Month: December 2019

Facing your fears: What I learned from Cass Innovate 2019

Cass Business School’s yearly flagship event Cass Innovate is attended by entrepreneurs, business owners, finance professionals, consultants and students. Its diverse attendees really shows the living and breathing entrepreneurship ecosystem nurtured by Cass and City, University of London.

The keynote speech by Andrew Lynch, MSc Investment Management (2009) from Huckletree reminded me of the Steve Jobs theory of “connecting the dots.” Jobs’ theory is that it’s only possible to connect the dots looking backwards, so when launching your own venture you must trust your intuition. Andrew’s background and earlier experience in property and finance led him to venture into a business specialising in the coworking space and accelerator Huckletree.

Andrew Lynch: Keynote speaker, CEO of Huckletree and Cass alumnus

The breakout sessions offered at the event were mixed from talks, workshops and panel discussions to serve the need of a wider audience. The workshop The fear of failure: the number 1 enemy was particularly engaging and thought-provoking. The workshop was jam-packed with attendees from various backgrounds seeking an answer to the critical question: “what’s holding you back?”

Delivered by Professor Costas Andriopoulos, we started the workshop by filling in a CV of sorts of our failures. We wrote about what we didn’t get into: job positions, degree programmes, or other failures in life. Initially, I found this exercise counter-intuitive, especially as a CV is all about one’s achievements. The exercise of writing about your failures was a daunting task at first, but at the same time, it also instills the idea of pushing yourself to find alternatives. One more thing I picked up from the session was how to assess the possible negative consequences of an idea through analysis and ranking to explore ways to mitigate it. In fact, this is the first time I ever attended a session on failure and it has changed my mindset on failure and success.

Costas Andriopoulos: The Fear of Failure: the Number 1 Enemy

The session Financing methods throughout a company’s lifecycle, led by Professor Meziane Lasfer, was useful due to its real-world applications to raise the funding your own venture. Professor Lasfer succinctly explained the various methods of raising equity, be it from angel investment, venture capital (VC), private equity, debt and IPO. The session was attended by many budding entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs, small business owners as well as investors. Professor Lasfer led the session using the sources of funding used by Amazon as an example. The astonishing journey from launching a company to IPO truly illustrated the need for entrepreneurs and business owners. The Amazon example also provided a glimpse into the profit an investor can make through the different stages of investing in a company.

The final session I attended covered the topic of a Founder exit using research from three studies and was delivered by Professor Vangelis Souitaris and Dr Stefania Zerbinati. I gained insight into the reasons why founders decide to exit– for an example, it may be simply frustration due to lack of power. I learned how founders exit— financial exit, management exit, or simply a combination of two— and what they do afterwards. The most interesting aspect of the session was the opportunity to meet completely different sets of attendees, as many of them have an experience of selling their business in the past.

Overall, the event was well organised and refreshment breaks between sessions gave attendees enough time to connect, re-connect and swap business cards over tea or coffee. There was also plenty of time for networking over wine and nibbles at the end of the day and I look forward to attending Cass Innovate in 2020.

Amit Shah, Modular Executive MBA (2021)

What makes you a social entrepreneur?

The Kenya study tour took us to Nairobi where we were not only introduced to some real-life applications of how technology is being used for social good but also gained a deeper understanding of some of the key drivers of social value creation.

Social value creation starts with the social entrepreneur, an individual who has made the conscious decision to focus more on value creation rather than value capture. A social entrepreneur addresses neglected problems in society, looks for sustainable solutions and operates in areas with underprivileged communities. We met several social entrepreneurs in Nairobi including Martina Taverna from Airfu, a mobile-based learning platform aimed at targeting learners of low-income status who have limited access to training and Erik Hersman, the founder of BRCK, which provides ICT related solutions and network connectivity to areas of Africa that currently have limited or no access.

Erik Hersman runs us through the technology behind BRCK

The second key driver of social value creation is scalability. As the focus of social enterprises is not on driving a profit but creating social value and finding a solution to a problem in society, social entrepreneurs need to seek alternative methods to capture value, otherwise, their solution becomes unscalable. Funding typically comes from public donations, the local government or the private sector. For Kenya, we learnt from the British High Commission that the UK government provides £300 million annually to the country.

Social enterprises must also consider the format of their business model as the traditional model doesn’t account for the focus on social value creation and therefore, needs to be developed. We were provided with a real-life example of business model innovation when we visited E4impact, who have developed a model focused on franchising. This allows them to provide higher-education to social entrepreneurs throughout Sub-Saharan Africa due to their partnerships with several international universities.

A summary of the range of services that E4impact are able to provide

It’s important to note that Kenya is already ahead of other countries in terms of technology use. The introduction of M-Pesa in 2007 revolutionised how Kenyans transacted and allowed them to skip straight to mobile banking, bypassing the traditional banking methods. Even now, Kenya is considered to be one of the top five countries in Africa that will experience significant grown in mobile phone penetration over the next six years; it is predicted to obtain nine million new mobile phone users by 2025.

It is this familiarity with technology that has allowed Kenya to be so receptive to solutions involving it and for this country, accessibility to the technology is imperative to it supporting social value creation. This holds just as much importance on a larger scale when considering how technology could be used to meet the UN’s Sustainable Developmental Goals. The UN already believes that technology will help, specifically stating that, “in order to eradicate poverty and reorient current unsustainable development trajectories over the period 2015 to 2030, affordable technological solutions have to be developed and disseminated widely in the next fifteen years.”

Kenya presents us with an abundance of social entrepreneurs using technology to create social value. Taking into account what they have done and limitations they have faced (e.g. scalability) will allow us to be able to apply their solutions on a global scale and address the challenges that currently present themselves in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Nil Sangarabalan, Executive MBA (2019)

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