We can hardly believe it's been a month since the Student Enterprise Conference 2016. We hope you are still reflecting on the things you learned and have started putting your ideas into action. To help refresh your memories and to continue the knowledge sharing, Ed Smith, graduate and blogger, has put together his highlights of the weekend, so we can relive some of the best bits!
My adrenaline is back to it’s regular levels after my first Student Enterprise Conference (SEC), run by the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE). Now that I’ve calmed down a bit I can objectively assess the key things I learned from the weekend. My aim for this post is to both help other attendees gather their thoughts after the event, but also for people who haven’t attended the SEC before (like me until recently) to see what they’re missing out on. A couple of disclosures; 1. if I butcher anyone’s talks with my interpretations please don’t sue me, I pay my own wages and am not a generous employer 2. I listened to as many speakers as possible, but am for now unfortunately only able to incarnate into one physical form, so can’t cover the whole weekend. I’m also not going to go in depth on the running of university enterprise societies or digital marketing here. I have upcoming posts that focus on these things specifically, because I realise these are quite niche areas of interest. Equally, if you want an in-depth guide to pitching (one of the most valuable things I took away) check out David Trayford’s website at www.pitch.tips, as he explains it far better than I could.
You’re never too young to be successful. You may think you have to get some “real life” experience before diving into the depths of the startup world, but at the SEC Harvey (@HarveyMorton15) and Julieta (@JulietaOse) talked about their experiences of running businesses before university. From them I also learned the importance of keeping your eyes open to what’s happening around you, as you may be surprised how much support your community/council can give you. On this note, have a look at www.mywaystartup.eu who have a huge range of contacts and can provide Europe-wide support. When talking about presenting yourself Claire Burke from the Guardian Small Business Network (@GDNclaire) highlighted the value of being truthful, rather than projecting a perfect instagrammed view of what you do. When you know who you are, you can plan who you want to be next year.
When you’re starting out it’s so important to define success. Set exact goals for this week, this month, this year, and become comfortable with the idea that you can’t do everything. Nafisa (@Nafisa_Bakkar) explained that she could be tweaking the code or logo on amaliah.co.uk every day, but you have to be ruthlessly efficient with your time, “how are you going to grow your user base by 20% this week?”. Don’t build something if you don’t know people want it, think lean. However, take market research with a pinch of salt when you have a vision. Rich Pleeth from https://supmenow.com (@Richpleeth) pointed out that customers can’t know what they’ll want tomorrow. “Don’t try to solve a problem, find a market and an opportunity” - David Trayford, and make sure you know where your company fits within Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Peter Briffett (@PeterBriffett) emphasised that if you don’t know how you add value to your customer on a fundamental level then you know nothing.
Control media coverage as much as possible, when you get negative social media feedback acknowledge it and reply straight away, then get it offline as soon as you can. “Never have public slagging matches” - Helen Merrills (@HelenMerrills).
In hiring, cultural fit is more important than anything else. If they haven’t got the exact skill set but are keen to learn, let them learn. Isaac gave the example of bringing on an excellent animation designer for his games studio http://www.pixelblimp.co.uk, and supporting them (without micromanaging) in their transition to becoming a fully fledged game designer. On the other hand, if someone consistently disagrees with what the rest of the team see as being fundamental to the company’s identity, they may not be right for your team any more.
Very similar to talent, Ivan Kayima (@ivanincredible) stressed that you shouldn’t take money just because it’s there. Spend as much time getting to know an investor as you would an employee. And choose an investor who knows (something) about your industry. The last and most vital piece of advice I want to impart is to just go out there and do it. It will be hard work, and it will be worth it. People will help you whenever they can, but you have to ask first. Nafisa put it very well: “People aren’t born with a little black book of contacts”, all of us just have to go out and make them. Look on meetup.com, eventbrite.com, and search through Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s going on. If you want it, go and get it. Did the SEC inspire you to launch a business? Enter it into our Varsity Pitch and you could win £10,000 equity free cash - applications open in May.