June 15, 2016, by Elizabeth Smith
The Nottingham Ingenuity Fund
One of the best parts about working for the Ingenuity Lab is being able to see our members’ business ideas develop, grow and succeed during their time with us. So we gave ourselves a week to recharge our batteries after Ingenuity16, and then jumped straight back in with finding opportunities to stretch Ingenuity Lab members and allow them to realise their ambitions.
The Nottingham Ingenuity Fund was established to give University of Nottingham students and alumni a platform to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors with the hope of securing finance to help them continue developing their businesses.
A range of businesses pitched during the final presentations on Friday including Ingenuity16 winners One Third Stories; innovators in oil and gas exploration; and key players in influence marketing software. Honorary Professor Rob Carroll has seen them working on their business plans and presentations over recent weeks and believes that the range of opportunities available to Ingenuity Lab members is what makes the community so unique, exciting and dynamic,
“It’s great to see the growing confidence of One Third Stories and Fanbytes since their successes at Ingenuity16. However, what makes the Nottingham Ingenuity Fund even more interesting is the strength of Go Open Sims’ business presentations alongside the other two teams and that there has been no clear front runner throughout. If I was on the panel of investors, I would be more than happy to invest in all three businesses”.
This year’s panel of investors included representatives from the University of Nottingham, Nottingham City Council, Tom Yardley from East Midlands Business Angels, as well as University of Nottingham alumni Farid Suleman.
We caught up with Alumni Farid Suleman during Friday’s final pitches to find out a bit more about his time at the University of Nottingham and what the Nottingham Ingenuity Fund pitches mean to him…
How does it feel returning to the University?
I love that I am able to return to the University. It’s a great place and I’m not sure where I would be without the University. Coming back enhances the memories and fondness and what this place represents.
I lost touch with the University after I left the UK within two years of graduating. However, about eight years ago I attended an alumni event in the United States and following this visited the UK and met with Elspeth Gillifan (Director of Philanthropy, Campaigns and Alumni Relations Office) who provided me with a list of peers on my course.
What were your thoughts on the Nottingham Ingenuity Fund pitches?
I thought the pitches were incredibly thorough and professional, far more than I expected to come from an academic, University background. The pitches themselves were knowledgeable and I was very impressed by what I saw.
I think if what I saw today continues, the Ingenuity Lab and other opportunities for entrepreneurs will become dominant very quickly at Universities. It’s going to grow exponentially – both in numbers, quality and all the other things that reinforce one another. As you get more people and smarter people, the products that come out will be even better. I think it’s great, it’s a great move.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
The concept of entrepreneurship is very hard to articulate. I see it as the ability to have a vision and be able to execute that vision. An entrepreneur is someone who has a lot of passion and doesn’t give up no matter how many times they fall down. So, I guess an entrepreneur is someone who picks themselves up as they fall down. They pick themselves up, dust themselves down and go on to do more.
What advice would you give to our current and prospective entrepreneurs, embarking on setting up their business?
It’s so hard to be an entrepreneur. You have to have the passion to balance out the mishaps; you’re going to run out of money; you’re going to be living out of your garage. You have to have passion and love what you are doing, otherwise you are better off getting a job in a corporation.
If any, could you share some of the obstacles you face when building your businesses and how you overcome them?
I face a lot of obstacles, but I never view them as barriers to progress. I see them more as opportunities to figure out what to do to get to the next level. I can recall right before I graduated I went for an interview on Jubilee Campus. My third interview was with the head of production. I thought I had the job in the bag, but he said, “I want to be straight forward with you Mr Suleman. It is incredibly hard for me to manage my shop floor as it is, but to have someone like you coming here and telling people what to do is not going to go down very well!”
After the first fifteen minutes I was preparing to negotiate my salary, only to realise that this guy didn’t want me. I thanked him and walked out because he had pointed out the reality. It could have been an obstacle but I changed that day and got another job – and it paid a lot more money.
Although it’s never easy at the time to appreciate the obstacles put in your way, when you look back you can see the value of the lessons they teach you.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’m involved in a number of investments and involved in a number of different ideas. I enjoy creating businesses that can benefit from logistic management. For example, if you have eight fast food restaurants in an area, you need to ask the questions: how do I improve the efficiency, productivity, quality? How can I centralise quality control and getting the stuff efficiently? Questions like this help me do my financial stuff, such as selling my training as a Productions Manager.
Steve Chapman, who manages the Ingenuity Lab and has worked closely with all four businesses over recent months, considers opportunities to pitch in front of investors one of the most important aspects of any entrepreneur’s development,
“Having to stand up in front of a panel of investors is tough, but a great learning experience. These are real investors looking for real opportunities, and they made no allowance for them being new to entrepreneurship. But being out of your comfort zone is the best way to grow, develop and succeed, and is what entrepreneurship is all about. We only invite those ready for this stage and are investment ready. Generally 50% fall away, but this standard is what makes the fund significant”.
As our wooden model man says at the start of this blog, a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there. We look forward to continuing to support the development of Ingenuity Lab members and push them to step out from their comfort zone over the coming months through pitching events like the Nottingham Ingenuity Fund.
If you have been inspired by Ingenuity16 and the Nottingham Ingenuity Fund, and would like to become involved in future opportunities, make sure you register your interest in Ingenuity17 and subscribe to this blog to stay in the loop.