Tuesday, April 30, 2013

University students are the next entrepreneurs

Every month i hold a pitch session at a different university with university students. Often like in Stellenbosch university my partners are university students with a strong drive toward entrepreneurship. The students organise the events and drive students to come and pitch and they become real partners. The vision with the Stellenbosch model is called Pitchin and the students who are partners and i hope to grow the pitchin events to all university's soon. What i love most about these events is the beer and the popcorn. Honestly, where do you go to pitch a business idea with a beer in your one hand and popcorn in the other. Its honest and its fun and thats what this phase of business should be. In the last pitch session which happened last friday the quality was excellent:
Everyone can pitch in any form they like: The objective for me is that people be brave and pitch. That students encounter a positive environment rather than a critical one. and that students all get some feedback on their business ideas.
These were some of my comments:
1. Bernie
Brand: Wikisun ( exam papers online)
A truly great product and something that could definitely be turned into a business. This will definitely work at schools ( especially maths and science) as well as universities. The most important thing is to prove that there is a difference between those that use the products and those who don't. Together with mentorship this is a great product. It would be worthwhile doing a proper budget for the expansion of the business

2. Tom ( sustainable farming and more!)
Sustainable brothers
In terms of an offering he has so much to offer students. Soil measurement and change, black gold, Putting hands in soil, volunteers. I think that many of the ideas and evolve into something quite special.I also love the concept of planting and harvesting all over stellenbosch for students and connecting this with a Facebook type site where students become involved in the whole business.

3. Vida Ryan
Milk crates at schools
A great recycling idea. This can work with crates as they are and with melting crates and remoulding the plastic into something else. I would love to see this concept taken forward and tested.

4. Anya
Lectures as audio books
It was fantastic that she got up and promoted her idea as an impromptu pitch. I really liked the idea and believe she should be encouraged to make a test pilot of a few lectures and see if anyone would be interested in listening to them or buying them.

5. Derek
Study group ( an online tool that acts as a diary for students to be reminded all the time of events, courses, lectures etc)
Well done to Derek. The fact that the pitched for the second time with an amended idea that has now been tested is brilliant. The next phase of this business is to actually commercialise and please change the brand into something much more catchy.

6. Liz Lowe
A lovely idea. So simple yet this is what the world is changing towards. A mixture of social media and social change. Brilliant ideas around taking candid pictures picking up litter, trash treasures ( this idea must be tested and i would help with this). I think a simple Facebook page to start and promoting amongst mattes students and surfers. The idea can also be extended to parks, streets etc. The brand also needs to change. 

I beleive that students at university can develop ideas for a very specific market and test them. There is no better model for entrepreneurs to start a new business. Most entrepreneurs struggle to identify their market while students dont need too. They understand what is needed and they build products and services for that market. A perfect match.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My favourite TV program at the moment

I do love TV, especially documentaries. There is one at the moment called the "Men who built America" based on the life stories of guys like Carnegie, Van der Bilt, JP Morgan, Rockefeller. i love this show as it shows clearly the ups and downs of being an innovator, pioneer and entrepreneur. There are so many lessons in this program and so inspiring it reminds me exactly why there are so few entrepreneurs in the world. The program shows clearly that to be an entrepreneur you need the following qualities:

1. An unflinching desire toward taking risks which very few people are capable of.
2. Having a vision which does not always have a clear path but going on the journey anyway
3. A little bit of luck but making that luck yourself most of the time
4. Understanding that there will be ups and downs and one needs to deal with both
5. Never underestimate your competition
6. You have to be ruthless sometimes
7. Be careful who you bring in as partners and staff
8. No one cares that you started the company most people want to see your downfall
9. Raising capital for your venture is never easy
10. Unexpected circumstances cannot be seen

I encourage all would be entrepreneurs to read the stories of these entrepreneurs or watch the program on TV. It is beyond fascinating and just affirms everything that i have lived and understand as an entrepreneur

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Companies and innovation: What is the process to get all employees to begin innovating

All companies big and small need to innovate in order to get ahead of the competition. Over the years i have noticed the increasing need for companies in South Africa to innovate from the bottom up. I have designed the following process for companies;

The Ideas generation phase uses my Seeing the Leaves technique which i still think is the best idea generator in the world! I have tested it and tested it and implemented it all over the world and it really does work. You can download for free the seeing the leaves newspaper technique on my blog.
I believe that the pitching of ideas is vital as it gets the ideas in the open and allows for full transparency re: who brought the idea to the company in the first place. It is also exciting and fun.
A company needs to take some of the ideas and develop what i call a test fund that can fund the exploration of new ideas. The test must be small and cover both marketability and viability and can it be made or done!
Once the test has been complete and if it is successfull then companies can invest bigger into the concept.
The biggest issue for employees is how they benefit from bringing new ideas into a company. For me it is the most exciting part of being an employee. If i have a great idea i can be the jockey for the the whole process or i can let the company develop the idea and i can follow it. Either way if i am an employee this could change my life and the life my company.