Entrepreneurship Q&A

I spend a lot of time talking with startups and entrepreneurs, and get to ask them a lot of questions.  But I thought it might be a good idea to put your questions to some of our world-famous Enterprising Oxford Entrepreneurs Uncovered crew, to see what they think, and give you the answers from people on the ground.  Each week I'll add a new question to the list, so do check back!

Questions:

What is your definition of entrepreneurship?

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?

What 3 technologies have made your life easier as a startup?

Are there different challenges that women entrepreneurs face, and if so, how can do you think we can address this?

What are the 3 biggest challenges with running a startup and how do you work around/manage them?

What are the 3 biggest challenges with running a startup in Oxfordshire and how do you work around/manage them?


What is your definition of entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is just about doing something.  It doesn’t have to be about changing the world, but you need to do something. - Nikolaus Wenzl, Uprosa

Entrepreneurship is about seeing a gap, and going for it.  People often don’t have the time or inclination to fully understand other people’s ideas, so being able to translate or bridge the gap is a key part of the process. - Oliver Cox, Thames Valley Country House Partnership

To me, entrepreneurs are self-starters who are not bound by the status quo. Entrepreneurship means that you can recognise and seize opportunities. - Ekaterina Damer, Prolific Academic

To me, entrepreneurship is newness and innovation, not only in the form of invention. Too often invention receives all the attention, taking 0 to 1, something that doesn’t exist to existence. I find taking 1 to millions equally innovative and entrepreneurial, if not more so. The process of achieving scale requires creating creating and adapting cutting-edge models and solving complex challenges. If something exists but isn’t reaching anyone, it isn’t doing anyone any good. We need entrepreneurs to innovate and create new models, institutions and markets to scale-up proven ideas.  - Noam Angrist, Young1ove

 

What would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?

Vision – without a clear vision you will just be drifting
Purpose – without purpose you won’t have the fuel to chase down your vision
Tenacity – without tenacity you won’t be able to overcome obstacles and inspire those around you - Adam Bacon, Fairfull

1. You need to be a clear thinker and clear communicator – to be able to rationalise complex issues and ensure all the relevant stakeholders are on board with you;
2. You need to be able to sell – to sell the opportunity to investors, to sell the company to prospective employees, and of course, to sell products to customers; and
3. You need to work hard – companies don’t build themselves! - Colin Story, OxSonics

Level-headedness. There will be several setbacks and bumps in the road and you can’t let them stress you out. Keep calm and carry on.  Multitasking. The hardest but best thing about being an entrepreneur is that you have to deal with everything, from product design to investment strategy, marketing to HR. All at the same time!  People skills. I’ve found that conversations with industry experts, fellow entrepreneurs or even like-minded individuals to be invaluable for the development of moodoo! You never know where the next opportunity might come from. - Lucy Gadkari, MooDoo

 

What 3 technologies have made your life easier as a startup?

Cloud infrastructure - without this we could never have afforded to get started. Instant messaging - we use this almost continuously and it keeps a busy team well connected. SaaS (Software as a Service) products - there are so many that can be tried for free, so can be tested at no risk (Glisser included!) - Mike Piddock, Glisser

Shopify - quickest and easiest way to build an online shop ever
Fulfillment software - this means we can process orders at a click of a button from anywhere in the world
Google drive/business - sounds boring but this is essential for us to store all of our company files, manage our company email addresses etc. - Dominique Piche, Uprosa

Cloud-based accounting and ERP software
CAD/CAM - 3D printing, through much hyped, has proved problematic, and its uses are very limited as the material is not stable
Slack (www.slack.com) - Alex Caccia, Animal Dynamics

Are there different challenges that women entrepreneurs face, and if so, how can do you think we can address this?

There are several challenges that female entrepreneurs face and all at varying degrees, especially when starting up a business. To name a few:
Lack of Female Role Models: How many female entrepreneurs (or women in tech) can you name?  I mean normal female role models that have gone through the journey and understand how it feels (celebrities do not count). Some tech female role Sheryl Sandberg, Martha Lane Fox and more (https://www.theguardian.com/guardian-professional/women-leadership-blog/...). We need more female founders mentoring and supporting others to enrich their interests in the field and show them we are not nuts!

Gender Discrimination: I am fortunate enough not to witness this personally and I cannot be naïve and pretend it does not exist. Reddit interim CEO Ellen Pao lost a sex discrimination lawsuit. She states “You’re just constantly trying to get this equal playing field, but being taken out of it step by step”. Its an emotional struggle that you have to encounter and destroys your self-esteem. Again speaking out and talking with other women as a support network will help

Investment: A lot of talk on this topic has arisen over the years. The number of female women on boards and how little women receive investments in their start-ups. Thankfully new fund and initiatives have come about to counter this. - Riham Satti, MeVitae

As a generalisation women have a lot of mindset stuff to work out when it comes to money. Men are much better at saying - this is what I offer, this is what it costs, where women can get really emotional about what they offer and not value their offers enough. This particularly applies for services. - Noomi Natan, Executive Coach

Yes, I think women have a tougher job to have their voice heard, and to be taken seriously in the business world in male-dominated environments. For example my co-founder is male, and when we are networking or meeting businessmen together, they will always, without fail, introduce themselves and shake hands with my partner first, then me, and on occasion, completely ignore me altogether! The same happens in meetings, where most of the discussion is directed towards my partner and I am often left at the sidelines. There are also challenges dealing with people from areas like the Middle East where women are not usually associated with business....At a trade show one client actually said he would rather wait to speak and deal with my partner, than to deal with me (even though it was my area).

Despite this I actually think the only way to change this is for women to speak up and take control of the situation. Whenever we meet new people now, I make a point of stepping forward and introducing myself first, and speak up confidently in meetings. It made a big difference and I was taken a lot more seriously - I do think we have some responsibility to prove to men that we are equally as strong and capable in the business world. - Dominique Piche, Uprosa

What are the 3 biggest challenges with running a startup  and how do you work around/manage them?

There's the challenges you expect to face - such as the constant balancing of resources (time and money) between competing demands, or the need to maintain a big picture outlook while still being focused on getting the detail right. However, the biggest challenge is dealing with the emotional pressure that comes from the buck stopping with you - it's very hard to switch off from the company you've started and nutured. - Mike Piddock, Glisser

The gap between when you invest in yourself/your business and when you start seeing the money coming in - how to handle it - be really clear about what and why you are in investing in that thing/service/help. Have faith in yourself and your mission. Knowing when to pay for help and what help to invest in. Again it helps to get really clear about what is most important to the growth of your business.  - Noomi Natan, Executive Coach

 

What are the 3 biggest challenges with running a startup in Oxfordshire and how do you work around/manage them?

I think the only challenge of running a start-up in Oxford is that it is quite a small place and you are a bit disconnected from the hub of London and therefore can be a bit out of the loop in regards to events and opportunities. Other than that I think it is a great place to have a start-up! There are loads of advantages and opportunities available from being in a University town.  - Dominique Piche, Uprosa

Oxford (and UK) is still risk averse, therefore the ethos here is very different to abroad, however we are progressing nicely and are definitely heading in the right direction.Oxford and the UK is far behind in comparison to Silicon Valley. We need more Google’s and Facebook’s spawning in the UK.
The next two challenges are intertwined: collaboration and networking.  There needs to be more opportunities to collaboration with others, whether it be other companies, universities or charities. Collaboration is the best way for communities to strengthen and innovation to take place. I work around this by networking. There are lots of networking opportunities, but most things are happening in London. We need more more! - Riham Satti, MeVitae

Office space, in particular suitable light industrial space, and the ability to find sufficient space to scale;  Finding suitable employees: Oxford population is small, and the depth of potential recruits is not there, particularly in software and engineering; Accommodation: high demand and prove of housing, and low availability is a restricting factor.  Solution: open an office in London, which we are doing. - Alex Caccia, Animal Dynamics