Potty Training for Entrepreneurs

Guest Blog Post from Sonny Charles, a participant on the IAD’s Business and Enterprise Training

If you want to become lawyer, you get some work experience in solicitor’s office, if you want to be a doctor, you volunteer in a hospital, but where are the best places to gain practical experience for the next generation of entrepreneurs in Edinburgh?

My first taste of practical entrepreneurship came in the form of Young Enterprise, an absolute must for any aspiring British school students. This taught me the basics of business. With a few national awards under our belt, my team was certain that our idea was going to make us all overnight millionaires. Upon starting at Edinburgh University I started to investigate what they offered. With Edinburgh being one of the most entrepreneurial universities in the UK, I was not disappointed. I soon discovered Launch.ed, a business support service for students. I’ve continued to work with them for the past 4 years, receiving feedback for any ideas I’m working on, being nudged in the direction of advantageous competitions and events. If you are a university student with a great idea, finding your business support service is an absolute must.

Launch.ed was also kind enough to point me in the direction of the Edinburgh University’s Institute for Academic Development. The IAD run numerous intensive, educational, business workshops, from business plans to intellectual property. These workshops condense information that would take days of struggling through and allow you to absorb in just a few hours.
The various Edinburgh University business services interlink nicely, the likes of the E-Club and Informatics Ventures, allow you access to networking events and competitions. But where do you turn to and what do you do once you’re out and about in the big bad world?

If you’re under 25 then Youth Business Scotland is a must, they can offer access to grants, low interest loans and networking. For anyone over 25, Scottish Enterprise can offer a similar service. The likes of Espark and Starter for 6 offer intensive business accelerator programmes that have produced successful start-ups by the dozen, with entrepreneurs at their helm’s that may just play a key role in the future of the Scottish economy.

For hands on practical experience internships, start-ups are king. They may not pay the bills but you can learn timeless lessons and immerse yourself in the start-up culture. Interning with Desk Union has allowed me not surround myself with not just one start-up but several. Desk Union is located in Silicon Walk, at the top of Leith Walk, an office space that also hosts Espark alumni Mallzee and Appointedd. Advice and guidance from Victoria, Desk Union’s CEO and founder, who was voted as one of the 2013 young entrepreneurs to watch, has allowed me to hone my ideas and guide me in the right direction.
As part of global entrepreneurship week, Edinburgh has hosted 3 Day Start-up and the Start Up Summit, these types of events are perfect for networking and testing the water with ideas, seek them out.

So what have I learned on my journey so far? Networking is key, if you don’t know the right people get out there and meet them. You will come up against barriers, you just have to find a way around, over or through them. And finally, the only person who can do something about your idea is you, so close Facebook, shut down Youtube, put down your phone and get started.

The IAD are running a ‘Networking for Success’ workshop.
The IAD and Launch.ed are running the Acceleration Pipeline Workshop Series from Jan and Feb 2014: a five-part workshop series, to help you learn how to bring your business idea to market.

Visit http://www.ed.ac.uk/iad/enterprise to find out about these courses.

3 Minute Thesis

Guest Blog Post from Mara Götz the ‘People’s Choice’ winner of the 2013 University of Edinburgh 3 Minute Thesis Final

Why enter the 3 Minute Thesis competition? Why add another thing to do to my already endless list of things to do as a PhD student? Haven’t I given enough papers and talks, and am I not busy enough with my research as it is?
That’s what went through my head, when I first heard about the 3 Minute Thesis competition. But I did enter nonetheless. And I am so very glad I did. Let me tell you what it was like…

Agreeing to do it was easy enough. Then I had a look at the rules and regulations. Phew, they really are serious about the three minutes… And only one slide? No movement on the slide? What am I going to show? What am I going to SAY?!

That was when I realised: 3 minutes, one thesis, one room full of people to entertain who are NOT from your field – much, MUCH harder than any conference I had ever been to. Because at a conference, you share a common frame of reference with your audience. You don’t need to go back to the basics. You can talk about what you specialise in. In the 3 Minute Thesis, you also have to outline and explain the basics of your field BEFORE you can talk about your research focus. But what can and what should you explain in just three short minutes? And then, there is still the small matter of presenting your own research…

So I started to think about my research, and about my field. And I also thought about why I am doing this research. And it really changed the way I saw my field, my own research, and my role as a PhD researcher.
Having made it through School and College heats, which were loads of fun (not to forget the wine reception afterwards!) I found myself suddenly in the University final. Even though it was the first time that the 3 Minute Thesis competition was hosted by the University of Edinburgh, everything was running super smoothly – at least from the perspective of us finalists 

I expected some very fierce competition that day from the other finalists – the competition got us all hooked, everyone was glowing and giving their absolute best, and it felt great! Standing there, speaking freely, the second counter ticking away, all eyes on you, everyone including the other finalists is just as caught up in the excitement than you are. 180 seconds pure adrenalin… The 3 Minute Thesis talk really was the best prepared and practiced talk I’ve ever given. All the preparation, the concentration, and the practice with the other finalists also made me realise a very important thing: A great talk, a convincing speech, a captivating presentation, has nothing to do with luck or sheer talent. It has very little to do with being a gifted speaker, or with being blessed with an exciting topic. A great talk is simply hard work, nothing more and nothing less. It is practice, and more practice, and then some more practice….

Writing a talk that lasted less than 180 seconds made me see my research, my field, and also my own role in a very different light. It made me question once again what makes my field, and my research, special and important enough for me to put myself through the struggle of a PhD… Not only have I found some truly refreshing new answers, but I have also learned bags of new tricks and skills for presenting and talking to audiences. Last but not least, I have also found a couple of great new friends.

The 3 Minute Thesis competition has also opened the doors for some other exciting events in my life, for example myself and another finalist were invited to give a talk for the Postgraduate Induction Day. This was great fun, and another fantastic opportunity to gain speaking experience.

I feel that the 3 Minute Thesis has helped to put me in touch with a lot of very diverse people from all walks of life, some of them in key positions in Higher Education. The competition has also given me a real boost of confidence; I am no longer hesitant to get touch with people on my own initiative. I also think it has been a very important step on what I hope will be my career path. All in all, success across the board! 
Try it, I promise you will be hooked!!!

Videos from the 2013 3MT Final are available here: http://edin.ac/13VvbSh
Details of the 2014 final can be found here: http://edin.ac/11SpaBR