs the skills required to write effective business models and pricing structures, and urged on the importance of sourcing skills in the form of non-executive directors to advise throughout.
Peter Chan posed the question “how realistic are TV programmes such as Dragons Den? Are you looking for collateral in the form of equity?”, to which there was much animated discussion on advantages and disadvantages of this. Murthy and Shankar closed the evening by describing the value of having co-founders on your team, and how to split the business between partners.
In his summary of the evening Yusuf Jazakallah (IIT UK) noted the engrossing discussion embracing the advantages, difficulties and pitfalls of setting up your own businesses and how to overcome obstacles, and commended the speakers and panel members for their vibrant contributions to a successful evening.