Startup Weekend Exeter 2017

The weekend of November 17 – 19 saw the University of Exeter Business School transformed into an incubation space for Exeter’s brightest minds and entrepreneurial spirits. Now in its fourth year, Techstar’s Startup Weekend Exeter is a 54-hour startup sprint designed to guide entrepreneurs in shaping their innovative ideas into business realities over the course of just three days. The weekend captures the essence of the entrepreneurial journey; full of energy, hard work, camaraderie, and hours of high-intensity fun as teams compete to determine who wins 1st overall, people’s choice, or best purpose driven idea.

Sponsored by the University of Exeter Business School and SetSquared, many postgraduate students from the 2018 Exeter MBA cohort were in attendance, alongside a healthy mix of undergraduate students and members of the Exeter community. The weekend kicked off Friday evening, with a rousing welcome party hosted by TechStar facilitator David Andersen, followed by inspirational speeches from local social entrepreneur Kalkidan Lagasse and executive coach Ian Hale.

This year’s event centred around business with a purpose, and both Hale and Lagasse represented the power of purpose-led business by recounting their inspirational success stories. Lagasse began her retail business, Sancho’s Dress, as a way to bolster the income of her Aunt, a talented seamstress struggling to make ends meet in Lagasse’s home country of Ethiopia. Lagasse began her business as a student at the University of Exeter, selling her Aunt’s homemade scarves at a booth in the forum. She then engaged with the ThinkTryDo! Student Startup programme, and soon grew her business into a successful brick and mortar shop on Fore Street. Recently, Lagasse has expanded her business to fill a second retail space. She sells organic, cruelty-free clothing, jewellery and accessories.

Now it was time for Friday’s main event: the pitches! Participants were asked to come prepared with a business concept, and had only 60 seconds to present their idea to the Startup Weekend Exeter delegation. In all over 30 pitches showcased an incredible array of creative, innovative and inspiring ideas – from making a wood pulp substitute out of sugar cane, to creating building materials out of used plastic bottles, to stilettos capable of converting into flats by detaching the heels! Once all the pitches were heard, participants cast their votes for the top ideas.  In the end, a total of eight teams were formed, and it was the teams with representation of a variety of demographics and an expansive array of skills, that were most successful.

Once assembled, teams quickly got to work brainstorming on how to bring their ideas to life, and created their agendas for the weekend. The task: ideate, validate, create, and actuate! Typically, ideation begins with an expansive view, then focuses in on a realistic attainment, the creation of a prototype, or minimum viable product (MVP).

On Saturday, teams were expected to validate their ideas in the marketplace. This involved taking to the streets of Exeter, and discovering whether or not consumers would actually be interested in their business. Saturday also featured think tank sessions with an impressive array of mentors from all across the tech and entrepreneurial communities. Mentors conducted individual sessions with each team, offering tech support, logistics advisement, business development expertise, and much more.

Startup Weekend Exeter is a hectic, busy, and exciting time. Teams often find it hard to break away from the work to eat and relax. Thankfully, the amazing organising team had refreshments and relaxation covered with comfy couches, table tennis, and delicious free food all weekend long! Participants enjoyed the delights of Spanish paella, Mexican tacos, and authentic Sri Lankan cuisine, alongside sandwiches from Pret-a-Manger, snacks, and sweets to keep their energy levels up and brains firing on all cylinders.

On Sunday, teams continued their frenetic pace, turning their ideas into action. They finalised their MVPs, put the final touches on their presentations, and squeezed in a few more sessions with the mentors. By late afternoon, the judges arrived and it was time to compete!

 

Judges for Startup Weekend included:

Antonia Power, General Counsel for Blur Group

Richard Eckley, Senior Investment Analyst for Crowdcube

Christine Allison, Director of Roborough House Associates

Stuart Robinson, Director of the Exeter MBA

Ideas were assessed according to their validity in the market, strength of their business model, and execution and design. The judges then chose the team that had presented the most convincing business and awarded the prize for best purpose driven idea and also handed out the award for the People’s Choice.

In closing the event, TechStars facilitator David Andersen said:

“Startup Weekend Exeter was a really special experience. I think there were some great teams, with great energy and great ideas. Participants here were really open-minded and keen to do new things. Basically, everything we could throw at them, they took on with a positive mindset. It really says a lot about the community here in Exeter, and I would love to see that spread after the weekend. That’s what the Startup Weekend is all about: inspiring the participants to go out and change the world.”

Special thanks to the University of Exeter Business School, the ThinkTryDo Student Startups team, Bunzl catering, Pret-a-Manger, and all of our wonderful mentors, judges, and participants.

Written by Jessica Ilyas

The sweet spot: Why spaceships can help us design for a circular economy

According to Dana Meadows (1992), to reach systems change, the most important element is to have the power to transcend paradigms.

This is hard to do with anyone, let alone MBA students.

This week, Adam Lusby, adjunct lecturer at the Exeter MBA and Delfina Zagarzazú, 2016 Alumni, piloted a 2 day workshop coined Generation Space, where 43 students worked on the mission:

“Scope and define the internal characteristics of a spaceship that can evolve to host 1000 people for 1000 years for generational interstellar space travel”                

By setting the context in a galaxy, students were allowed to enter a new paradigm without considering it, allowing re-design  to happen at many different levels of a system including food, water, manufacturing and health to meet the needs of life in space.

Using Design Thinking to guide the process, the exploratory phase of  it allowed students to push the boundaries of creativity whilst in ideation staying aware of the need to build a circular economy strategy for the underlying importance of closed loop design to keep resources in use through the voyage.

What is your strategy to ensure the continuous uptime performance of all your resources? In other words, how do you propose to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value during the voyage?

Further inspiration for circular design was enabled by Chris Grantham and Arianne Orillac who lead Circular Economy at IDEO in London who guided the spaceships to consider reiteration of product design onboard using circular economy strategy cards.

After prototypes and definition of spaceship purpose, teams were judged by an all women panel to put their circular innovations forward.

  • Hege Saebjornsen, Country Sustainability Manager, IKEA UK & IE
  • Lynn Maxwell, Sustainability Developer, IKEA UK & IE
  • Emilie Sandberg, Creative Leader, IKEA UK & IE
  • Arianne Orillac, Circular Business Designer, IDEO London

This project is part of the Corporate Challenge 2018 in collaboration with IKEA and IDEO.

Blog written by Delfina Zagarzazu

Global Challenges and the MBA

It’s great to see our new cohort of MBA students starting to get involved with the 2017 programme.  We started formal learning last week with a module in which we discussed global challenges: economics and inequality, social change, technology and climate.  Four expert guest speakers joined us to bring their perspective on each of these.  The speakers came from Oxfam, IBM the UK Met Office as well as our own academic team.

We’re a truly global group this year; people from 21 countries have come to Exeter to join the full time MBA.  This diversity brought a lot to our classroom debate; maybe too much, as most of the guest sessions ran over time with participants from different parts of the world contributing their perspectives.  It all came together on the last afternoon when each study group presented their views on the challenges.

I think this kind of debate is important at the start of an MBA where many of the participants want to build their ability to make positive change in the world.  Being clear on the challenges we face and hearing others’ perspective on these helps us understand and shape our own opportunities and the skills we look to gain from the MBA to pursue these.

Written By Stuart Robinson

MBA Students Step Back in Time: A retreat to St. Michael’s Mount – By: Delfina Zagarzazu

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Picture Credits: Chayaporn Kongcharoenkitkul

Conscious of time with deadlines fast approaching in the next few days, we departed Exeter at 7AM to spend a day away from the books. Away from Devon, we  stepped into Cornwall – a first for many international students who had yet to explore all of the Southwest treasures!

The day was co-designed by Hugh St. Aubyn and myself to allow the 30 person cohort a creative and inspiring visit to balance off the business theory from class. We placed colourful and inviting signs to find the emerging leader within each of us.

Don’t ask what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people that have come alive

– Howard Thurman, Great Civil Rights Leader

The day promised to be filled with friends, nature, personal reflections and a beautiful historic castle to carry our minds away into imaginary stories and tales that made us step back in time – couldn’t have asked for more on a cold February morning halfway through Term 2 of our MBA.

The magic about St. Michael’s Mount is that you can only access it during low tide, something very rare in the 21st century of drones, planes and automobiles. The patience and timing for our visit set the pace for the day, as we removed our MBA ‘speedometers’ and tried to slow down to the pace of the tide to connect with the magic of the island and the castle.

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Two Months in Tokyo with PwC Aarata’s Sustainability Team

In the later stages of the One Planet MBA our cohort have the opportunity to develop and apply innovative business thinking to solve the real-life challenge faced by one of our corporate partner organisations. The following case study comes from Glendon Filer a member of the 2016 graduating cohort.

Two Months in Tokyo with PwC Aarata’s Sustainability Team, by Glendon Filer – One Planet MBA Alumnus Class of 2016

I have recently returned from Japan where I undertook my One Planet MBA consultancy project,  having spent the summer living and working in Tokyo, while completing an internship with PwC Aarata, Japan. Based 20 minutes’ walk from the entertainment and shopping hub of Shinjuku, I commuted across town each day to PwC’s office in Shiodome. Boasting views of Tokyo harbour and the famous Tsukiji fish market, it was an ideal place for some MBA level thinking. Outside it was a hot summer with many typhoons. Inside the office, days were long but – ultimately – rewarding.

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Developing as a Fine Negotiator while Getting a Taste for the One Planet MBA

by Caspar Wilkinson

Caspar is an MSc International Management student at the University of Exeter Business School. He was invited to take part in the One Planet MBA‘s two-day workshop on Negotiating, Collaborating & Partnering, as part of the MBA’s flagship Personal Transformations module.Caspar Wilkinson

Realising your ambitions

As a student with a strong drive to succeed I was powerfully motivated to learn negotiating.

After attending an introductory MBA Masterclass I was keen to see more of what the One Planet MBA was all about. That’s the great thing about Exeter University, the lecturers empower you to realise your ambition, none more so than Nicolas Forsans, One Planet MBA Director. After some persistent negotiating (!) Nicolas kindly agreed to let me take part in the workshop and collaborate with fellow MBA participants over two full days. I was excited to be able to see world class teaching in action with powerfully practical benefits.

What would it be like learning negotiating for the first time? Would I be able to stand my ground against an impressive MBA cohort in a top UK University? What previous negotiating experiences could I draw on to add value to the class? I felt somewhat nervous and set about studying for the class a week in advance. Continue reading

FT Preview – Teaching the Impact of Climate Change to the Leaders of Tomorrow

What happened yesterday had been anticipated for a long time. The opening of the United Nations’ 21st Conference of the Parties (or COP21 in a nutshell) in Paris yesterday evidences how urgent the need to tackle climate change has become. A recent paper in Nature shows how horrendous the economic and human cost of climate change would be – with about a quarter of the world’s GDP wiped off by 2100 and the burden of the cost falling onto the world’s poorest countries left to pay the price for it.

Teaching the Impact of Climate Change to the business leaders of tomorrow

While the Financial Times gave editorial prominence (subscription req’d) to its coverage of the opening of COP21, it also features an article more focused on MBA programmes that that deliver a more sustainable approach to business and management education.

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Welcoming the Class of 2016

After months of anticipation we finally welcomed our new Full Time and Executive MBA Hello worldparticipants to the Business School. A truly international group once again, we have over 40 students from 17 different countries, ranging from Australia and Canada to the USA, Uganda and Vietnam. With an average of 11 years work experience, the Class of 2016 comprises of promising business professionals with expertise in a range of industry sectors including engineering, IT, marketing, education and law. Throughout the year you will read their stories on this blog as they share their expectations, enthusiasm and challenges as they go through a life changing experience. Continue reading

Being at the Spearhead of the Fintech Revolution

By Tico Altahona,
MBA student 2014/5

Too big to fail”, is how the importance of banks has traditionally been defined, as they are so large and interconnected that if they collapse, there would be a chain reaction that would affect the whole economy. They are the link that connects the economy and lets everything happen: from government policy (expand the circulation with credits) to buy groceries (payment services).

We are living in exciting moments because a revolution is happening right now. There are serious threats to the banks foundations, and I am happy to announce that I am part of it. The Financial Technology (Fintech) revolution has been made by start-ups that use Internet and mobile applications to side step banks. Companies like Droplet are now able to replace the traditional services offered ONLY by banks, in this particular case: payments with cards.

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The Extra Mile on the One Planet MBA

By Ernesto Altahona
Full-time MBA student 2014/5

 

I started to live my dream the day I arrived to the classroom; I strongly wished to be here because I felt some time ago that there was a “glass ceiling” blocking my career development. Somehow the path was obstructed and I knew I was missing the tools for breaking it, in order to develop my full potential, and I expected the One Planet MBA would give me the instruments to do this. Knowledge is the main argument for undertaking a MBA; you know that the teachers will guide you through a variety of disciplines and areas, in which you know beforehand you lack strong pillars. I expected a demanding level of evaluation, and these expectations were fulfilled. Many nights without sleep to deliver presentations, slide decks and essays are now in my luggage.
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