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Startup Class for University of Leicester Maths Students

written by - Ben Ravilious

20141201_165734For the second year in a row I have been coaching entrepreneurially-minded students with Professor Jeremy Levesley from the Department of Mathemathics at University of Leicester.

Like all universities, Leicester is keen to give students vocational experience as well as academic knowledge. However, many universities tend to focus on employability, assuming that their graduates will want to work for someone else rather than start their own businesses immediately.

The startup classes I have been running are more of a startup weekend style affair with students gaining actual credits for their degrees. Crucially, they are being graded on how well they validate their business ideas, not how viable or successful the ideas are themselves. This approach can come as quite a shock for some students, many of whom are used to a lifetime of someone ‘senior’ teaching them what the right answer is.

Validating a new business idea is a piece of original research where no-one else will have the answers other than the potential customers. As I tell the class, if someone did have the answers they would already have made the money!

I also prefer to stress how validating a business idea requires more of a scientific, trial-and-error approach than the combative zero sum game approach you see on shows like The Apprentice. Lean startup methodology just feels much more natural, especially if business is something you have little experience of.

What is really rewarding is seeing the quality of ideas coming out of the student teams. I think sometimes younger people are seen as ‘incomplete’ but the ideas that were pitched this week all sounded worthy of proper investigation at the very least.

If anyone is interested, the teams will be presenting their ideas tomorrow afternoon at the LCB Depot. Please contact me first if you are interested.