Strathclyde University Incubator may have catalysed the emergence of two more potential businesses after helping Strathclyde University students excel against entrepreneurial competition at a Strathclyde 100 event in Glasgow last month, where they benefited from the experience of their business mentor, SUI Managing Director Gillian MacAulay.
Organisations in attendance at the behest of the S100, a network of entrepreneurial alumni and business people who support emerging Strathclyde entrepreneurs, included Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Institute for Enterprise, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship, and banking behemoths Santander. Guests were greeted with a drinks reception followed by short presentations from Student Enterprise Ambassador Nicole Perry and Strathclyde Enterprise Hub Advisor Josh Sauter, before settling down for the main event.
The Dragon’s Den-style competition was arranged into two categories: one made up of post-graduate researchers and another of under-graduate students, with Gill, John Anderson and Alasdair Mackay as its 3 mentors-turned-judges. It threw groups of participants together to churn out a viable business idea and present them while under fire from the business Dragons and a 100-strong audience comprising many of Scotland’s foremost entrepreneurs and innovative thinkers.
Standing up in front of such an illustrious crowd ramped up the pressure for participants, and given that they would only have a few minutes to showcase an entire business and how they planned to take it forward, it was crucial that they delivered their presentations crisply and understood their subject back to front. Thankfully for eventual under-grad winnersEssential Vitality (Postura), they had been sent a business angel.
Matthew McLintock said, We met with Gill several times and received invaluable guidance on how to improve our presentation for the S100 event. Gill impressed on us the importance of time management, advising us to stay well clear of the time limit, as well as emphasising the importance of capturing the audience’s attention by finishing our presentation in an emphatic and memorable fashion. With the presentation being central to the competition overall, Gill’s mentoring was crucial to our group winning the award for best student idea.
Gill was similarly professional on the night, a vision of fairness and equality on the judging panel, not for a second entertaining the idea of favouring her young charges. After her team received glowing praise from her colleague and fellow mentor John Anderson, she was asked if she would like to respond in kind by saying something nice about John and his young entrepreneurs.
It was then the turn of the post-graduate researchers to take the floor. VO Search, the group coached by Gill, proposed a database which would alleviate the struggle academics face to find volunteers for their research. With 1 in 5 organisations intimating that difficulties in the recruitment or retention of volunteers would hold them back over the next three years according to the UK Civil Society Almanac, this is a considerable problem in academic circles, but VO Search team member Evangelia Daskalaki praised their mentor for enabling them to sell such a specialised concept to a wider audience.
She said Coming from a research background and being trained to construct presentations for the scientific community, it was important to learn how to switch from this technical mind-set to one of more charm, I would say. Gillian taught us the value of being able to convince someone to buy into your idea, and that is where she really came through for us as a mentor.
While VO Search did not manage to triumph in the researcher’s category, they were able to secure a very commendable second place. As a business they still have a long road to travel, yet the experience has increased their appetite for success and the group hope that their showing at the S100 event has provided them with the boost they need to take the company forward.
Eva said Right now, VO Search is still largely an idea so we have no immediate plans, but we are currently meeting with the advisors at the Enterprise Hub to discuss next steps and I have signed us up for the latest event run by Gabriel: How To Build The Killer Business Plan, to help me turn this idea into reality.