Guest blog by Dan Bedi - MBA 2016-17
Dan came on the MBA at Cranfield to take a year out and develop his ideas. What Ihave learnt is how he has been single minded with his objective, drawn on all the resources and made friends along the way to enhance his chances! Go Dan.
Three years ago, I was sitting at my job feeling like I was not being challenged, I wanted more. I had always harboured ambitions of starting my own business and had several ideas I wanted to explore. I often used my commutes to work to watch TED talks, read articles and learn more about business and different industries. I wanted to engage with my entrepreneurial side properly and take time to learn as much as I could. I chose to complete a full-time MBA at Cranfield School of Management. By taking the year out and fully immersing myself in the MBA community I aimed to further develop and challenge myself. I knew I was taking a risk coming out of employment but at the same time was enthused by the opportunities ahead.
Here is what happened.
The more you put in the more you get out….so
This saying is one I apply to my life both personally and in the workplace. I knew that I wanted to explore my business ideas and learn as much as I could on the MBA.
Whilst on the MBA I launched an Entrepreneurship Club. Out of our cohort of 58 MBAs I knew there were a few with ambitions of launching their own ventures. Our cohort voted for various class rep roles and I felt it was important that there should be an entrepreneurial link. Once elected by the cohort I began running after class sessions where MBAs could come and discuss a business idea, pitch an existing business problem or discuss any entrepreneurial challenge they had come across in the news recently. This was an enjoyable outlet for the course from the volume of MBA work we faced. Soon the club extended across the entire School of Management involving, for example, students from the MSc in Management and Entrepreneurship. The spread of backgrounds, ages and gender between the courses led to a real positive safe environment where people could voice their business ideas and work them through with a wider audience.
Prior to applying to the MBA the VCIC (Venture Capital Investment Competition) had caught my attention due to mentions in my previous role. The competition asks teams of MBAs to act as VCs, reviewing businesses, choosing a business to invest in, pitching to an investment committee of external VC judges and then negotiating with the chosen entrepreneur. The preparation for this competition is embedded into the timetable for the MBA to give students the best chance to compete.
Arriving at Cranfield I knew this was something that not only interested me but would provide a valuable learning experience considering the investment and funding route I wanted to take as an entrepreneur. During our first MBA week, I voiced ambitions of competing and winning the competition to some members of the cohort. Assembling a team of MBAs together in week one based on information from alumni we began training towards competing in the competition. Two members of the team including myself had some previous experience in this sector as well as negotiation training. We began training regularly throughout term one. Winning an internal competition and chosen to represent Cranfield at the competition the team flew to Barcelona to compete against other Business Schools, such as Insead, Oxford and LBS. Our Cranfield team managed to not only win the entire competition but also win the entrepreneurs choice award for the VC the entrepreneurs would most like to work with. After this success, the team travelled to the USA to compete for Europe against schools for the rest of the world. The entire experience was a fantastic journey and allowed some key learnings to be taken for application to my business venture.
The Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurship is another asset at Cranfield. The team at the Centre has helped enormously get my business venture off the ground and was a key reason for choosing Cranfield for my MBA. The focus on entrepreneurship helped through start-up weekends, investor days as well as introductions to key alumni who have provided valuable advice and support throughout the start-up experience. The equity free injection of £15,000 has helped in getting the demo ready to help secure further investment.
Currently having finished the MBA we have successfully launched the business. The Fan Area is a digital home for sports fans. We provide the latest news, views and games for sports fans based primarily on football (soccer). The Fan Area connects fans with fans, fans with content and fans with businesses. We have benefitted from free office space provided by the university in their incubation hub and have been accepted onto a competitive accelerator which has allowed us to propel the business forwards. Closing off our SEIS investment round currently there are exciting times ahead in discussions with several large organisations ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Key lessons for future MBAs with an interest in entrepreneurship
I would advise future MBA candidates to carefully consider what they want to achieve from an MBA. There is so much opportunity on any MBA course it’s easy to forget what your goals are.
It is important to stay focused in business as life throws challenges at you from all angles. The MBA has equipped me to handle challenges not only in the workplace but also personally too and I can sincerely say that I have developed academically, socially and personally during my time on the Cranfield MBA.
I knew that I wanted to launch my own business and learn as much as I could whilst on my MBA. I consciously threw myself into extra-curricular activities like the entrepreneurship club and the VCIC competition alongside my studies. Driving toward my predefined aims throughout my time on the course helped me form the relevant network and get the advice and support I needed to get my goals off the ground.
Any MBA or one at Cranfield?
“Build your own dreams or somebody else will hire you to build theirs” – Farrah Gray.
This quote resonates with me strongly. Pre-MBA I knew that I wanted to launch my own business. Cranfield’s links to entrepreneurship were apparent to me pre-MBA. Sarah Willingham and Nick Jenkins on Dragons Den TV Show as well as visiting the campus and seeing the Bettany Centre and focus on entrepreneurship showed me that Cranfield was a good place to develop the idea. The time was right for me as I wanted to take the risk associated with launching my own business early in my career and Cranfield provided the perfect opportunity to build my own dreams.
The breadth and depth of experiences of other students on the course means you will always find the right people with whom you can start a new venture. The physical facilities, access to equity free funding which you have to compete for and access to real business people who know how to build companies made it ideal from my point of view. Sure it is not in a city like London, Oxford or Cambridge but that too has its advantages – you get to focus on your intentions and get “time out”.