Venture Up: Embarrassing encounter with Rod Drury, learning about validation in business ideas and handling sticky notes on Kanban board

Sixteen-year-old Aditi Gorasia (second from right) and her Illuno team at business accelerator programme Venture Up. Picture source: Venture Up
Aditi Gorasia is 16 years old and part of a five-person team called Illuno. She is attending Venture Up, a business accelerator programme aimed at young people. She aspires to significantly change the life of at least one person and is thrilled over the prospect of walking past a stranger drinking the energy drink she and her venture partners hope to sell.

Barely a month into the business accelerator programme Venture up, the subconscious part of me is already instinctively surveying my peers just to validate what they are saying.

It is highly impactful, this central concept of validation that has been drilled into the core of our entrepreneurial beings at the Venture Up programme. ‘Validation’ drives everything we do, driving us into new dimensions of thought and action.

This summer, I joined 30 curious minds, aged 16 to 21 for an immersion in Creative HQ’sVenture Up, a business accelerator programme for young entrepreneurs.

The very first day of the programme involved numerous impromptu pitches (trust me, this is not a one-time thing) resulting in the formulation of groups of two to five individuals which turn into seven new or modified companies.

Learning business skills, how to pitch, ask

As part of the programme, we get to spend six weeks starting up and developing our own businesses, ending in a showcase where we pitch to industry experts and investors, each team with a specific ‘ask’ from the audience.            

Our goals range from creating a physical product or improving existing products to making actual sales before the six weeks are up. At the end of this journey, some of us hope to continue these businesses while others may use the knowledge and experience gained to supplement university study and future business ventures.

I won’t dub the past month’s journey as easy. Our challenges ranged from sorting out the confusion of ‘where to start’, adjusting to new group dynamics, to knowing how to apply the abundant brilliant advice we have been given in an extremely limited timeline. The hardest of all feats has been attempting to peel post-it notes without curling the edges, yet persevere we shall and by the sixth week I can promise you our Kanban (workflow) boards will be pristine.

Er, meeting the famous Rod Drury

‘Get out of the room’ is a common theme. We had numerous site visits to ensure we do just that. We visited the likes of Wellington Chocolate Factory, Optimal BI and Xero, where we had the opportunity to look around and talk to the staff. At Xero, mid-conversation, I introduced myself to a friendly man only to have his reply make me blush with embarrassment at my own ignorance: “Hi I’m Rod.”(Read: Rod Drury, founder and CEO of Xero). This is what Venture Up has encouraged us to do, to put ourselves out there, to realise the value of networking, because you never know who you might bump into.

We are far from being alone in our journey though. The entire start-up community has gotten behind us, with speakers and mentors such as Claudia Batten, Tim Alpe (Jucy) and Rachel Taulelei (Yellow Brick Road), to name a few, generously offering their time and resources to help us.

The business world is commonly depicted by the media as this harsh and ruthless place devoid of mercy. Yet, here, in our rustic office space in Victoria University’s Design School we have found a gem of a community, willing to offer a hand just out of genuine good intent.

Venture Up has taught me revolutionary concepts of business models and successful methods to maintain good business practices. But the best thing it has offered me is the realisation that in these testing social and political times, it is commerce that has proven there is room yet for humanity.

Shout out to Nick Churchouse (Venture Up was his brainchild) and Oliviah Theyers-Collins (the organiser of all things amazing) for creating this opportunity for us. Thanks too, to Victoria University and Wellington City Council for having us. 

Venture Up is run by Creative HQ, in collaboration with Young Enterprise Trust. The programme is sponsored by Victoria University and Wellington City Council.