11 Jan 2012

The Cass MBA Perspective: Entrepreneurship

It might seem counterintuitive to start a new business when the economy is struggling. However, a recession can actually be the ideal time for launching a company. In fact, many well-known and successful organisations were born during an economic slump. Companies born in a recession include Microsoft, FedEx, GE and Hewlett Packard to name but a few.

At Cass we recognise the importance of investing in start-up companies and supporting entrepreneurs in their quest to grow their enterprises into the most successful ventures. The Cass community are eligible for support from the Peter Cullum centre for entrepreneurship and our MBA students have the option to study new venture creation. 

The Peter Cullum Centre for entrepreneurship is at the forefront of entrepreneurship and grew from the vision of Peter Cullum, a high profile Cass alumnus and the founder of Towergate Insurance. The Centre, created in 2009, is one of the largest of its kind in the world and brings together the skills, experiences, and networks of successful entrepreneurs, financiers, and business leaders. The Cass Entrepreneurship Fund is a £10 million venture fund providing start-up and early stage capital to the most promising and ambitious companies across the Cass Business School community. In doing so, it helps Cass entrepreneurs to bring innovative new products and services to market, and helps accelerate business growth.

As part of our MBA programmes, students have the option to undertake the New Venture Creation elective. This provides students with knowledge and understanding of the entrepreneurial and innovation agenda, the need for innovation and all aspects of the new venture creation process including feasibility testing, marketing financial forecasting and securing finance. At the end of this they will be able to produce a comprehensive business plan covering the first three years of the commercialisation of their business idea.

In this issue, we hear from a range of entrepreneurs about their experiences of starting their own businesses, and how Cass has equipped them with the skills to succeed. Susan Cooper, founder of Accutrainee discusses how the centre for entrepreneurship and her Executive MBA have supported her in establishing her business offering law firms an innovative solution to efficient resource management of their trainee solicitor needs. James Clark, from the Cass entrepreneurship network discusses the network at Cass and the benefits they provide to entrepreneurs in the early stages of their business development.

I do hope you have been inspired to join us for our MBA Leadership series, focusing on entrepreneurship on Thursday 26 January. 6:30 – 9:00pm at Cass Business School. The evening will be a wonderful opportunity to discover more about what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur, and how to turn your idea into a reality with an MBA from Cass Business School.

Congratulations to Peter Cullum, who has recently been awarded a CBE in the Queen's New Year's honours list.

Happy New Year and wishing you a very successful 2012.

Roy Batchelor
Associate Dean of Cass Business School

An incubator for entrepreneurs

Since launch in July 2009 The Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship has worked with nearly 200 nascent and established entrepreneurs and business owners across the Cass network to help them develop and realise their business vision.

Through our unique annual New Venture Creation Programme we blend the knowledge and resources of a premium Business School with the skills and networks of successful entrepreneurs, financiers and business leaders, and focus them over 5 days on the needs of emerging businesses. The participants so far have ranged from Cass EMBA students through to a nominee from The Princes Trust and the annual winners of a national competition run by The Federation of Small Businesses.

For more established businesses, often with under-developed potential, we have developed an innovative agreement with Your Business Your Future (YBYF) for delivery of their new Better Business Programme exclusively in conjunction with Cass. This Programme is an evolution of the highly acclaimed Business Growth Programme which Gerard Burke (the founder of YBYF) ran at Cranfield for over 600 owner managers including notable success stories like Tristram Mayhew of GoApe. Gerard is now a Senior Visiting Fellow at Cass and many of his past participants such as Tristram have become active supporters and contributors to the new Better Business programme.

In The Centre itself we have physically incubated new businesses ranging from reputation analysis firm Alva (which is now based in its own offices in Hatton Garden) through to Inscribe; a business run by Cass undergraduates supplying notebooks to University students across the UK. Finally, for the best of the best, we have so far committed over £1m of early stage capital from the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund to 5 exciting new businesses (including Alva) in sectors spanning digital media through Cloud Computing to legal services.

The team in The Centre love meeting entrepreneurs and are ambitious to use the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund to put Cass quite literally inside many more high potential businesses from across the Cass network. You can find out more about what we do at www.cass.city.ac.uk/pcce.

The last word should perhaps go to Izindi Visagie, a recent MBA graduate, who is currently working with us in The Centre….
“During the course of my full time MBA at Cass I became interested in pursuing a career in Venture Capital and decided to switch from my previous career as a solicitor. As a step to further these aspirations I started an Internship at The Centre in July. Working closely with the investment team at the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund has given me excellent exposure to sourcing, evaluation, completion, and monitoring of venture capital deals and has fuelled my own enthusiasm to assist entrepreneurs and their businesses. I have found The Centre for Entrepreneurship to be a fantastic resource for Cass alumni in that it provides advice and assistance for all Cass entrepreneurs and funding for the most promising businesses.”

Nick Badman, Chair.

Supporting new entrepreneurs every step of the way

Susan Cooper launched her own business, Accutrainee, in September 2011 offering law firms an innovative solution to efficient resource management of their trainee solicitor needs. She feels Cass and the Centre for Entrepreneurship really helped her take a huge personal and professional leap of faith.

One of the last electives I chose on my Executive MBA programme was the ‘New Venture Creation Elective’, through the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship. I can’t really overstate how much this helped me achieve what I’d always wanted to do – set up my own successful business. 

Firstly, it brought together everything I’d learned during the two-year MBA programme, and helped me make sense of all the things I’d need to consider when setting up Accutrainee – like funding, a tight business plan, attracting the right people to join us, and getting the marketing just right.

Secondly, it was an invaluable introduction to an incredible support network of other entrepreneurs with experience of setting up successful businesses. People from different sectors and industries, all willing to share their knowledge and help put what I’d learned into a real-world context. Knowing I could call on them for advice was invaluable, and I’ve established a vital network of business contacts and friends as a result.

The MBA, and in particular the New Venture Creation Elective, also got me in touch with Nick Badman, Chair of the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship, and Jane Reoch, Investment Manager for the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund which recently invested in Accutrainee. Both Nick and Jane have been incredibly supportive throughout, making the whole experience a lot less daunting than it otherwise would have been.
The whole Cass experience has been instrumental in giving me the support, knowledge and confidence to take a huge personal and professional step forward. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone looking to set up their own business.

For more information on Accutrainee, visit www.accutrainee.com

Fish-balls and the fire of entrepreneurship

Imagine a Philippine market in the evening and seeing a foreigner in a nice suit and tie selling fish-balls for 10 cents? Well that was me.

It was a Fish-ball cart business in Manila, the Philippines. It earned me 60 dollars a month at best, while maintaining my full-time financial analyst position at Standard & Poor’s. You can’t imagine the kind of reactions I was receiving from my friends, colleagues, and pretty much every single person that saw me in the marketplace. They couldn’t comprehend what was going on. The suit I was wearing was probably more valuable than the annual revenue from that business. I didn’t mind. I had been hit by the fire of entrepreneurship one day when I woke up. I thought I had the right idea, at the right place and at the right time. Nobody could take me down. The only way that business could go was upwards.

This part-time business didn’t last long of course, but there were many lessons learned. Probably the most important lesson I learned was to never be afraid or embarrassed by rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty. Another lesson I learned from that business was to keep track of my cholesterol…

Now after many years, having moved to Dubai, working for large local conglomerates as an investment professional; this entrepreneurial heat struck me again. Thankfully it isn’t selling squid-balls this time. Instead, it is creating the world’s first financial statement analysis web-application that provides a dashboard for how a company is performing in terms of liquidity, debt management, asset management, and profitability. It does that by using essential financial ratios, comparing them to a previous term’s results and, most importantly, to industry standards.

In the current market situation, 80% of small businesses will go bankrupt within the first five years of operation, and 70% of the remaining companies will go bankrupt within the following five years. Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against today's small business owner.  

Even large, multinational organizations with top-notch talent and resources spend millions of dollars on consultancy services. A typical Fortune 500 company usually spends around 2% of annual revenue on consultancy expenses. Medium-sized organizations usually prefer to hire consultants at a daily rate that ranges from $1,000 - $4,000 per day. These extreme expenditures are for good reason. The services provided by knowledgeable consultants enable these companies to prosper during uncertain economic times, and among fierce competition, by closing expertise or manpower gaps.

But, how about small businesses? The truth is that most small businesses cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars per day in consultancy fees. It would take a consultant at least 2 man-days just for the analysis of the business. Nor can these small businesses afford to do without sophisticated and personalized financial analysis. Indeed, they probably need it more than the larger companies do. That's where Alphadore.com brings significant value. Alphadore provides the small business owner with valuable analysis for a fraction of a typical consultancy fee, by utilizing sophisticated software that analyzes and interprets the statements.

The Cass MBA was invaluable to the process of realizing this idea. As a second year MBA student, I have almost finished all of the core modules. This has allowed me to start connecting the dots from strategy to marketing, or from finance to quantitative methods; which then enabled me to successfully carry out the project of launching Alphadore.com to the right market segment at the right time. Alphadore is showing 30% growth per month and has already reached 800 customers in about 5 months of its existence. What’s even better is that I have no cholesterol problems anymore.

H. Deniz Sasal is a 2nd year Cass MBA student, former analyst at Standard & Poor’s and has substantial experience in investment and project management firms. He is currently working for a Project Management Consultancy Firm full time helping companies increase their project profitability and efficiencies. He is also a certified project management professional (PMP) and a certified risk management professional (PMI-RMP).

Visit http://www.alphadore.com

England a nation of shopkeepers? If only...

If you Google Napoleon, you might come across one of his more famous insults, "L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers." (England is a nation of shopkeepers). He was misquoting Adam Smith, but describing somewhere as a nation of entrepreneurs is an interesting way to express contempt! Fast forward 200 years to today things have apparently changed, according to the most recent survey by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 6.4% of the population of the United Kingdom can be considered “Entrepreneurial”; that’s a little better than the average of similar economies at 5.6%, but still some way from the Napoleonic standard measurement for hyperbole. Certainly we have some very notable entrepreneurs, but for some reason much of the population seems willing to leave the business creation to the brave, or the ‘foolish’ (I use that word in the way Steve Jobs once did).

At Cass Entrepreneurs Network (CEN) we think that’s a problem – we therefore see it as our goal to nurture entrepreneurship in an environment that doesn’t always look favourably upon those who give it a try. CEN was established in 2004 as a method of engagement between Cass alumni and the business community; today CEN sits at the heart of a vibrant entrepreneurial community at the school. Along with CEN there is the Cass Entrepreneurship Society which gives entrepreneurial students a chance to mix and form young businesses; Cityspark which provides cash prizes for students with excellent business plans; The City University Incubator that seeks to commercialise research from our parent school; and finally the Peter Cullum Foundation who provide venture finance to the brightest businesses of Cass alums. Amongst these groups, the mission of CEN is pretty simple, under the leadership of our new Chairman Leo Castellanos and a fresh executive committee, we see our mission as not just a network, but also an informational hub for our members and the wider business community. The way we see it, entrepreneurship can be a pretty risky and lonely pursuit, so information is most valuable when it is shared. We conduct regular entrepreneurial and networking events throughout the year, and when not doing events we act as a conduit for relevant information whether it comes from members, business, the media, or even entrepreneurial societies at other business schools.

This role becomes even more valuable when you consider that Cass now finds itself literally a stone’s throw from one of the most vibrant technology start-up environments in Europe, “Silicon Roundabout”. Originally build on a solid foundation of cheap rents and achingly trendy bars, today the area is alive with opportunity for business and investment. Although Cass traditionally looks towards the City, it’s hard not to be inspired by this proximity to Silicon Roundabout. As an MBA student in 2011, I undertook an MBA dissertation on a topic that combined my interest in technology, entrepreneurship and Britain’s business potential for high growth start-ups; its title was “Why is there no British ‘Google’, and what can be done about it?” One of the key findings was the need for an environment where networks are open and information is readily shared; information networks in Britain today are poor and stratified. They will need improvement if Britain wants a Google-sized IPO.

At CEN we think it’s possible and we’re doing our bit. So when you get sick of Googling Napoleon, why not Google “Cass Entrepreneurs Network” or do the same on LinkedIn. Come help us make Cass the business school of choice for the would-be entrepreneurs of London’s Silicon Roundabout.

James Clark
Marketing Director for Cass Entrepreneurs Network
Cass Entrepreneurs Network

Join the debate!

Is Entrepreneurship innate or learnt?

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Executive MBA Dubai Class Intake 2011 enjoy a Desert Barbecue

Date: 17.12.2011
Location: Dubai


Cass academic to judge Global Entrepreneur innovation award

Dr. Li Xue Cunningham, research fellow in Asian business at Cass Business School, has been invited by leading Chinese business magazine Global Entrepreneur to sit on the review committee for the 2012 Innovator Awards.
The awards recognise innovative companies and products and there are fifty shortlisted candidates for the committee to judge. The review committee are tasked with examining documents of candidate products and companies to decide the winners.
Global Entrepreneur Magazine is the leading business publication in China and has three bureaus in China, one in Europe and one in the United States. With a circulation of 150,000, the magazine addresses key issues in Chinese business such as globalisation, technology and finance. The magazine focuses on both multinational corporations in China and local corporations with global ambitions.
Dr. Li Xue Cunningham joined Cass as a Research Fellow in 2008. Her research interests include business development of both small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and multi-national corporations (MNCs) especially in China. She was invited by the magazine as a result of her academic reputation and knowledge of business practices and climates in China.


The Cass Dubai Centre - a leading resource for the Middle East and North Africa

Established in May 2007, Cass's Dubai Centre is a regional centre of educational excellence for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). We offer a number of courses, including a highly rated Executive MBA. 

Located in the prestigious Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the Cass Dubai Centre was officially launched on 5 May 2009 under the patronage of His Highness Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Now fully established in the region, Cass has emerged as a market leader in postgraduate education for employers and employees alike. We have achieved this by creating a unique environment in which students benefit from the expertise of business leaders while accessing outstanding networking opportunities and career enhancing connections.
Visit us: Sunday - Thursday from 09:00 - 17:00
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)
Gate Village, Building 2, Level 3
P.O. Box 482070, Dubai, UAE 


Cass Entrepreneurship Fund backed company launches new iPhone app

Flypost, a new free app for the iPhone combining events and geo-location technology has been launched today with the backing of the Cass Business School Entrepreneurship Fund.
Developed by Waxwired Ltd, Flypost is an event discovery app, with access to 30,000 local venue calendars in every town and city in the UK and in most major US cities, allowing onsite interaction and trendsetting in real time. 
Headed by Cass Business School alumnus Leon Crutchley, Waxwired Ltd has had a hugely successful year since the Cass Entrepreneurship Fund and other high-profile technology angels invested in the company in March 2011. 
This includes being nominated for two prestigious technology awards. They have been listed as one of the PepsiCo 10 for 2011 and will work with some of PepsiCo's leading brands in the UK. They have also been nominated for the prestigious Europa awards in the best mobile start up category.
Nick Badman, Chair of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Cass, comments: "Flypost operates in a fast growth space and the marketing deal with Pepsi endorses its clear potential. At Cass we are building a very exciting portfolio of disruptive young businesses spanning digital media through cloud computing to legal services and we have been delighted to provide both incubation and seed capital to Flypost from its earliest days." 
The Cass Entrepreneurship Fund is one arm of the Peter Cullum Centre for Entrepreneurship at Cass Business School. The centre has been involved with Flypost since 2009 offering incubation support before the investment in March. The Centre provides three types of support to entrepreneurs at Cass - incubation, investment and education - the latter taking the form of new venture and business growth programmes run in partnership with Your Business, Your Future. 
Flypost CEO and founder Leon Crutchley says: "Cass has been an amazing partner, with incubation, advice and investment; helping our business develop from an idea to a fast growing brand. It's been an amazing journey to get where we are and it's only the start! Finally putting our product into people's hands across the UK and US is a really amazing feeling!"

Cass Talks

Peter Cullum on how to succeed as an entrepreneur in the current climate

Watch > Peter Cullum video