SCAN speaks to Philipp Kuschnir, a second year undergraduate and the current President of Lancaster Entrepreneurs, about the year ahead and Entrepreneurs flagship event StartUp Weekend.
Do you want to start off by explaining who the Entrepreneurs Society are, and what it is that you do?
Basically, we try to act as a platform connecting people, inspiring people to start their own businesses, supporting people who already have ideas to start their own business, or have already started their own companies. We are trying to connect people with direct skills, like we do with StartUp Weekend; people with different skills, computer science backgrounds, designers and so forth and connect them to the North West start-up environment the best we can.
This year our focus will be to involve people not only from business backgrounds into the society. Specifically, computer science backgrounds and engineers are very important to us because the North West is booming in the tech start-up environment around a programme called Tech North. We are trying to build out our existing connections in those aspects and want our members to make full use of them.
How do you differentiate yourself from the other LUMS societies?
We try to offer tangible benefits to our members, so if they need financial support, or a network to start or progress their own ideas or businesses, then we try to offer tangible support to them. Whether this is by financing their ideas from our budget or connecting them to partners who can help them to do so, connecting them to accelerators throughout the North West and so forth.
So you actually finance some of the ideas?
Our budget is obviously limited, but there are a few ways that the university can support those students and we try to help them fast track in those channels.
What events have you got coming up this term?
Our big flagship event is StartUp Weekend in November, happening from November 20th-22nd in LUMS Management School. First term we will be focussing on the inspiration part, so we will get external speakers, successful entrepreneurs to come to Lancaster to share their stories and inspire people and reassure them that it is not as hard to start your own business as it might seem at first. There are a lot of student entrepreneurs who have been or are currently enrolled at university that have managed to do so alongside their studies, or have taken a year off to join an accelerator or take their business to the next step, so we try to get those people back. The second term will be focussed more around practical skills, last year we had a few workshops around the accounting side of a start-up and the legal aspects of starting a company in the UK. StartUp Weekend is an opportunity to get some practical, hands on experience.
Tell us a bit about Start Up Weekend.
The event format is the same all over the world. It is a global franchise concept and there’s over 300 StartUp Weekend’s happening during Global Entrepreneurship Week that are competing against each other. The event starts on a Friday evening when people get together and either share an idea, pitch an idea in a 60 second pitch or listen to other people’s ideas and vote for the one’s they like best. Around the best ideas, teams are formed and they work on taking it as far as they can within those three days, supported by mentors and coaches that we recruit. These by themselves are often a great network for people to be exposed to and a great contact to follow up with. One of the big prizes really is exposure to the judges, very high profile entrepreneurs and people from the start up environment. If they like it, they may offer their full support in taking the company forward. Other than that, there’s loads of benefits and perks included from the sponsors of the event for all the attendees and obviously more for the ones that win.
Are some of the judges investors then so that they can actually put money into the project?
Yes! Last year we had Douglas Ward from SpaceportX leading the judging panel. SpaceportX is the biggest start-up space in Manchester and Douglas is now the leader of Forward MCR (forwardmcr.com), which is a £4 million government backed innovation programme in Manchester. He and another very successful entrepreneur were leading the judging panel. We’re hoping to get judges of this calibre again for this year – great people to be connected with.
How can people sign up to your society?
There’s a £5 fee associated with the membership for the whole year which gives members access to all our events. People sign up either online and pay directly, at Fresher’s Fair or at our Welcome Talk directly with us.