Olivia Wood is the CEO and founder of a start up called Oxchange, a marketplace where students and staff of Oxford University can connect and meet up with one another for academic, intellectual, or extracurricular exchanges. Olivia came up with the idea behind Oxchange while studying at Oxford – she felt proud to be a part of such a vibrant, brilliant community, but felt like there wasn’t enough opportunity to learn from the brilliant minds around her. Olivia was awarded £20k of seed funding by the Oxford IT Innovation Fund and is currently using that funding to develop version 1.0 of Oxchange, working alongside her co-founder and mother, Elizabeth Wood. Oxchange will launch an MVP to students in Michaelmas 2016. Olivia graduated with an English degree from the University of Oxford.
Q: What is your background? Why are you doing this?
A: I’m an English student who loves her subject a little too much. I don’t think this makes me special – everyone at Oxford is passionate about what they do. Oxford University’s richest resource is probably the people that make it up, and I wanted to create a way to tap into that resource, so that we could help and learn from one another.
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
A: Entrepreneurship is all about doing something for yourself – making things happen on your own terms.
Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
A: I hated the idea of slogging away at a desk doing something I didn’t care about for someone I didn’t know. I feel empowered as an entrepreneur because I can take an idea of my own and make it a reality.
Q: So what would you say are the top 3 skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
A: I’m new in the game and have a lot to learn. But so far, I’d say persistence, because you have to work for a long time before anything tangible materialises. And humility, because you often have no idea what you’re doing and you have to want to ask people for help. And confidence, because you have to believe in something that might not work.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
A: My favourite part of being an entrepreneur is working on my own terms - deciding what I’m doing day-to-day, and hour-to-hour, and not having to ask anyone for permission.
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
A: I love marketplaces and sharing economies. Apps like Uber, Blablacar, Couchsurfing and Airbnb fascinate me because they have created platforms that have revolutionised the way we move, travel, and live.
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
A: I would want to talk to Couchsurfing because it is one of the sharing economy apps that is really only about sharing – it isn’t monetised. I want to create the same kind of community with Oxchange, where people are incentivised to meet new people purely because they are passionate about sharing intellectual conversations, or learning something new.
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
A: Being awarded £20k in seed funding felt pretty good and put my startup in an unusually cushy position so early on.
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
A: Mistakes – probably rushing into things without thinking them through. A lesson I’ve learned is to reach out to and listen to other people.
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
A: Oxford is a good place for entrepreneurs because it is full of clever people who are engaged and switched on.
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
A: I have been to some very useful and inspiring events hosted by Oxford Entrepreneurs. The Oxford University Innovation Incubator has also been an incredible support opportunity for my startup.
Q: Any last words of advice?
A: Don’t be afraid to do something different.