Enterprise Campus’ three hubs are working in partnership to offer every postgraduate a level playing field and the opportunity to reach their potential
Our future is built on ideas. When the brightest minds from Scottish universities emerge they are full of possibility, but if they find barriers in the way, many potentially brilliant ideas could be left dormant.
That’s what the Enterprise Campus has been established to avoid. An organisation that allows every postgraduate student in Scotland access to the advice, training, expert guidance, and funding to get their high-growth company off the ground.
There are three Enterprise Campus Hubs – the East led by the University of Edinburgh, the North by the University of Aberdeen, and the West by the University of Strathclyde.
Working in partnership, they offer every postgraduate student from a Scottish university a level playing field to reach their potential, no matter what the offering at their own university is.
“We work with universities to see what they already deliver,” says Dr Jamie Love, Business Adviser at Enterprise Campus East. “And then see what we can do to complement that and make sure every student has the same opportunities to make their high-growth business idea a reality.”
“Apart from the advice,” adds Dr Love, “there is also funding available for ideas which illustrate solid potential as a highgrowth start up business. These are grants that do not need to be repaid.
“The University of Edinburgh’s Launch.ed programme has been running Business Bootcamps for a while. These are intense courses over two days that cover everything from idea generation, to looking at what problem your business idea is going to solve, to route to market, target audience, marketing and PR. At the end, the students then deliver a one-minute elevator pitch, preparing them for when they have to pitch to the likes of venture capitalists and business angels who are ready to invest.”
What they found, however, says Dr Love, is it can sometimes be difficult for postgraduate students to get two full days away, so they decided to develop a workshops series, breaking the subjects covered in Bootcamps into bitesize chunks, and allowing the students to pick and choose what they needed to cover at a certain point in time.
“Enterprise Campus wanted to roll out a programme of activity that was relevant to student entrepreneurs, was mindful of their availability and study commitments, and worked for entrepreneurs whether they are just starting with a seed of an idea or are at a later stage in the development of their business,” adds Dr Love.
“Students can look at the calendar and fit the two-hour workshops in with their commitments and book them in advance, for free of course. If they want to come to everyone then they are more than welcome.”
The workshops series has been so successful it is being rolled out across the hubs in the North and West. In fact, students who are at universities in those hubs have already been making the effort to travel to the East Hub at Edinburgh to take part.
“There is obviously a real desire for students to learn these things so we will be delivering them right across the network in the future.
It isn’t necessary to be in the midst of postgraduate study to be part of Enterprise Campus. In fact, individuals can apply for two years following graduation and still be given the help. Also, the business idea doesn’t require any relation with the field of study. The workshops are based around giving the start-ups a grounding in business rather than any particular fields of industry.
Devising the workshop series meant calling on experts across Scotland to take part in delivering the seminars, and also taking Q&As from knowledge-hungry postgrads.
The role of the expert cannot be stressed highly enough. To have that deep industry knowledge from individuals renowned in their fields is the kind of guidance that any potential entrepreneur requires from the beginning. Not only can they provide insight but they can deliver real-life examples of how their particular field can be of benefit to the burgeoning business.
One of the experts involved in the Intellectual Property workshops is IP lawyer Philip Hannay from Cloch Solicitors in Glasgow.
“It has been a universally positive experience for me,” he says. “I enjoy every moment of giving back to the next generation of entrepreneurs.
“With the subject matter that I speak on, there’s always a very high level of engagement with the students. They don’t see it as a detached subject – they see as practical and often not even in terms of their studies, but just their own interests. IP needs to be looked at as it relates to social media of course and this is just as pertinent to their private and business lives. They have to be aware of what they’re sharing in this information age.”
Hannay started his practice four years ago and took a longer-term view of the business.
“Universities are the future. The research that is happening means that people who have their own ideas are incredibly tech-savvy and able to produce these businesses in a bedroom – with the potential of being worth millions of dollars. It’s worth committing time and effort to get to know the students.”
He sees a difference in how much students know about his subject but can work on every level but having a more relaxed approach to seminars.
“When I last spoke in January, I took my usual approach of treating the lecture more like a conversation. I said they must have come with ideas, so we would put them upon the board and work through them. The questions that they came up with were incredibly detailed and interesting. Many were quite challenging and I was padding my brow at the end. They put me through the wringer!”
Hannay says they arrived with frustrations and questions that they really needed answers to, but they went away with something to consider, which keeps him thinking and is helpful from his point of view. At other times, however, the students don’t have the same handle on the IP concept and he can bring something fresh to them and explain the idea and how it will relate to everything they do in a start-up business.
He also took part in the Business Bootcamps, and having seen what he calls “the firepower” in the room then, he can see the benefits in both approaches to helping budding entrepreneurs.
Most people will equate the term high-growth to high-tech but as Dr Love explains, the start-up ideas they see come from every area of industry and the creative sector. “Our service is for any postgraduate with a solid idea. We have students from across the disciplines from the creative and fashion industries right through to high-tech and renewable energies.”
A solid example of this is Amolingua, an online language learning service established by Ekaterina Matveeva, a postgraduate of the University of St Andrews. “I’m a linguist, so I don’t know so much about finances. That’s why I needed to learn and get some information and knowledge about the start-up world.”
Kate, as she is known, enjoyed the intense Bootcamp experience where she was forced to work with others under an amount of pressure. “Finding practical solutions in a limited amount of time was a fantastic experience. It was great that the mentors would be near and provide the guidance and support that allowed us to find the solutions for particular problems.”
She also found that the workshops provided advice on business start-ups across the board.
“Some in particular, such as the workshop on trademarks and intellectual property, were particularly relevant to me, as I was working in the educational sphere.”
It can benefit students to meet people who share the same vision, however, and with that in mind the Enterprise Campus has launched a programme of lunches to bring start-ups and experts from the same sector together.
“We recently hosted the first of our themed networking lunches. This is invitation-only and we bring together a select few Enterprise Campus students who have ideas in a specific area, with industry experts, academics, and investors,” continued Dr Love. “We invited students with ideas around medicine/ medical devices, held the lunch in a private dining room with a maximum of 18 people, and gave the students a real opportunity to meet those who can help to bring an idea to fruition.”
The fact that postgraduates can apply up to two years after graduating is particularly helpful. Ideas often germinate during study but don’t take hold until later. There isn’t even a need to have been in touch with Enterprise Campus during studying to qualify.
“Ultimately what stops most postgrad students starting businesses is funding,” Dr Love adds. “Of course the free events are crucial but every entrepreneur needs to start somewhere and grants can help. We can provide funding for anything from company formation fees to legal fees.
“We can pay for the crucial stage of prototyping. We help them along the way and pay for these things that they need in order to get their business started.”
“What we do at Enterprise Campus is simple. We present everything they need to know about business and offer them solutions to be able to find out more. It’s about breaking down those barriers to the next generation of brilliant ideas.”
Speaking the language of enterprise
If anyone needed to be good at time management, it’s Ekaterina Matveeva. The linguist, polyglot and memory sportsman has been working in education for the past eight years, is a postgraduate of the University of St Andrews, and set up her company Amolingua last year. 2015 went past in a fl ash, a kaleidoscope of countries and cities – Malaysia, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, China, Edinburgh and New York to name but a few. The travel would have been hectic enough for most, but not Ekaterina, who on top of starting her online learning experience for foreign languages and cultures, found the time to enter business competitions as well – and it paid off, with her company being named among 20 of the world’s hottest start-ups in 2015 by CNBC, hosted by Language Live Show 2015, and recognised as one of the 100 Best UK Start-Ups by the Pitch 2015. It was the 23 year old’s love of languages that steered her towards starting a business that helped others fully immerse themselves in new cultures, and over the last year her company, which now employs two people and has over 40 associates worldwide, has grown its selection of languages from eight to 22, and now includes cultural training, memory training and coaching in addition to language courses.
“We started testing our project in March 2015, and since then we’ve successfully taught 120 students with 80% success rate,” said Ekaterina.
“We’ve trained 40 tutors, can teach 22 languages including Arabic, Mandarin and Japanese, and have achieved tangible results within six months of learning.
“Our students get a customised programme and a team of tutors to work with them, and it’s personalised learning – they can connect with their leading tutor for conversational 1-to-1 classes via Skype and chat with their team everyday via WhatsApp; complete daily tasks/quests and track progress using our custom video app.
“The experience of being in a country where the first language isn’t your native tongue, can be somewhat daunting, but I want to make it as enjoyable as possible. Whether work, education or just life finds you in a country, Amolingua can get you speaking a language to confident conversational level in just three to six months.”
The enthusiasm of this young Russian is undeniable, and she has her sights set on the corporate world next. It’s no wonder this Enterprise Campus alumna was named UK Business Woman of the Year at Grad Factor 2015. Watch out Rosetta Stone, there’s a new kid on the block.