Cambridge University/ the A-team of entrepreneurs

7 Jul

A big sweaty hello from sunny UK! Just got back from a lovely week in the Swizz land puffing up mountains and shamelessly swimming in lakes without proper attire…

Down to business! Last week I had the privilege of attending the CfEL (http://www.cfel.jbs.cam.ac.uk/) three day workshop; bringing together 35 talented entrepreneurs from around the UK to create or develop new ideas and pitch them to a panel of venture capitalists on the final day.

On the first day those with ideas pitched their product and then teams were formed. I don’t know if it’s because I was drunk on free sanwiches, or plain crazy but I decided to ‘make up’ an idea on the spot. I formed a team of three for the weekend and, with guidance we defined our product further, carried out some really interesting market research, financing, and learning to pitch our ideas.
A few quick things you can check out which I thought will be helpful for the future in terms of internet research –
{https://adwords.google.com/o/Targeting/Explorer?__c=1000000000&__u=1000000000&ideaRequestType=KEYWORD_IDEAS} – See how many people are google searching for a certain thing locally, and globally. It’s great to get a feel for the demand for products/services similar to yours.

{http://www.alexa.com/} – Allows you to see the stats for other websites – again helps you to see how other websites for similar services are doing, what kind of customers they’re bringing in, and obviously you can check up on your own website too.

I could go into a long description about the whole three days, but I’m trying to learn to keep things concise, so to that vein I’ll just be brief.

First off this event showed me further that ‘entrepreneurs’ aren’t a bunch of money grabbing, waitrose-shopping, alpha-power-tie-suspenders-esque, grizzly Donald Trumps like a lot of people think. The great majority of the projects being pitched at the weekend were aimed at sustainable and ethical business for the future; providing the server, and the serviced with positive outcomes!! How cool is that? .. I don’t get why more people aren’t doing this. 😀

Secondly I learned starting a new project successfully is about focus and producing preliminary results as quickly as possible. You can spend years moulding the perfect idea, but if it’s not tried and tested in reality it will most likely lack foundation – build from the bottom (solid work/results), not from the top (a great idea/concept/plan). You need both to build a significant structure. From this lesson I guess this is along the lines of what I’ve learned:

If your project is (looked at like) a plant your thoughts/plans are the garden cane to give it structure, but action is the soil and nutrients that will allow it to grow. It’s up to you what’s most important, but I know what I’m going to be looking to do from here on in! – Our project was an interactive web-based platform for learning a new instrument – therefore the first thing for us to do was to build a very basic website of what we’re going for and start getting traffic and feedback on the basic product.

Finally I learnt a lot about teams and managing other people. Because I pitched the idea I became team leader. Now I like being a leader, especially when you’re in a great team that all want the same team without the need to bustle around with each other. But at the same time I think, like a lot of people I have a complex/insecurity that I may not be a good enough leader. I worry other people are trying to take over my leadership role or make me look bad in front of others. HANDS UP, I admit I had a slight case of that this weekend but the really nice thing is that this project wasn’t something I treasured/coveted too much so I was able to give it a bit of slack. There was one in my team who spoke a lot and didn’t take rejection of their ideas easily. Because I was the team leader I tensed up and tried to stem his ideas and creativity because I felt I should be the one providing the most, and saying how things go.

Now on the final day, partly because I was tired, I thought to myself ‘I feel like I’m fighting this guy every step of the way. What if I let his ideas and creativity flow completely freely and actually encourage what he’s going for’. Lo and behold suddenly this energy came where we worked together and created a great and animated presentation where our talents and energies complemented each other. When he had an idea that really didn’t work then I obviously still had to put my foot down but in taking a bit of my ego (“I must be in control of the project at all times”) out of the equation for a few hours things evolved and developed into great results.
I’m not saying that if you’re managing a team let them all say and do whatever they want, whenever they want,

– but just to be aware that in these situations your ego (pretty sure we all have one!) can get in the way of true creativity and team dynamics. Next time you’re in a team, see what happens when instead of thinking about how you have to be in a situation, try replacing that with the best way your whole team can be to work together and create results.

Image

This week I have a number of exciting meetings for two of the projects so I’m looking forward to reporting in to you all later in the week :D.

Btw if anyone is looking for good concentration/work music – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sML2bq_WGw

Happy team-working!

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