Recognizing Entrepreneurial Universities in Academic Rankings

This post was contributed by Matthew Jayes of Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics. The article concerns an international education project founded by Birkbeck visiting professor, Henry Etzkowitz – who is also a member of Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR)

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Initial results and new projects aimed at crediting academic contribution to economic and social development as well as publication and educational activities in international university ranking systems will be announced at Global Entrepreneurial University Metrics (GEUM) Meet.

On 3-5 June 2016, the International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI) in cooperation with the Triple Helix Association (THA) will host the second GEUM workshop in Palo Alto, Silicon Valley, USA.

The Global Entrepreneurial University Metrics initiative (GEUM) is an international Working Group initiated by the International Triple Helix Institute (ITHI), CWTS Leiden University, and the Psychology in the Public Interest Program, North Carolina State University, under the umbrella of the Triple Helix Association. The scope of the GEUM is to catalyze the development of new metrics including entrepreneurship, gender and diversity and furtherance of the public interest in University ranking systems.

Professor Henry Etzkowitz, of Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR), and GEUM project founder, said: “Most global University rankling systems privilege publication activity, with the effect of driving out other academic contributions to the economy and society. The purpose of the GEUM initiative is to broaden input into what is ranked and how ranking is accomplished.”

The initiative, led by Professor Etzkowitz – who is also President of the ITHI/THA – coordinated by Alexander Bikkulov (Co-ordination Manager), and with Dr Chunyan Zhou as Proposal Coordinator, begun with seven country teams from:

  • Austria
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Finland
  • The Netherland
  • Russia
  • The US

It was kicked off during a first workshop held on 22-23 June 2015 in Leiden (the Netherlands) supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

GEUM has already produced some new results since the first research projects from the initiative break through: Brazil, Finland, Austria and Russia have conducted the GEUM studies in their countries and will present the results in the workshop that will move between Dinah’s Garden Hotel, Stanford University and a prototypical Silicon Valley “garage Setting” this week-end.

“First GEUM Workshop was a good kick-off for many research teams involved – including Russian team,” says Alexander Bikkulov, Head of Center for Project Development and Fundraising at ITMO University (Russia).

“We can see this in a number of successful projects started in 4 countries during the year. And we definitely see the positive impact of having strong international contacts – both in strengthening the applications for grants and in real exchange of ideas and expertise.”

The founding country teams (Austria, Brazil, China, Finland, Holland, Russia, U.S.A) will be joined by project teams-in-organization from Japan, Spain and the U.K.

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The Impact of Entrepreneurial Finance, Education and Religion on Entrepreneurship

This post was contributed by Prof Carlo Milana, Prof Helen Lawton Smith and Ning Baines of the Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR). The article focuses on a workshop held by the Centre on Friday 15 April titled ‘The Impact of Entrepreneurial Finance, Education and Religion on Entrepreneurship’, sponsored by Wiley

Wiley logoRaising finance is critical for small firms and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to survive, innovate and grow. Innovation is typically underfinanced. In this workshop, attention was focused on the influence that entrepreneurial finance and other mitigating cultural factors such as education and religion may exercise on reducing risk in entrepreneurship in the current economic hardship.

Speakers:

  • Jonathan Potter (OECD, Paris) Recent Market and Policy Trends in the Development of Mezzanine Finance and Hybrid Debt-Equity Instruments for SMEs.
  • Victor Martin-Sanchez (King’s College, London) Unemployment and Growth Aspirations: The Moderating Role of Education
  •  Kwame Ohene Djan (University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway) Does Religious Affiliation Influence the Design of Corporate Governance? Evidence from the Global Microfinance Industry

Chairs:

  • Carlo Milana and Helen Lawton Smith

 

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Mezzanine Finance and Hybrid Debt-Equity Instruments for SMEs

The first speaker Jonathan Potter presented recent and innovative work undertaken by the OECD on the Mezzanine Finance and Hybrid Debt Equity Instruments for SMEs. This is an area of financing that is relatively understudied and is one which is beset by ambiguity in definition. This ambiguity led to a series of challenges to the speaker on the nature and merits of mezzanine finance for SMEs.

Dr Potter explained that the SME sector is characterised by a wider variance of profitability and growth than large enterprises. Survival rate of SMEs is lower. It is difficult to distinguish the financial situation of the firm from its owners. Relations between the firm and its stakeholders are likely to reflect personal relationships to a higher degree than in larger firms. SMEs often obtain funds from informal sources. The problem of asymmetric information between the entrepreneur and the lender is more serious for small firms because of the blurring of the line between the firm and the entrepreneur. Various financial instruments can help overcome the asymmetric information and agency problems. An efficient financial system should have a range of instruments that matches needs of firms. If the right instrument is available for the risk/return profile the market could provide finance for a viable project.

Mezzanine finance is a hybrid instrument – typical mezzanine facility blends several instruments, such as subordinated loan (interest rate above senior loan; principal normally repaid at end as “bullet”), participation in ongoing revenue or profits, or participation in upside share price growth with equity “kicker” (commonly an “equity warrant” allowing purchase of shares at floor price, or equivalent remuneration). It operates in private capital market, in private investment partnerships (with up to about 100 private investors). Funds are supplied by private investors (Limited Partners) – high net worth individuals; family offices; pension funds; other institutions. It has a defined life span (5-10 years) – tend to select investees and do deals in first 3 years, then hold and close fund taking returns at around 8-10 years. At maturity fund, it is liquidated and money returned to investors. Rules are determined by market practice.

However, with uneven presence in OECD countries, commercial mezzanine tends to be focused on larger firms and leveraged buy-outs. It is not generally issued to SMEs with modest returns and which do not want to relinquish control. Public intervention may be needed to stimulate the sector and extend to SMEs, where the private sector does not provide funding. Public intervention mechanisms can be in the form of participation in the market through mandates to private funds; direct provision of funds to SMEs and guarantees/preferential funding of private investment companies.

Mezzanine financing therefore can respond to a market failure in finance for established companies in traditional sectors seeking to grow or effect transformations. It involves features that respond to asymmetric information and agency problems affecting SME finance, allowing higher returns without taking control. It is a relevant niche in the spectrum of finance instruments. Mezzanine finance can fill the gap as the SME owner not required to cede control, can pay the principal at the end, the investor accepts more modest returns but can take a share of the upside. It should lead to more growth in existing SME sector. The public sector can play a role in stimulating this part of the market. Several OECD countries found the instrument valuable, e.g. France, Germany, USA, but in half of OECD countries there was no public mezzanine programme and officials were not familiar with the product.

An issue raised in discussion was about the nature of the UK market and activities of the British Business Bank, particularly given their strong interest in developing this form of finance. It is also clear from the questions asked that there is more research to be done in this field in a number of ways. These include aiding understanding of the extent to which mezzanine can actually impact on earlier stage financing, and how and why it is suitable for firms in some sectors rather than others. And, more evidence was needed on how mezzanine actually operates in some (e.g. European countries) in practical terms and what lessons this might carry forward to future policy.

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Unemployment and Growth Aspirations

Victor Martin-Sanchez’s theme was unemployment, entrepreneurial growth aspirations (EGA) and the moderating role of education. He argued that policies targeting human capital formation and entrepreneurial training contribute not only to enhance opportunity-seeking entrepreneurship, but also to territorial economic performance by enhancing the growth aspirations of entrepreneurs.

His research shows that the characteristics of the individual (founder/entrepreneur) and the environment in which the firm operates can act as drivers of EGA. However, during economic slowdowns, it is not clear how the interaction between entrepreneurs’ background and environmental conditions drives the EGA. The paper aims to investigate how an entrepreneur’s education and training shape the relationship between changes in unemployment rates, a variable that signals the economic and employment conditions, and EGA. Entrepreneurs’ judgmental decisions are actually beliefs or conjectures. The conjectures or beliefs depend on how they think the environment in which their firms operate will evolve. If those beliefs about new products or superior production processes are proved right, the entrepreneurs earn a profit; otherwise, they incur a loss. Through the different education processes, individuals gain knowledge and build mental frames and models used to interpret and make sense of the reality that surrounds them.

Education and entrepreneurship training experiences may enable entrepreneurs to gather and process information more efficiently. Accordingly different levels of education will be expected to moderate differently the way unemployment rate changes influence those entrepreneurs’ growth aspirations. Entrepreneurs with higher education are more likely to readjust accurately their conjectures or beliefs about the potential of their new ventures, in the light of changes in the environment. Individuals can learn opportunity‐seeking processes through the avenue of entrepreneurship training, thereby improving both the number of ideas generated and the innovativeness of those ideas. It has been commonly argued that economic crisis periods may destroy some of the old ways of doing business, while new alternatives for those who are able to identify them and dare to take them. The skills and knowledge gained through training in entrepreneurship help entrepreneurs to identify and pursue better opportunities, even in a difficult economic environment. It is shown that an increase in the unemployment rate reduces EGA. There is a connection between economic conditions and entrepreneurial behavior. The general effect of unemployment rate change is contingent upon the entrepreneurship training of the individual. Knowledge and skills gained by individuals’ opportunity identification and exploitation may vanish the influence of global economic conditions. Opportunity identification is a unique capability that might be developed in parallel with other capabilities.

The implications of the research are that there needs to be improvement in the design of public support policies towards entrepreneurs. A better understanding of the determinants of growth intentions will be relevant for anyone with a stake in growing venture, such as venture capitalist, customers, and suppliers.

Does Religious Affiliation Influence the Design of Corporate Governance?

Kwame Ohene Djan’s take on individual and cultural influences on the availability and use of SME finance was that of the influence of religious affiliation, in particular Christianity, compared to secular lending bodies, on the design of corporate governance. His work is inspired by a previous study that investigated the impact of religion on agency costs finding that religion has a significant negative influence on owner-manager agency costs. He points to the mitigation of regulation of religious affiliated firms by the national banking authorities. He drew on evidence from the global microfinance industry.

Like the other speakers, the importance of temporal context was raised. The context here is the debate which began with Max Weber’s classic work. The Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism where he claims that the Protestant Ethic which focuses on personal agency and diligence, spurred economic development. Although Weber’s thesis has been disputed the more general idea that certain religious attitudes may have positive implications continues to be discussed and supported. The extensive debate regarding the historical role of religion in the development of modern capitalism sharply contrasts with the meager attentionn that has been devoted to religion in current development research efforts.

The objective of the current research therefore is to investigate how religious affiliation influences the design of corporate governance in social enterprises with evidence from the microfinance industry. By using the random effects model, differences are tested between Christian and secular MFIs along various variables including the regulatory framework, Board Size, Board Meetings per Year the number of Female CEOs and the number of International Directors.

The study used panel data on 403 MFIs based in 73 countries across the countries in the world. Generally, the results indicate that Christian MFIs do not have a slacker governance design. The tests indicate, however, that Christian MFIs are relatively less regulated by national banking authorities.

The speaker was challenged on whether it would be more helpful in aiding understanding of microfinance and region if the results were couched as religious affiliation per se rather than Christianity.

The take away from this workshop is that it is very difficult to get a holistic understanding of financing SMEs in both traditional and high-tech sectors. However, by juxtaposing different cultural perspectives as well as economic provides insights that would not normally be available. Exciting times!

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Can policy transform regions into entrepreneurship and innovation hubs?

This post was contributed by Helen Lawton Smith, professor of Entrepreneurship at Birkbeck’s Department of Management. Prof Lawton Smith attended a workshop – ‘Can Policy Transform Regions into Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hubs? Theory, Evidence and Practice’ – hosted by the college’s Centre for Innovation Management Research (CIMR) on Friday 4 December

Angel of the North - Image courtesy of Tom Blackwell under CC via Flickr.com

Angel of the North – Image courtesy of Tom Blackwell under CC via Flickr.com

The latest CIMR workshop brought together both those who design policies and those who analyse the policy making process. It hosted representatives from the north of England, suggested to be comparatively disadvantaged economically, and the prosperous south. International comparisons were offered to provide insight into what works in policy making and what should be avoided.

 

 

The speakers were

  • Professor Roy Sandbach, ‘Innovation North East… building regional prosperity’
  • Dr Elvira Uyarra, ‘Key challenges of ‘smart’ policies for regional transformation’
  • Dr Adrian Healy, ‘From principles to practices in Smart Specialisation: Lessons from European Regions’
  • Professor Bjorn Asheim, ‘Smart Specialisation – an innovation driven strategy for economic diversification’
  • Rupert Waters, ‘Challenges for policy-makers in Buckinghamshire’
  • Professor Jeremy Howells, ‘Innovation intermediaries and innovation: Changing dynamics and future perspectives’
  • Dr Federica Rossi, ‘Evaluating the performance of regional innovation intermediaries: insights from the experience of Tuscany’s “innovation poles”’
  • Dave Waller,’What makes a successful innovation ecosystem: great innovation and technology; great policies; plenty of investment funds; great culture or none of the above: just leave it to the market’
  • Dr Ana Colovic, ’Why are cluster policies created and how do they work? A comparison between Austria, France, Japan and Sweden’
  • Dr Rosa Fernandez, Chair of final discussion session

The following five themes were addressed throughout the day:

  1. Is it possible for regions to be transformed into Entrepreneurship and Innovation Hubs?

Policy makers everywhere are under pressure to transform lagging regions into leading centres of entrepreneurship, while continuing to support already successful areas of innovation. Roy Sandbach opened the workshop, drawing on the North East Strategic Economic Plan of 2013. The Plan encouraged the North East to ‘become an exemplar for open innovation and Smart Specialisation’, through innovation which would create economic value, social good or both. The Plan hoped to create the conditions and networked solutions to transform the region.

Other speakers argued that the role of policy is to develop new paths for policy, extend existing ones, and create an entrepreneurial state embedded in the economy. Jeremy Howells suggested that the role of policy makers is primarily to change the behaviour of firms, in order to convince them that it is in their interests to innovate.

Adrian Healy spoke on the political reality of delivering Smart Specialisation, using experience from a seven country FP7 Smart Specialisation Project. He argued that innovative and entrepreneurial regions develop independently of politics. Healy cited evidence from academic studies that 80% of economic growth is demand-led, so that only around 20% of structural change could be addressed by policies. He also suggested that policy can sometimes follow practice, such as when private sector developments are imitated by policies which provide supporting infrastructures. In addition, he argued that public procurement can have a crucial role in stimulating entrepreneurship. An example he gave of this was the North East subsea programme, which was not part of the regional development strategy.

Dave Waller also shared his own experience of local innovation policy and practice in England. He demonstrated the dissonance between local politics and economic theory, using an example from Oxfordshire. The result was wasted resources, duplication and fragmentation. Waller suggested more international benchmark evidence was required, building on work such as mapping research and innovation in Amsterdam.

The first theme was not without controversy therefore, and Sandbach concluded with a lesson for the Northern Powerhouse; ‘We must drive the Powerhouse as an economic vision fuelled by innovation rather than as a political item with insular, local devolution debates at the heart.’

  1. How important is analysis, international comparison and evaluation in developing appropriate policies?

In order to make effective policies, all the speakers agreed that policy makers need to be exceptionally focused on analysis. This might include analysing the national and regional context, the area’s potential for innovation, current programmes, global benchmarking, networks, entrepreneurial activity, university strengths or local corporate innovation strategies.

The workshop heard about geographical disparities, which result in varied difficulties for policy-makers in different regions. A major problem in the North East, for example, is that it has the lowest Business R&D expenditure in the UK and business formation rates have fallen by 10% in the past year. The North East is ranked lowest of 12 regions, and 89th in Europe on Attitude, Ability, Aspiration analysis, and thus presents a particular set of challenges. By contrast, London is ranked second on the 2014 Santander Enterprise Index. Analysis must also relate to the theoretical underpinnings of policy.

That there is a dialogue between academic practitioners and policy makers was very clear. Policy practitioners draw on academic theories (often developed by economic geographers) such as the theory of ‘anchor firms’. Anchor firms are different bases of analytic, symbolic and synthetic knowledge. Elvira Uyrrara argued that analysis should also relate to the formulation of programmes, including their scale of delivery and their tools for measuring and evaluating. She highlighted the diverse set of concepts that underpin Smart Specialisation and argued that the theoretical underpinnings are still in progress.

  1. What is the significance of Leadership, Engagement and Collaboration within and across regions?

There was a general consensus after Roy Sandbach’s presentation that the basis of an effective strategy relies on the set-up of a sound and inclusive governance structure. Entrepreneurial strategy requires a shared vision about the future of the region and the thorough integration of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

A contested issue, however, was whether Roy Sandbach was right to suggest that business leadership would always be the driving force in regional transformation, Bjorn Asheim argued that in some contexts, the public sector or universities can be directive. In some areas, it was claimed that local entrepreneurs were disinterested in the policy-making process, such as the SMEs in the North East.

In Europe, Smart Specialisation (SMART) is the single largest attempt at an orchestrated, supranational Innovation and Entrepreneurship strategy, which requires leadership, engagement and collaboration. Dave Waller, having faced the challenges of regional innovation strategies for Smart Specialisation, argued that SMART should be about addressing structural weaknesses and facilitating conversations between the right people.

SMART relies on networking, and the support of regional stakeholders. Elvira Uyrra pointed out that SMART has been criticised for not having a fully developed theoretical framework and for being too vague in terms of its target and mix of policies.

The points resonated with Jeremy Howells and Federica Rossi’s presentations on innovation intermediaries. Howells argued that intermediaries are a conceptual lens through which to view the dynamics and evolution of systems of innovation, and are of major policy significance as catalysts within a system.

Federica Rossi also identified intermediaries as important for changing the behaviour of firms and thus indirectly changing the capacity of regions to innovate. Using the case of Tuscany’s innovation poles, which aimed to provide a range of knowledge intensive business services and to strengthen the regional innovation system, she highlighted critical problems in evaluating interventions. These included a lack of sector differentiation, inadequate indicators and missing activities.

  1. What are the social and economic priorities of regional transformation?

Although innovation and job creation are obvious priorities of regional transformation, Bjorn Asheim highlighted other areas of focus, such as gender, migration and diversity. Adrian Healey also spoke about gender profiles of different sectors, as some are predominately male, and others dominated by women. It was concluded that equality of opportunity certainly needs to form part of any policy-making agenda.

Ana Colovic highlighted national differences in approaches to the design and implementation of cluster policies. She questioned whether cluster policies need to be designed if innovation is going well independently. In addition, she noted some of the challenges for policy makers in reality, such as considering whether all the policy tools available and variety of implementing agencies are made clear to actors. Colovic concluded by thinking about the contrasting budgets allocated in different countries for innovation strategies, and questioned what the appropriate level of budget would be to meet both local and national priorities.

  1. What would success look like?

Rosa Fernandez told the workshop that for Roy Sandbach, success would mean 60,000 new jobs created in the North East – but where would they come from? Dave Waller recognised success more in stronger leadership and governance, the development of useful tool kits, better spatial, temporal and more granular mapping of economic activity, and the application of Smart Specialisation principles to all aspects of EU programming.

Adrian Healey, on the other hand, measures success in terms of the gains made from shared governance, shared leadership, common objectives, overcoming fragmentation and getting beyond existing structures. He argued that success would rely on changing the mind-set of local authorities, as the only part of the system not fully connected is the public sector.

The biggest challenge for regions is to build capacity. However, as Henry Etzkowitz argued, the sheer scale of Silicon Valley’s financial and talent resources makes it difficult for Europe to compete. Maybe it need not all be bad news however, as the UK and Europe could yet be a Land of Opportunity.

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Enterprising London: Entrepreneurship and innovation in the UK’s Capital

This post was contributed by Amber Raney-Kincade, marketing consultant.

This evening’s presentation was designed to look at entrepreneurship in London. We started with a brief introduction by Helen Lawton Smith, who recapped the five myths about entrepreneurship from The Economist 2009.

Myth 1: Entrepreneurs are orphans and outcasts. In reality, they need business partners and social networks to thrive.

Myth 2: Most entrepreneurs are young kids. In fact, Harland Sanders of KFC was 65, Gary Burrell was 52.

Myth 3: Entrepreneurship is driven mainly by Venture Capital. In fact, VCs only fund a small fraction of start-ups. This was delved into more detail later on.

Myth 4: You have to be a world changer. In fact, Richard Branson didn’t change flying, he just added entertainment.

Myth 5: Entrepreneurship can’t flourish in big companies. In fact, many firms want to keep employees on their toes and they often supply start ups with their “bread and butter”. Lawton Smith recapped that with Boris Johnson at the helm, the political leadership sets the tone and image for entrepreneurial London, as he has many initiatives to improve and increase growth.

The next speaker was Pierre Nadeau, whose urged the audience to “choose wisely” when selecting a new venture financier. Nadeau recapped the failure risk of new ventures: 24% fail within 2 years, 52% within 4 years, 63% within 6years. Those numbers are strong warning signs, and as always the number one issue for failure is finance. A business goes through stages: Development/seed stage (idea concept), Start up, Early Growth, Rapid growth / expansion, Exit. In each stage, there are several different levels of risk, so it’s important to know where you are so you choose your source wisely.

Over time, as you progress, your venture risk is expected to decrease and the value is anticipated to go up, and different investors are attracted at different times! In the idea concept phase, if you go to a VC, they will most likely say “come back later”. Just as there are different stages of a business, there are different phases of funding. These include: bootstrapping (from you, friends, family, business angels), seed financing — R&D financing –start up finance (business angels), first stage, second stage, third stage, mezzanine (this is the VC stage!!), (trade credit and factoring), asset based finance, bridge finance LBO,MBO,IPO (the buyer stage). When you know which stage your business is in, you know where to ask for the money.

Nadeau ended his talk with a video of Jason Green, partner of Emergence Capital Partners. Green says you can always say “NO”… then negotiate from a strong position. “One thing that drives entrepreneurship … Belief. Belief that you feel the investment partner understands what you are trying to achieve in life.” Green says that when you are trying to get funding, the financial transaction usually takes over, so make sure there is a compatibility match in this marriage, because it’s hard to get a divorce. Remember, they are buying a share of the person’s dreams! Are they going to be there long-term?

Also, Green warns entrepreneurs to think about how they are treated in the process. The 6th sense always matters, if you have that gut feeling that may tell you that this isn’t the right partnership to get into. Have the same confidence in raising money as you did in building your business. Best advice: Allow yourself the opportunity to say no, and “date”.

The next presenter was Hasan Siber (@HasanSiber) who is a student at Birkbeck and is in the process of launching The Starts Hub. This will be a student run nonprofit organisation to assist students in launching their businesses. Siber’s mantra is all about innovation, and with the help of UCL and Bristol University, he has researched and assessed the need for an onsite assistance community to help students take their innovation and make it reality. The Starts Hub will be more than an incubation office; it will include a guest speaker series, collaboration, networking and workshops to assist with business planning, app and website development, IP property rights and marketing. It will also be a vehicle to assist social enterprises with reaching a larger audience. The Starts Hub is awaiting funding.

The next part of the meeting was “Stories from Real Life.” and included Andrew Atter, Nigel Biggs, Thomas Davies and a man who confidently goes by @SaintSal.

Andrew Atter is Managing Partner of Executive Dialogue, a company that brings dialogue into the organization via mentoring, change, consulting, etc. Atter presented the notion that as businesses evolve they navigate through complex changes, each stage requiring realignment of mindset, behaviors and outcomes at board level. “You have to focus on the leaders of the business to make sure they continue to evolve with business.”

Atter explained that a business has a similar growth pattern to a human: concept, child, infant, teen, adult, exit. It’s between teen/adult phase that businesses fail. Atter shared the story of a CEO who loves what he does, and wants to continue to run the business. However the chairman is keen to have him move on because the business cannot scale up with the CEO at the helm. Each person brings different values to the business and change dialogue has to take place.

Atter’s closing remarks are clear: “Evolution is critical just as technology or assets are.” London is a global city and you can’t hide away from the world!! Downsides: as an entrepreneur, you have to think about international risk much earlier in cycle. But the upside is you can go global much earlier in the cycle.

Nigel Biggs is a part-time Entrepreneurship Residence at University of Surrey, and a graduate of Birkbeck. He told a rather more personal story. “At 39, I wanted to work for me. Took the plunge and ten years later, realised why I wanted to do this… my grandparents had run small businesses, so it was in the blood!” Biggs started in software consultancy with large clients like British Rail, until Thatcher privatized BR. He stresses “Outside events are very important in business.”

Thomas Davies, Investment Director for Seedrs, was the next presenter. Crowdfunding is a popular concept, and his company is harnessing this trend. “At Seedrs, investing in start-ups is made simple and rewarding.” Seedrs launches next Friday, and will provide everyday people an opportunity to invest in start-ups via an online platform, similar to Kickstarter in the USA.

The next presenter was Sal, or as his slide professed, SaintSal. (@SaintSal) He has been behind six start-ups over the last few years, and specifically shared stories from leancamp and Founder Centric. Leancamp is a grassroots nonprofit event to bring entrepreneurs together to trade notes. Founder Centric is a start-up support group for founders, by founders. Sal’s main takeaway is that there is a common thread with startups and those who have been through it before. Often they say “I wish I knew that sooner”, and so Sal’s advice is to learn from others’ mistakes. He also stressed the importance of not believing your customers. “Customers lie to you, so you need to make the conversation useful. Instead of asking “would you use this” and then run off and create it, only to find they won’t use it, ask about their problem and have them explain how it might be solved.”

The evening closed with a round of questions from the audience, and here were two that stood out:

Are there common patterns?

(Andrew Atter) Yes. inventors/founders become too emotionally invested and are unable to be objective in decision making. This leads to exaggerated self belief, inability to listen, etc.

What about the role of women as entrepreneurs?

(Andrew Atter) There are many differences on how we work together, women are chronically underrepresented in the entrepreneurial world. There is a lot of opportunity and benefits for women in the business world. Naturally we are all looking for a natural balance in the genders.

(Thomas Davies) Mumsnet has really latched onto this… women who are incredibly brilliant and don’t want to work long hours. There is a mislabeling that to be an entrepreneur you have to be reckless, and men are stereotypically this person. Women have qualities that are needed for business. Reckless isn’t good.

 

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