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Tuesday 2 September 2014

7 Ways Universities Can Help Entreprenuers

(at no cost!)

Recent changes in the economy, the digital revolution, and government support has increased the number of graduates and alumni who make the career decision to become entrepreneurs. Many of them decide to do so after gaining experience within a company.

A survey conducted by London Business School Career Services in 2012 found that 7% of graduates answered YES to the question: 'Are you an entrepreneur?' when asked upon graduation, while 50% answered YES within 5 years from graduating.

Universities must adapt to this changing business reality in order to stay relevant.

Benefits of supporting entrepreneurs:
  • Success stories which are associated with the university
  • Proof of the business potential in your university
  • Entrepreneurs are natural networkers, and act as multipliers within and in connection to other communities
  • PR exposure – in 2012 London Business School was featured twice in Forbes, one of these was an interview with Nitzan Yudan regarding how LBS supported him in starting a business
  • Keep alumni connected to the school as mentors 
  • Attract new applicants to the school
  • Recruitment and work experience for students
  • Fundraising opportunities when the business become successful 
What entrepreneurs need:
The main need of entrepreneurs is access to networks and reputation. These two components are crucial to make the first sales as a company, and establish a brand. The other needs of entrepreneurs are to minimize cost, and maximize resources.

The plan below requires ZERO direct costs from the university, and was successfully implemented by London Business School.

Step 1: Reputation
Helping entrepreneurs build their reputation can be quite simple for a university; it’s mainly to do with the prestige associated with the university itself. If you help to promote your entrepreneurs, through any university channel, you will aid them in building their reputation. A simple solution is a page on the university pages with a list of companies, logo, and short description of business started by alumni of the university. This will not only help the entrepreneurs reputation, but will also help the ranking of their websites in search engines such as Google.

Step 2: Mentoring & Advice
Your alumni network, faculty, and staff can be an outstanding resource for mentoring and advice for entrepreneurs. By facilitating these relationships, both sides benefit.
To set up on a mentoring scheme you require 2 emails:

An email to budding entrepreneurs in the university asking who would like to participate in a mentorship program. Once you’ve collected the interested parties’ information, a simple database can store their info.

To faculty, staff, and alumni (could be part of a newsletter) to ask who would like to participate as a mentor. Collect the information by industry, expertise, and location. A simple database and an online calendar could be a great start. Email your entrepreneurs to register to this programme.

A good idea is also to organize a networking event inviting all mentors and entrepreneurs to the university. Facilitating this relationship is virtually no burden on administration, as once the relationship begins between the mentors and entrepreneurs it develops by itself.

Step 3: Professional Advice
A second level of advice can be made by engaging tax advisors, legal, PR, tech, and marketing agency to provide FREE workshops and support to the university entrepreneurs. They will do it for free in return to the reputation and the opportunity to have paid businesses in the future.

By creating a resource of recommended services by other entrepreneurs, you will be able to save the entrepreneurs much time in sorting out bureaucracy, and allowing them to focus on their business.

Step 4: Setting up an Incubator Programme
To start an incubator programme you only need one room, a table, a few chairs, and a wi-fi connection. That’s it. By facilitating this, the entrepreneurs will already benefit from saving the costs of renting office space, and will be able to have a working environment. While most early stage entrepreneurs still work from home, having an office space they can use & a community they can exchange ideas and knowledge with. Just one room with a tea kettle and wi-fi should be enough for 15-20 companies to begin to grow together, without management strain.

Once this has been started, you’ll be able to develop further interest across departments, from Career Services to the Alumni Office, a rare find with universities.

Step 5: Providing Access to the First Customers
Entrepreneurs strive to spread the word. By promoting their services with the university community, you can help them find their first customers. This can also go beyond the university network to corporations who work closely with the university and other audiences.

Posting on portals, Facebook, LinkedIn and including in newsletters could be a great start.

Step 6: PR and Media Coverage
Your university PR team is constantly looking for success stories and interesting development to make news about the university. Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for opportunities to get media coverage and boost their reputation. By simply connecting these two, you will create success on both sides. Flat Club, an LBS startups, was featured on the Financial Times, Forbes, Management Today, CityAM, and other publications – through a collaboration with the LBS PR team.

Step 7: Fundraising
One of the hardest challenges for entrepreneurs is to raise funding for their business. This is another great opportunity for the university community to facilitate potential interest with angel investors who are related to the university, or through crowd funding platforms.

A growing number of individuals are investing in startups through crowd funding platforms. However, many of them don’t have the time to do proper due diligence and deal sourcing. By connecting your alumni network to entrepreneurs, you help potential investors save time and worry – they are much more likely to invest in someone who graduated from the same university than in a random company.

Organizing quarterly pitching events can be an outstanding networking opportunity for both entrepreneurs and investors. For example, FlatClub's first investors were 2 LBS faculty members, and one of the largest donors of LBS itself!

If you're university is looking to grow alongside your budding entrepreneurs, these steps will help you to facilitate their success - at no cost. If you'd like any more advice on how to best assist entrepreneurs at your university, get in touch with us at