When you get a whole bunch of like-minded people who all strive for excellence, are driven and dream big, a lot could go wrong. But this weekend proved that a lot could also go right.
From meeting, each other, to living and learning alongside one another, the Venture Up 2016/2017 Bootcamp proved to be great fun and a great insight into entrepreneurship. Jam-packed with speakers, activities, pitches and a whole lot of bonding, we successfully got through a week’s worth in 3 very full days! Taster of entrepreneurial lifestyle? I think so. Three days in, Venture Up has already left us craving for more of everything it has to offer!
So, what exactly did we get up to?
Right from checking in on Thursday night until checking out on Sunday, the programme was full on. We spent Thursday night introducing ourselves through a game called two truths, one lie and facts, as well as getting familiar with our incredible living facilities at the Wellesley Student Apartments and going for a late night Maccas run.
I, like a few other Venture-Uppers live in Auckland, so location and the fast-paced nature of the city was something I was already comfortable in. However, for many others coming from all around New Zealand, their experiences and views were both interesting and exciting to hear.
Venture Up is a youth entrepreneurship accelerator programme. The programme is open to 17-21-year olds, so each participant brought a different stage of life, skills, experiences and their own unique perspective (which is proving to be both advantageous and rather special to the Venture Up programme). They’re providing a unique and supported environment for such a diverse cohort to come together for 5 weeks and work on creating sustainable startups, networking and a whole lot of fun! We went from being students on holiday to learning all sorts, from the meaning of ‘MVP’ and ‘Resilience’ to coming up with an idea for a startup! At Venture Up, the big picture, the big idea, or the global vision is always in mind... and not far in sight either.
Truly feeling the grind on the first morning of Bootcamp with an early rising to make it to ColabNZ by 9am, we all walked to our new space and were completely blown away by how incredible it was. Work views could not possibly get better. After a morning of going through logistics and necessities, we were straight into it with our first speaker, Bonnie Howland (Founder of Indigo & Iris), followed by Nick Churchouse from Creative HQ who gave us a crash course in pitching, to prepare us for the pitches we had to do the following morning.
The 5 WHYS that Bonnie Howland shared resonated with me. It requires one to ask themselves ‘why’ five times in order to understand the purpose and heart behind what it is they want to achieve. For example:
My goal is to travel the world.
Why #1: To see and experience other cultures, and in particular the youth of other nations
Why #2: Because I enjoy learning about other people, how they work, what they need and their perspective Why #3: Because it takes me outside my comfort zone, inspires and challenges me
Why #4: Because it puts me in a position to question what I have (both tangibly and intangibly) and how best to use it to benefit, grow, inspire and challenge the youth of NZ and also just youth as a whole
Why #5: Because I believe our generation has the potential and capabilities to really challenge our world for the better.
Our first nine to five day flew by like a breeze with a whole load of information and the dreaded thought of having to pitch the next morning in front of 34 other people we just met. We also got to skype two members we will be meeting in January so we could get to know them and they could get to know us. Getting back to the apartments we had the absolute privilege of listening to Chris Clay discuss ‘Exponential Technologies’. He gave us some incredible insight into the direction and rapid expansion of technology in our world today and completely inspired us to push and challenge the boundaries of business innovation using Exponential Technologies.
Saturday however, was the real challenge. We kickstarted the morning with pitches. Now as you can imagine, with such a diverse cohort, there was a plethora of fantastic ideas and fantastic solutions that could have been formed. Obviously, we all thought our ideas would make us the next Mark Zuckerberg or Richard Branson. But as taught by Nick, the first and most important aspect that we had to focus on was the problem. This was probably one of the biggest challenges for us forward thinkers. Isn’t one of the key skills of an entrepreneur supposed to be problem solving? We had to learn to take it a step back and hone into the problem and the root of that problem. Your idea is not your solution, and most definitely won’t result in being your final product. “You’ve just got to trust the process”.
Once we had ideas, we had to ask ourselves why, and ask our peers why. This all was part and process of team selection and forming. Probably one of the most challenging, yet inspiring two and a half hours of the weekend. I joined a team of six members based around one of the original pitched ideas. However, 30 minutes later we didn't just pivot, instead we came up with a completely different idea with a new set of assumptions, that we then had to prove as fact. We thought the team formation was hard, little did we know that's the easiest part! This was just the start of one crazy weekend!
Having to learn about those you're surrounded with, how they work and how best to optimise your strengths can be overwhelming. Thankfully on the first day we learnt about DISC personality profiling and where we fit on that, as well as bonding over dinner and ‘Around the World’ ping pong. It was surprising to see how quickly strong relationships were formed and the level of care and respect shared by the group for each other and our incredible facilitators.
Then the post it notes came out and went all over the walls, the floor, and the Lean Canvas. We were throwing ideas, assumptions and thoughts all around as well as getting to know our team members. The assumption process was another turning point, is there even problem? Again, we were all pulled from our get rich quick solution thinking and brought back to earth with the reminder that everything we have come up with is based on assumption and not fact. Talk about bubble burst.
Sunday determined we set out on a GOOB. And yes, it is as fun as the name sounds. GOOB, also known as ‘Get Out of the Building’. This is when we took our assumptions to the street and asked our potential market whether what we thought was true, whether it’s a problem or if it’s something they even care about. This brought some form of challenge for every group, whether it was talking to strangers, getting replies that they did not want to hear, or even it just bad timing. However, as a whole this was not only and eye opener but a really good experience moving forward.
We wrapped up Sunday with a talk from Robert Bruce, Founder of Got To Get Out. His story and experience was not only inspirational but also very humbling to listen to. He emphasized the importance of having a purpose and not only being money driven which hit home for a lot of us and caused us to think wider about ourselves, our goals and the big picture. Sunday night was spent wrapping up, packing and some of us leaving early to catch flights. A whole four weeks where everything is on hold… that’s going to be a struggle in itself! However, I, along with the others are so excited, and ready to take on Venture Up 2017 and all it has to offer!
The countdown is on!
Now that you’ve read all of that I thought I’d some it up in a few points…
5 Key takeaways from this weekend:
Focus on the problem
Trust the process
Know yourself/business and your purpose
Validate your assumptions
This awesome opportunity would not be possible if it weren’t for our incredible facilitators! Big thanks to Nick Churchouse (creator and pitching guru), Oliviah Theyers-Collins (organizer, Big I and chief cheerleader) and Lingy Au (organizer, crack up snapchat guy who is always there for quality banter) for providing such an incredible opportunity and environment for us to grow, learn and be inspired by. Shoutouts to the programme sponsors too - AUT and ATEED. Can’t wait to get to know you guys more over the summer!