When you come to the School you’ll find heaps of opportunities in the entrepreneurial space – not least start-up weekends, hosted by Accelerate Cambridge, our in-house early venture accelerator.
You might have already heard of the start-up weekend model – 54 hour events where a range of individuals come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups.
Our start-up weekends, dubbed ‘[email protected]’, are led by Accelerate Cambridge – our in-house centre which complements its sister centre, the Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at Cambridge Judge Business School, by focusing on venture creation by teams with a structured combination of training, and mentoring. We’re making waves in enterprise – the University of Cambridge has backed more than 300 hi-tech and 200 computer based companies (which earn £250m between them) with more than a £1bn of funding. So as you can imagine it’s a pretty special place to go to a start-up weekend.
So what to expect? Start-up weekends are typically based around a real-world issue in an industry, be it financial technology, biotechnology or education technology. The most recent start-up weekend focused on ‘The Future of Payments’ and set the challenge “conceive a future-proof payments infrastructure that seamlessly supersedes existing payment systems whilst addressing the need to provide greater transaction speed, security, flexibility, accessibility and data-enrichment.” Sound like your kind of challenge? Another thing to mention is that start-up weekends are attended by all kinds of people – developers, students, businesspeople. So it’s an open space and nobody need to be an expert to take part.
Why start-up weekends are like gold dust for MBAs
- Find a mentor
The weekends are run in partnership with fantastic mentors who offer guidance and advice, as well as faculty from the School and businesspeople from the ‘Silicon Fen’ area. Most recently the Fintech weekend hosted mentors from BNY Mellon. You’re sure to find an inspiring mentor of sorts – and it may even surprise you who this is.
- Pitch makes perfect
You’ll get to individually pitch your idea before forming teams and pitching a final product. This practice is invaluable for building your confidence and pitch style for future occasions – whether at a job interview or to pitching clients in the workplace.
The teamwork at start-up weekends naturally counterparts the team focus of the Cambridge MBA programme. During the team-forming stage of the weekend you’ll be asked to do an inventory of skills just as you will at the start of any of the MBA team projects.
- A start-up community
For 54 hours, you’re going to eat every meal with these people – developers, entrepreneurs, social innovators. So be open, interested and ready to engage. You’ll then begin to forming communities that cross border and disciplines.
- Put simply the experience
You never know what you can achieve with an intensive period of time. This is going to be gruelling – think of it a bit like a start-up marathon – or is it more like a sprint?
- Look ahead
Things could go so much further than the weekend. Whether you have the right idea or meet the right people there are more opportunities on the horizon: from jobs to projects and investors. And even if you don’t – go to the next start-up weekend – ‘fail fast’ and grow – that’s the beauty of it.
MBA students Julia Palatovska and Charles Chou both attended start-up weekends, here’s what they had to say:
Julia Palatovska, MBA 2014-15:
I came to the MBA programme after several years in the mobile games industry wondering whether I could gamify an aspect of finance. During the ‘Fintech’ startup weekend we did exactly that – developed a business model and a prototype of a game about investment management and had a sanity check with judges from a bank – senior managers of BNY Mellon, who awarded us second place! So for me the startup weekend was a unique chance to work on my crazy idea with a fantastic team and bring it close to reality within just 54 hours. I would recommend this challenging and condensed experience to everybody who is not afraid to make their entrepreneurial dreams come true.
Charles Chou, MBA 2014-15:
Start-up weekends are valuable opportunities for anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship and wants to have a taste of what it’s like to build out their idea from scratch. I came into the weekend with an idea that I wanted to work on and was given the opportunity to pitch my idea to a diverse audience that ranged from working professionals to MBAs and PhDs. By the end of the weekend, we had a working prototype and an investment pitch ready – all within a span of 54 hours! The energy, people and collaborative environment collectively made it a memorable and exciting weekend. I would highly recommend anyone who is interested or serious about entrepreneurship to give Start-up weekend a try!