Last night, after a rewarding day of pitch-centric performance and persuasion, the entrepreneurs headed off to the Ashmolean Museum for a far more relaxed evening of cocktail masterclasses and rooftop dining.
Today, the entrepreneurs immersed themselves in the deep-end of entrepreneurial theory, attending a series of workshops on the always-pertinent issues and techniques of financial management. Finally, they said goodbye to the hallowed halls of Exeter College and made their way to London for the closing stages of the Accelerator Week.
Here’s what they learnt on day four.
1) The Ashmolean Museum is a culturally rich source of inspiration
The world’s very first university museum provided a stunning backdrop for the finalists’ evening wind-down yesterday, letting off steam after a day of pitching amid revolutionary artworks by Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso and J.M.W. Turner. These iconic pieces of art and architecture have been agents of reinvention in the past; something not lost on the Chivas Venture finalists; each of whom are endeavouring to create a better future.
2) Making cocktails is fun.
In a cocktail masterclass (followed by a delicious dinner on the museum’s stunning rooftop restaurant) the finalists revelled in each other’s company and enjoyed some much needed time off.
3) Never underestimate the importance of getting your finances right.
Matt Davis is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Aston Business School, with more than two decades experience of teaching business managers and students about accounting and finance. Matt’s Effective Financial Management session broke down financial jargon for the finalists and shared a host of practical tips for making sense of complex accounting information, giving the entrepreneurs the knowledge they need to perform confidently in any investor conversation.
Addressing the finalists, Matt said: “Jargon is formidable in the financial sector so I’ll try and demystify some of these today.
“One of the most important words in accounting is Accrual. This is an estimate of a liability when we do not have an invoice.”
He continued: “Cash flow forecasts are a very useful tool for businesses that are looking to grow quickly. But the most important parts of accounting is communicating, reporting, measuring and analysing.
The session helped demystify some of the key terms and processes in financial management, and also encouraged the finalists to identify ways to improve the financial management of their respective businesses.
Mark Istvan from Now Technologies, the Hungarian startup developing and manufacturing wheelchair controller electronics and other innovative assistive devices, said: “It was interesting to hear about an investor's perspective. As a startup founder people will often consider what their business needs from a financial point of view, but not necessarily from an investor's viewpoint. Although my background is in finance, this workshop allowed me to take a step back to analysis the areas that would tick a box from an investor's point of view; are we doing this right and could we be doing things differently.”
He added: “Matt’s workshop gave us a holistic overview of the financial things we need to consider for our business. The management of accounts section was also really interesting; I think this will lead to a change in our business.”
Alvaro Vasquez, founder of Bioestibas, the company making ecological stowage made from disused flower stems, suggested he too will make some changes on the back of the workshop.
“We are going to start getting much more granular on our finances, and break these revenue streams into clearly defined channels,” Alvaro explained. “This will make our lives much easier both from a business point of view and a potential investment one too.”
4) There is a wide variety of social finance available to startups.
Aunnie Patton Power is the Innovate Finance Lead at the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation, specialising in projects on Social Impact Bonds, Impact Investing and sustainable philanthropy. Aunnie gave the finalists the comprehensive lowdown on The Landscape of Social Finance, opening their eyes to the spectrum of funding available for social entrepreneurs. Global social finance is larger than ever before.
“There are a lot of different sources of capital and revenue models,” Aunnie told the Chivas Venture finalists. “You need to decide which is right for you - and this doesn’t need to be limited to one either. Keep your options open.”
Aunnie’s session really encouraged the 30 finalists to consider which forms of funding might be best suited to their business mission and financial goals. It also compelled them to think of the ways in which each of their businesses are actually making money.
For example OLIO, the free app that connects neighbours with each other and with local shops so that surplus food can be shared, not thrown away, is harnessing the power of the sharing economy. Their funky revenue model enables customers to give a ‘pay what you feel donation’ - half of which goes to OLIO and the other half to a charity of their choice; further reinforcing the ethos of Tessa Cook’s venture as a force for good.
Meanwhile Dickson Ochieng, the founder of Sanivation, the Kenyan-based startup delivering clean, safe and efficient sanitation services in urban communities in East Africa, admitted his financial model was particularly unusual. He said: “I am making money out of poop, which is a very strange model when you think about it!”
5) Oxford is just the beginning, not the end of the Chivas Venture
After a jam-packed four days of vigorous entrepreneurial development punctuated with a panoply of play-hard social events, the finalists said goodbye to Oxford, as they headed off to the bright lights of London for the final day of the Accelerator Week. As the coach set off with its 30-strong cargo of social entrepreneurs, the finalists gave up the goods on what they enjoyed most about their time in Oxford.
Tricia Compas-Markman, from DayOne Response, the US-based startup that has created a water-purifying backpack that could help revolutionise access to clean drinking water in the developing world, has revelled in the company of the other entrepreneurs.
“The thing I’ve enjoyed the most from the Chivas Venture Accelerator Week is definitely engaging with the other entrepreneurs,” Tricia explained. “Learning about their business models, the impact they are making and sharing ideas and potential partnership opportunities. Just being around them, brainstorming and chatting about the future opportunities, has been so rewarding.”
The founder of I-Drop Water, which is changing the way safe drinking water is bought and sold in South Africa, also found great comfort in the collective chosen as finalists for the competition.< /p>
James Steere said: “The highlight…realising that I’m not alone in starting a social entrepreneurship venture. There are a few in South Africa, but not enough in my opinion. It’s quite a new field in South Africa so to come here and realise I’m not crazy, is great! To learn that there are a lot other people doing similar things in very different fields has been awesome. That’s something I will definitely take away from this experience; there is a real community of people going through this unique brand of craziness!”< /p>
And what about their favourite workshop of the Accelerator Week thus far?
“The financing workshop really stood out for me,” Tricia said. “It encouraged me to think creatively about finance and different mechanisms, looking at new ways to engage corporations and current partners on ways to help us scale. It got us to think differently and beyond just equity. I’ve got four or five ideas off the back of the workshop!”< /p>
He said: “The public speaking session was extraordinary; applying a series of disciplines to something you assume you can just stand up and do. It’s something we do all the time [speaking in public] because part of our job is to convince people to come on this journey with us. But to add some technical skills and best practices and access how you do that is incredibly valuable.”
In the evening the 30 game-changing startups attended a panel discussion at Impact Hub Westminster, in a lively debate about whether or not social enterprise can trump political chaos and help make society great again. Innocent Drinks co-founder Richard Reed, Belu boss Karen Lynch and Kresse Wesling, founder of Elvis and Kresse, all attended, giving the finalists an opportunity to hear from a collective of successful startup founders that have been there, done it and got the t-shirt. Find out how the Panel Discussion unfolded in Friday’s Accelerator Week round-up.
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