I was really pleased when I arrived here in July to find that one of my teaching weekends, the block for 152.334, Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship, had been set up by my colleague Jo Bensemann and the BCC to run through the Palmy Startup weekend* (see previous posts, here and here and here). While I’ve worked on start-ups in many different ways in the UK, USA, Russia, Pakistan and elsewhere, the New Zealand experience was new to me, so I was both excited and just a little anxious about what to expect. The weekend was top and tailed with two sessions on the Turitea campus led by me, to set the experience in context pre- the event, and then afterwards to work on critical reflection about personal learning and development. Once out of the lecture theatre, the students were mixed in with other participants in the weekend, and spent the first evening getting into teams and bouncing ideas around.
The atmosphere in the UCOL atrium in the centre of town was intense – no need to leave as food, beer, mentors, everything you needed was right there on hand, thanks to some fantastic sponsorship*. As the weekend progressed, students began to work on market development, and began to put together pitches as the ideas came into shape.
Mentors were tough but constructive in providing feedback and by the time of the judging, it was incredible how much progress had been made. The Massey students were at the centre of it all, in both all-Massey teams and mixing in with other participants. One mentor said of the students, “They were all incredible this weekend! Very smart, respectful and motivated and it was a pleasure to meet them!”. I felt the same – they did me – and themselves – proud! Over to the judging* and I’m pleased to say one of the Massey students, Ross Frater, was in the winning team, with a business service idea, Expert Systems catching the eye of the panel. Other students were in commended teams, notably UGradbooks and RedeemMe (variants on book exchanges and loyalty schemes, respectively).
* See this link for mentors, judges and sponsors, and the BCC team
The approach to the paper was to give the students an exciting practical experience where real-life skills of team-building, leadership, entrepreneurial behaviour and presentation could be developed. A critical reflection piece gets them thinking about personal development and how much they have achieved. It’s not so much about whether real businesses come out of it, though that might happen in one or two cases. It’s about developing new skills sets and strengths, and building new networks, realising not only that you can do it, but what that means and what it takes. You can’t do that in a classroom. So, so different to traditional business planning approaches. The students enjoyed it too, judging from comments in their critical reflection pieces, and comments afterwards. Two of them said, this was the best paper they had ever done, and complimented the University on making this happen. The BCC team* Richard Dryden, Dave Craig and Nick Gain played a fabulous part in making this happen, they were incredibly professional and supportive throughout, both to me and the students, I can’t thank them enough.