06 July 2020
Look Sharp with Entrepreneurial Skills
Katherine Horsham (Operations Officer at the Entrepreneurship Institute) on how the COVID-19 crisis has shone a light on our entrepreneurial spirit and potential as a society.
You can’t read anything now without a reference to these ‘uncertain times’, the ‘New Normal’ and advice on how best to navigate the ‘digital landscape’. While of course, this is an awful crisis, we’re also seeing so much to be positive about and a widespread untapping of our entrepreneurial spirit and potential as a society.
Here at the Entrepreneurship Institute, we’ve developed a framework to define what being ‘entrepreneurial’ means so we can help our students, staff and alumni to develop the skills that will allow them to channel that mindset at any opportunity.
To have a powerful and irresistible effect which provokes behaviour change and increases credibility and loyalty
A few months ago, nobody had heard of Captain Tom Moore. Now he is a living legend, having raised nearly £33million for the NHS, been awarded the Freedom of the City of London and became the oldest artist to score a UK number 1 single.
How was Captain Tom so successful? The storytelling. Covid-19 has roused a sense of national togetherness and resilience unlike anything seen in peacetime and in a generation. As a former British Army officer, Captain Tom’s call to action to support the NHS – a British institution so many of us are proud of – was irresistible.
On top of this was the clarity of his endeavor – to raise £1,000 walking 100 laps of the garden before his 100th birthday. The fact that Captain Tom was also doing this at his age and after a hip replacement and was supported in telling his story by his daughter really got people emotionally to put their hands in their pockets at a time when many are concern about their finances.
Being willing to question the way things are done and be bold in proposing revolutionary, better ways of thinking and doing
The Covid-19 epidemic has shocked us all and the combination of the urgent need to act and more space to reflect has opened up opportunities for a huge re-think about the way we live our lives.
The UN has been urging nations to ‘Build Back Better’ as they look to recovery, particularly in relation to climate change – for example, where taxpayers’ money is used to rescue businesses, the priority should be on green jobs sustainable growth, not propping up fossil fuels and polluters. A good example on a city-scale, is that London is launching one of the biggest car-free initiatives of any city in the world to maintain social distancing and uphold huge decreases in air pollution with everyone being at home.
What it means to ‘go to work’ has been completely disrupted too. The adoption of technology to facilitate more efficient working (like Zoom and Microsoft Teams) that might have been an uphill struggle in some orgaisations, has become ubiquitous overnight. The way we socialise and exercise has also been overhauled with the rise of Houseparty, the online pub quiz / games nights, exercises classes on Instagram and online weddings / birthdays / baby showers. Some of this won’t endure as we recover from Covid-19, but it does ask us to question what we value and why we would go back to doing somethings the way we did before.
Dedication to rapid, continue learning and adapting through testing
750,000 people put their hand up to become an NHS Responder when the government put the call out for an ‘army of volunteers’. This new initiative was possible to launch so quickly partly because the mechanism for the responder concept already existed, albeit in a different context.
The Good Smartphone Activated Medics (GoodSAM) app has been operational since 2014. Its primary purpose has been to connect people with life-support training to nearby incidents such as cardiac arrests. Rather than build something new, the decision was taken to repurpose GoodSAM for non-emergency situations. Originally this was a bit clunky, as the language in the app wasn’t designed for the new Covid-19 roles. But as people started to use the GoodSAM and feedback, a dedicated 'how-to' website was created and tailored newsletters to volunteers helped solve initial issues.
To prove that an idea is viable and gain traction: the eradication of bias and assumption
A famous quote says that ‘the NHS is the closest thing that we have to a religion’ in the UK and that is the widespread assumption. But is it true? Clap For Our Carers is a great example of validating an idea by getting people to take action. If you asked me before 2020 if I thought hundreds of thousands of people would come out of their houses and make appreciative noise for weeks-on-end, I would never have believed you - but that’s what’s happening.
When we talk about validation in a start-up context, it’s usually about building proof that people want your product / service often before you have it ready to sell to them. My instinct is that the Clap For Our Carers - in helping us to understand the scale of the challenge and the need for help - was a factor in why so many of us signed up for to become NHS Responders.
Develop a rapid, thick-skinned and grounded “bounce-back-ability
Our King’s20 Accelerator programme nurtures the brightest 20 ventures from the university every year. It’s been inspirational to watch such early-stage businesses respond and thrive in this crisis when they have been some of the worst affected.
Here are some of their stories:
“At Vivisco we utilise micro-scale electronics to harness the therapeutic power of light in healthcare. COVID-19 completely changed tour approach and we’ve now developed a COVID-19 treatment for the most severe cases of infection. We are rapidly testing our prototype and building links with organisations that would normally take months to develop. This de-risks our technology and opens up more investment opportunities than before”
“Prodikta is a 5th Emergency Services for families. Our app combines voice technology, wearables and Internet of Things devices to enable 24/7 Healthcare and Wellbeing. COVID-19 initially had a negative impact on us as investors paused their interest, team members had to prioritise other employment and our prototype for the B2B travel industry became useless. We’ve now changed our industry to health, engaged new freelances across the world and I’m more determined than ever to make Prodikta a success!”
“Yūgō makes versatile fusion sauces that make home cooking as easy, quick and delicious as a takeaway. While our sales instore have seen a marked decline, we’ve used this time to set up our own online shop and our Amazon sales have increased x6! This has helped us realise that online sales can be a much bigger part of the business, as we retain higher margins, own the customer relationship and can use the data to sell into supermarkets later on.”
To find, develop and grow effective, diverse teams
Within days of lockdown being announced, the Covid-19 Mutual Aid movement had given birth to thousands or grassroots groups and assembled millions of volunteers across the UK. Their success is part of the reason why the NHS Responder volunteers aren’t being called upon to help – Mutual Aid groups got to work more quickly, and their hyperlocal focus means they are more effective than any national effort.
How has this happened? There has always been a rich history of caring and volunteering in this country. Mutual Aid’s success is built on those strong foundations and existing groups’ willingness to pivot what they were already doing and join forces like the squares of a patchwork quilt.
Anna Vickerstaff, a campaigner with 350.org who cofounded the movement, also used her skills on joining her local group to come up with a loose framework that could scale, using existing tools people were already familiar with like WhatsApp, Facebook and Google Forms. Equally important is the narrative of the movement – it's not about charity, but mutual aid. Unlike many entrepreneurs and their ventures, there’s no hero at the front here, but a grounding in togetherness which is even more successful.
Get it Done
Prioritising execution above all else, you know that the best way to make progress is to take real action, so this is what you do
The NHS Nightingale Hospital at London Excel created 4,000 extra intensive care hospital beds in just 9 days! Eight equivalent centres have been opened across the UK too. Although with hindsight we know that much of this extra capacity was not needed, many people had to throw themselves into completing this mission because we might have done.
There was no other way that NHS Nightingale would have been built in time than through sheer hard work and people getting on with the task in hand, often long into the night. 200 soldiers a day worked alongside NHS staff, contractors, architects, engineers and electricians. This is a perfect example of getting it done even if it seems impossible.
To learn more about out 7 Skills of an Entrepreneurial Mindset and develop yours, sign up to our Summer Skills course, Skill Up, Look Sharp!