As the finalists settled into their historical digs and the intense pace of Accelerator Week, they learned more about their new surroundings, how to lead their business in a way that makes the greatest social impact, and how to implement cutting edge entrepreneurial theory. And were rewarded for their hard work with a wealth of delicious pizzas and a workshop that unearthed the key ingredients to the greatest speeches.
From a dining hall befitting Albus Dumbledore to how to action social change through leadership, this is what we learnt on day two of the Accelerator Week.
1) Breakfast in Exeter College Dining Hall is a wonderful way to start the day.
For the first three days of the Accelerator Week and before they descend on London on Thursday, our 30 finalists kick off their mornings surrounded by the history and heritage of a 400 year old dining hall. In addition to contemplating their breakfast and how they will shape the future, they may very well have considered some of the college’s famous alumni, which include actor Richard Burton and the author of The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien. In 2014, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling was also elected an honorary fellow of this remarkable institution.
2) Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Deputy Director for the Skoll Centre, Andrea Warriner, gave a Leadership for Social Impact workshop that helped finalists establish their leadership goals for Accelerator Week and beyond. Andrea was present at last year’s Accelerator Week and is someone who very much practices what she preaches, having previously worked at Africa Health Placements, a social organisation addressing the skills shortage in public health in South Africa. Speaking to the 30 finalists, she highlighted the vast potential in the room, empowering each entrepreneur to consider themselves important advocates of positive social change, which requires strong and resolute leadership. The workshop encouraged them to think about what the world could be like as a result of their businesses.
After speaking to the finalists, Andrea told the Chivas Venture: “I’m so amazed at the calibre of the contestants and the quality of the questions they asked to be honest! There is a huge amount of potential here and I’m really excited to be working with them.”
When pressed on the standout candidate from this remarkable collective, Andrea added: “They are an amazing group, obviously it's hard for me not to root for my own country, South Africa, but each of them are incredible!”
The founder of Words With Heart, the eco-friendly stationers that funds education projects for women and girls, suggested the workshop was a fantastic opportunity to acknowledge areas where they needed to improve. Lauren Shuttleworth said: “It was valuable to spend the time evaluating our leadership skills and actually reflecting on it. I’m often so busy reflecting on the operational side of the business and the day-to-day servicing of a startup, that you don’t consider it. Sometimes I just need to be pulled out of it, like in a session like Andrea’s, to look at how I’m going to grow as my startup does. Although you inherently know some of your strengths and weaknesses it's good to be reminded of them and to take a step back to evaluate them.”
Judith Joan Walker, from African Clean Energy, the company providing high-quality clean energy products to Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, added: “It was amazing to hear other people's’ perceptions of their leadership skills and where they feel that they are lacking. I think we found that we all have things in common. It’s reassuring that it is not just you that can struggle! But also the little differences and nuances that we each have were also interesting. It was nice to collectively chat about these issues and help each other. To put yourself in the spotlight for a minute to evaluate yourself in the comfort that everyone else in the room is doing the same. I think often you feel a bit guilty focusing on yourself as a leader because you are really focused on what you’re doing for everybody else and the operational side of the business.”
Lauren also suggested it was incredibly empowering to consider female leadership in the social entrepreneurial space.
“I thought it was particularly interesting from the perspective of women entrepreneurs because leadership is often defined in terms of strong male characteristics,” Lauren said. “Certainly in Australia, leadership in a startup space is often references the likes of Steve Jobs, and other strong male characters. But I think it's always good to be around other women, especially female social entrepreneurs, because you can see what they are doing which makes them great leaders, and incorporate some of these skills in a way that makes sense for you. As a female leader, it was amazing to embrace all of the things that make the women here such great leaders, as opposed to constantly defining leadership in a male sense.”
3) How to be the change you want to see in the world.
With 26 years of experience in career management and consultancy in a smorgasbord of corporate, cultural and governmental organisations - from the BBC to the Metropolitan Police, to the Department of Work and Pensions - certified performance coach Steve O’Smotherly guided finalists through the daunting task of developing the personal skills necessary to become an effective leader, and helped each entrepreneur identify their leadership style
After splitting the finalists into four groups, Steve encouraged the entrepreneurs to “Be the best you can be rather than the person you’re not.” The teams defined how they like to lead their employees, and the overwhelming results included, ‘Leading by example’ and ‘Collaboration’; a strong reminder of how social enterprises aim to be inclusive for all.
Top leadership tips from the collective included being open minded when leading a group, as suggested by Nuno Oliveira, the founder of Sun Concept, and not pigeonholing people because “everyone should have the space to be who they are,” from African Clean Energy’s Judith. Liang Wu, of Green City Solutions, the startup from Germany using artificial trees to reduce air pollution in urban environments, advocated the power of listening in order to get the best out of people.
4) A new way to gauge the value of your business.
The Academic Director of the Saïd Business School’s Entrepreneurship Centre, Professor Thomas Hellmann, introduced his Venture Evaluation Matrix as a tool to use alongside the more conventional Business Model Canvas. Far from being a way of establishing whether or not you are locked into a dystopian simulated reality built by computers, Hellman’s Evaluation Matrix is actually a way of helping finalists clarify their core business concepts and place them in the context of the industries they’ll be entering.
Professor Hellmann said: “Investors are deeply interested in you as people. Learning how to present yourself is a central aspect of winning over your investors.”
He pointed out that the entrepreneurs should always consider their competitors, even if they think their business is unique. “Invisible competition is all around us. If no one is here today, you will face them tomorrow.”
Michelle Bang, founder of the Hong Kong-based startup turning unwanted clothes into a sustainable fashion brand, said: “Professor Hellmann is quite amazing. His Venture Evaluation Matrix gave me a way of framing the important issues I need to consider as I launch B Y T.”
5) The audience is more important than the speaker (and stories and pizza go hand in hand).
Over the course of an evening filled with games and the most communal food in existence, public speaking expert and world-class best man, Simon Bucknall, gave the entrepreneurs a crash course in how to tell their companies’ stories, develop their stage presence and grab an audience’s attention - all crucial skills, especially for anyone who makes it to the final pitch event in Los Angeles in July.
“Remember that the speech, the pitch, the presentation, call it what you will, should be for the benefit of the audience not the speaker,” Simon explained. “It’s that simple. Because audiences have such a sensitive antenna they can detect if the speaker is self indulgent, they can sense if it’s fake or if they are preoccupied with how important they are or how much work they’ve done. But a speaker who is there to genuinely be of value to an audience...that comes before anything else. That very simple mindset makes possible a load of other things. Be it feeling more confident, being clearer or more authentic. All these things flow from the importance of the audience, not the speaker.”
He concluded the session by offering up one final tip: “Be careful with scripts - they can be a straitjacket that restricts you. Give yourself permission to treat a script as a guide.”
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