Graduates from Oxford and Harvard talk about why they attended Stanford's new startup crash course in London
Stanford University launched a startup crash course in London last year for aspiring UK-based founders that wanted to learn more about entrepreneurship and innovation.The $10,000 (£6,600) three-month "Ignite" programme (first rolled out at Stanford eight years ago) aimed to offer a Stanford education out of a classroom in Canary Wharf between September and December.
"Then we said there's so much entrepreneurial activity in London, especially around the tech centre, that this would be a great place to come."Business Insider caught up with two of the Ignite London cohort to find out what the programme was like and why they decided to sign up.
Oxford graduate David Bailey
BI: What aspects of the course have you used since you completed it in your every day work?
Bailey: As a founder of a growing tech startup, I used to apply what I learned each weekend to my business the following week. Ignite helped us crystallise our positioning, strengthen our go-to-market strategy, and get closer to our customers with design thinking. One of the most helpful lectures was on pitching, and I was able to get some direct feedback on our pitch deck to increase our odds of raising investment.BI: How much has it benefited you since you completed it?
Bailey: Stanford Ignite gave me a framework to evaluate and construct winning business ideas. It's more than knowledge, which is plentiful online, but a structure that brings a lot of different ideas together in a cohesive way. I found this immensely valuable even though I had been a startup founder for eight years. On top of that, I've met some incredible people that I know will be valuable, both personally and professionally.
BI: How important was the course for meeting like-minded people and for expanding your network?Bailey: There were 30 people on the course so it had an intimate feel. You end up getting very close to the five or six members of your project group, and you get to know everyone else at the dinners and social events organised by Ignite.
BI: What would you say to people who are looking to do the course this year?Bailey: I'd really encourage current tech founders and high-achievers who haven't completed an MBA to consider Ignite. It's extremely well run and will add a lot of value to your future ventures. The intensity of the course is very high, especially as you're working during the week, but that's what makes it such a great experience. Lastly, I'd add that competition is fierce so take the application process seriously.
Harvard graduate Devon Sherman
Devon Sherman: Stanford Ignite was the right place at the right time for me. At the time of the course, I had five years of work experience in corporate strategy roles at a Fortune 500 company. I had recently relocated from Boston to London and was grappling with whether to pursue a full-time MBA or whether to pursue a start-up idea.
I felt Ignite was a perfect fit. It's an intensive course that is focused on entrepreneurialism while also providing the benefits of an MBA, namely an incredible network of classmates and renowned professors.I pursued Ignite to fulfill both intreprenuer and entrepreneur goals. My company most thrives when we infuse new thinking into our business model. However, it is challenging to implement change within a large company with 30,000 employees relative to a more nimble startup.
I looked to Ignite as an ideal platform to fine-tune my ability to recognise and carry out opportunities to innovate within a big organisation, confidently navigating corporate hurdles and transitioning into a leader within my firm. At the same time, I also have growing, entrepreneurial aspirations and looked to Ignite as a means of equipping me with the tools I needed to constructively develop a startup idea from scratch to pitch.
Finally, having studied a liberal arts undergraduate curriculum without formal business training, I viewed Ignite as an opportunity to refine my core skills from accounting to operations as well as my soft skills like negotiating and presenting.BI: What aspects of the course have you used since you completed it in your every day work? How much has it benefited you?
After analysing several case studies with leading Stanford professors, I am noticeably more incisive in my approach to business problems within my day-to-day job. I have also become bolder in recognising and voicing areas for improvement that are ripe for disruption within my business.In addition, having learned how to write a comprehensive business plan and deliver a convincing pitch, Ignite has given me the confidence to pursue my own startup ideas. At the same time, it has made me realistic about the tremendous amount of work and pivoting it takes to turn an idea into a successful reality. Overall, it's a challenge that excites me.
BI: How important was the course for meeting likeminded people and for expanding your network?Sherman: The people were hands down the best part of Stanford Ignite. We had a 30-person class for lectures and broke up into smaller teams to develop our business ideas. My team members were incredibly diverse with backgrounds in academia, cleantech, the military, Twitter, oil, politics, finance and consulting. We had excellent team chemistry from our first meeting onward. Each week, we elected a new team leader and we all consistently contributed to brainstorming sessions and pushed each other to meet assignment deadlines.Overall, our class adopted a work hard, play hard, culture. We focused during class and always rallied afterward to socialise in London. One of our favourite outings was a ping pong competition and cocktail night at Bounce in Holborn - it got competitive to say the least!
Now, a few months after the course has ended, we regularly get together to catch up. Throughout the three-month course, we put in a lot of work and had a lot of laughs.
Also, I'd be amiss if I didn't mention the professors and programme directors. The professors are incredibly experienced and accomplished in their fields and remarkably approachable. Plus, the programme directors are top-notch. From the first weekend, it was very evident that the Ignite model had been improved and perfected over the years.BI: What would you say to people who are looking to do the course this year?
Sherman: The more you put into Stanford Ignite, the more you get out of it. So if Ignite has caught your eye, go for it. At first, I was worried about dedicating my weekends to a course while I was already working full-time. Yet the weekends were so well-run and exceptionally dynamic, that I looked forward to them as a weekly privilege rather than a commitment. Overall, it's a door-opening opportunity to enrich your mind, network, and ambitions.
The Stanford Ignite programme is accepting applications for its second cohort. The deadline is June 2 and those that are accepted will start in September.
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