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Where to start

Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation Playlist

To hear from founders sharing their own journey to a social innovation venture, or perhaps you want to learn more about commercialising your research, follow our ‘Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation Playlist’.

You don’t need to have a fully-formed business idea to explore entrepreneurship. You can establish a good foundation by building your network, learning the ins-and-outs of funding, and finding a mentor.

Each business relies on a high-quality idea and the funding to support it, but its success also depends on the founder’s personal resilience and determination. You should be able to recover from failure, and pivot your ideas into something that might work better. The key to this is building your network and accepting advice.

 

How to know if you’re suited to this sector

Do some soul searching and honest thinking about your strengths and particularly your weaknesses. Do you have the resilience, discipline and thick skin you’ll need? Some questions to get you started:

  • What is your attitude to risk?
  • How do you react to crisis or failure?
  • Are you prepared for hard work, often with little free time?
  • Are you prepared to have much less money than your peers in your early days?
  • Can you work without feedback and guidance from bosses or colleagues?

Autonomy is often the biggest personal driver for entrepreneurs, alongside financial independence and doing something you really believe in. These rewards can outweigh the risks of entrepreneurship, particularly if you're:

  • focused on getting things done
  • able to enthuse others           
  • resourceful     
  • positive-minded
  • possessed of strong self-belief          
  • good at networking
How to get the experience to be credible

If you want to get some insight into the workings of a start-up before going it alone, working for a start-up can be a good idea. Aside from networking, here are just some of the ways you can find opportunities:

Job boards

Start-up incubators and co-working spaces

Events

Talks, workshops, and pitch sessions are run by various societies and groups in Cambridge (see the section below on ‘what Cambridge can offer’). Careers Fairs, particularly the Science & Engineering Fair, often have start-ups looking to recruit graduates to their unique teams. Look through the list of start-ups who attended our 2020 Start-Up Fair.

Further study or certification required

You don’t need any formal qualifications to be an entrepreneur, but having a good grasp of funding and business administration is useful. Be careful of postgraduate programmes promising you a golden ticket to being a founder.

Programmes, support and competitions

Immersion programmes - you can join before you have a specific business idea

Accelerator programmes - see the NESTA report on UK Start-up Support Programmes and Accelerators

Competitions, prizes and grants

Other support

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

The Cambridge start-up scene is vast and very active, but can be complicated to navigate. As a student the best place to start is by joining a student society. They run some fantastic events, bring in high-profile guest speakers, and give you a chance to meet like-minded people - even potential co-founders:

The Entrepreneurship Centre is a resource for students, staff, and the wider Cambridge community. Its offers include:

Venture creation weekends, run by the Judge Business School, provide entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs an opportunity to develop, test and pitch business ideas in two-and-a-half days.

Cambridge Enterprise is a part of the University—they help innovators, experts and entrepreneurs use commercial avenues to develop their ideas and expertise for the benefit of society, the economy, themselves and the University.

Other helpful resources