The New Entrepreneurs Foundation Bootcamp

By Francesca Hurdley
See original blog here.

On a warm morning in early September thirty would be entrepreneurs arrived, wheely suitcases in tow, at the oh so glam YLA centre in Hertfordshire. The e-mail that we had been sent before had mentioned our ‘dorms’ and sure enough YLA is an American style summer camp venue with pointed rustic dormitories and climbing walls abound – not at all what I had pictured, kind of fun though. As the 30 or so members of the cohort arrived the room hummed with a nervous buzz. I myself had been through the gruelling application process two years in a row and this was finally it.

Over the next three days we would get up to some pretty weird stuff (scroll down for visuals). We would listen, think, shout, dance, act, hoaky koaky and human pyramid our way one step closer towards the entrepreneurs that we are all trying to become. We were given a glorious wealth of information but as we are all such different characters with different interests we were re-assured that we should not worry about trying to take all of it in but rather focus on what resonates with us. This is after-all a shaping process in itself. With that in mind here are some of the most useful things that I learnt and that resonated with me during those three days:

# 1 Expert Entrepreneurship: are entrepreneurs born or made?

There are compelling arguments on both sides. On day one Chris Coleridge from UCL came to speak to us about some of the academic thinking around entrepreneurship and his view on this question. One thing that particularly stuck with me was his point that there are a certain behaviours that are exhibited by ‘expert entrepreneurs’. These include looking at risk in a different way (the affordable loss principle), leveraging existing resources and managing without prediction. Although a myriad of other factors stop this being a formula for success it does follow that by adopting these behaviours we will move that much further on in our entrepreneurial journey.

# 2  Growth hacking and the feminisation of marketing

On the third day Adele Barlow (Escape the City) marketing guru and blogger extraordinaire shared her tips on how to market effectively on a budget and create viral content. As I am writing this I realise that this is a post in itself but for me the key take-aways were: find your ‘tribe’ or group of people who care about your product/service and market it to them. If your product does what it should and fixes a problem for your customer – this shouldn’t be too difficult and should allow you to create a real relationship and have real empathy with them. They will then want to talk about/share thoughts about your product, making your content that much more viral. This is a huge simplification and something I will explore in another post but if you find this interesting and would like to see it put in a far better way, read: Seth Godin ‘Tribes’ (book/TED talk) and Gary Vaynerchuk ‘The Thank you Economy’.

# 3 Creating a compelling narrative

My third and final take-away is another one from Adele and is based on Simon Sinek’s theory of ‘The Golden Circle’ (TED Talk). In a sentence he believes that ‘people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it’. In order to differentiate yourself from the competition and keep customers coming back – the story behind your business and the mission that you are on is key. He, of course uses Apple as his primary example – why are they different from Dell? Because they are and sell themselves as, people who challenge the status quo, not just people who make nice looking, easy to use products. The fact that they make nice looking products is important too but it is their narrative or Golden Circle that underpins their whole brand.

All-in-all it was an intense and really interesting three-days and I am looking forward with fear and excitement to the year ahead. For more NEF updates and thoughts from me as I struggle to work out what business I am going to start (it’s probably going to get quite ugly) watch this space.