Student Entrepreneurship Week Events Feedback

16 Oct 2018 - 15:15

Student Entrepreneurship Week Events Feedback

RC&I hosted two events for Student Entrepreneurship Week (SEW) 2018 on 29 August. The highlight of these events was the launch of the UCT Innovation Ecosystem Map which clearly represents the spatial arrangement of incubators, accelerators and UCT Spin-Off companies relative to each other.

The first event entailed a panel discussion about Incubation and Acceleration models and the factors that contribute towards their client’s success. The invited panellists were Nick Allen from Savant, Sarah- Anne Allman from UCT GSB Solution Space, and Roger Norton from Playlogix. The discussion focussed on their clients’ journeys through entrepreneurship, the support provided by the different companies and the lessons the panellists have gained through assisting entrepreneurs in creating sustainable businesses.

The audience gained from their perspectives and asked questions around starting a business, overcoming obstacles and failures, and ensuring their businesses become successful. The panellists encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to start a business by doing market research and engaging with the end-user to understand their needs better. They also emphasized that engagement with your customer is an ongoing process which helps refine the business model. On the question of failure, all the panellists agreed that failure is crucial in the journey of the entrepreneur because it helps them learn which strategies to abandon or adopt when building a business.

The second event’s theme was the perspective of the entrepreneur on starting and maintaining their businesses. The speakers were invited from UCT’s portfolio of spinout companies: Ali Brey from Hot Platinum; and Gokul Nair and Giancarlo Beukes from Impulse Biomedical. Ali on drew from insights as an experienced entrepreneur in the platinum and metal composites bench-top smelter industry. He summarised the lessons and recommendations he learned along the way with these few points:

  • Establish the need clearly
  • Get to market as soon as possible
  • Enter competitions, attend adjudications ant utilise all PR opportunities which arise
  • Focus on a niche then grow from there
  • Build a strong team
  • Continuously engage with the market
  • Look after your customer
  • Networking is crucial

Gokul and Giancarlo spoke of their fairly new experience as entrepreneurs in the biomedical engineering industry. A key part of their journey was realising the benefit of innovation competitions to raise funds by marketing their business and using pitching competitions to hone their ability to sell. Impulse has represented South Africa worldwide and have won prize money that they are using for key activities in product development. They emphasized that their journey has not been easy and it takes years to be able to get into the market in a highly regulated industry, such as in medical devices. They advised entrepreneurs to have staying power and to get guidance and mentorship from those who have your best interests at heart. They endorsed the support they received from RC&I team thus far and encouraged postgrads and researchers to engage with the team on their plans.

The SEW events provided a holistic view to students about how to start and grow a sustainable business. It also provided valuable information on which support structures are available for them to utilise throughout the entrepreneurship journey.