Silicon Valley Comes to the UK (SVC2UK) is an annual programme which brings US technology entrepreneurs to several top universities across the UK to give presentations, run hands-on workshops, and even discuss collaborating on business ventures. SVC2UK is led by the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE), who organised and hosted this year's flagship London event on 19 November. NACUE also invited university business societies to apply to organise and run their own SVC2UK spin-off events, to take place the day before. One society that took up the challenge was Nottingham Entrepreneurs, the University of Nottingham's entrepreneurship society, and we caught up with some society members to find out how the day went.
Anton Hellkvist, Nottingham Entrepreneurs vice president, helped to organise the event from the start: "It's a great opportunity to collaborate with various societies and get in touch with people doing the same things," he says. He worked on a range of tasks, "from getting speakers to come, to sorting out marketing, to booking venues." One of the biggest challenges the society faced was "finding good people to speak", but they managed to come up with a great line-up through using their contacts, some help from NACUE, and good old fashioned cold-calling.
One session that proved particularly popular was one given by brothers and ex-Nottingham students James and Elliot Poulter who founded Unilibri, a start-up aiming to give students at UK universities easier access to the reading material for their courses. The session incorporated a talk from the brothers about their company and entrepreneurship in general, and a chance for attendees to pitch their own business ideas to them. Iain Botterill, a first year geology student, says, "I found it really useful. If I could take away only one piece of advice from it, it would be that you can underestimate the hard work involved in setting up your own business. It's great fun, but it takes a lot of hours, and you've got to be really committed to it."
Iain is planning to launch his own social enterprise next year which will aim to enable schoolchildren and unemployed people to develop their skills by helping out small businesses. Anton, meanwhile, has big plans to market a student-specific vitamin based on the principles of Chinese traditional medicine and full of "natural ingredients that help you study". Why do they think entrepreneurship, and particularly social enterprise, is so popular with students at the moment? Anton points to the current shortage of graduate opportunities, and Iain adds: "It's a fantastic idea to be doing it now. The experience I'll get will be really useful when I'm applying for jobs - and I'll be helping people.
The start-up game isn't an easy path, but with the practical advice from events such as SVC2UK, our hunch is that these Nottingham student business brains stand a good chance of success.