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Experiencing Venture Up 2015 (and why you need to apply for VU 2016)

“So these are the ‘best young entrepreneurs’ in NZ…..they must be amazing. And then here’s me…What am I? Probably nothing compared to them!”

A touch of intimidation, a touch of fear and with self-confidence a bit shaky, I entered what would be possibly the most important 6 weeks of my life in understanding entrepreneurship, and understanding the people in it.

Over time those initial thoughts were completely changed. I realised that these people were just like me. We all wanted to make it big, and we were all trying our best to see how life could get us to where we wanted to be. It re-iterated some things for me:

  • Anyone can do anything if you set your mind on it, no matter who you are, where you are from, or how old you are.
  • If you want to go far, you need to push yourself to make the effort to do it – it won’t just be handed to you.
  • Never let the thought of someone else being better than you stop you from trying. Just work harder and watch them fall behind you. Competition simply provides for another incentive to work harder.
  • “Slow and steady wins the race” isn’t really applicable here. You NEED to work hard and you NEED to work fast if you want to get far with entrepreneurship. The environment and its people develop at such a rate where if you leave an idea or a plan sitting for too long, someone else will come along and beat you to it.

“No idea is a bad idea” – We were told on day one, sitting anxiously on swivel & desk integrated chairs which seemed to fascinate everyone. We all slowly got the courage to stand up and elevator pitch the ideas we decided to bring to Venture Up. Some you’d think ‘madness’ and some ‘utter genius’. We then narrowed these many ideas down to what we thought were the best, and formed 7 teams on the spot.

Over the 6 weeks we went to the Victoria Design School 9-5 every week day, to work with our teams on our ideas. The first few weeks were very structured, with many awesome speakers coming in to tell us their story so far. They were all very inspiring, and gave good advice for starting out in the business world. We were also taught a huge amount by Nick and Oliviah (the awesome programme director and programme manager) about the theory behind starting a business, understanding your business, the market, your own team, and how to keep that business afloat.

Weekly resilience sessions with Nick Rowney threw bullets into the crowd. He was tough, very tough. After a while I realised that was the point. The business world is tough. It will knock you down over and over and it’s never going to be absolutely perfect, but what gets you where you want to be – it’s your ability to fight through these bullets, pick yourself up, and keep going. We all became well acquainted with ‘The Squiggly Line’ over “The Linear Line.” The line representing your life, where you can choose to follow the typical linear path that most people take in life, and thereby live a normal life, or you can take the squiggly line. This line is full of ups and downs; it’s very difficult, but very exciting, and worth it if you never give up. Don’t just choose the easy path, choose the path that gets you where you want to be, and if it knocks you down a few times, as it should, that’s not a bad thing – that’s just part of your path to success.    

‘Slow and steady wins the race’ isn’t really applicable here. You NEED to work hard and you NEED to work fast if you want to get far with entrepreneurship. 

We had regular meet ups with our mentors which helped hugely. There was one thing many of us found to be an issue though – mentor whiplash. One person will tell you to do one thing, and then someone else will say to do something else instead. We often became so unsure of what direction to head in when every opinion seemed to be right. It ran us in circles for a while. When we realised, we took a stand and lay out between us what we wanted to achieve and how we were going to do that – without having to do everything that every mentor said.

Our many pitch night dinners and constant elevator pitches in front of each other gave us a huge boost in confidence and familiarity with who we were as a business, and what we were out to achieve. We met so many amazing people who when networking well with had proved to be very handy to go back to for advice or even just to have a chat. Many were awesome at hooking us up with the right people we needed to get our businesses off the ground.

As for out of hours during Venture Up, accommodation was provided for free in Boulcott Hall – (that saved me 6 weeks of rent costs!) with small but sufficient rooms and shared bathrooms, common rooms on the two floors that we covered, and a common room on the ground floor which we spent a lot of time playing pool and table tennis in. It was great being able to live with the people we were working with every day, as it helped a lot with the social side of getting to know each other – though I myself had to work at a café in the weekends which meant I lost a lot of good social time. We often went out to the waterfront, jumping into the water during both daylight and night. We had an ice cream fight, which we probably should’ve thought more about first as it left me with numb fingertips for a week. We went on bus trips, walking, and did a lot of exploring around the city. Being summer, it was always absolutely beautiful, and we made some awesome memories here.

The people I met at Venture Up were remarkable, and I still chat with many of them today, keeping up with how business and life is going, and meeting up when possible. Our 6 month reunion was fantastic for catching up and seeing how far everyone has come since summer, and I look forward to seeing how we all progress over the years.

Venture Up 2015 for me was something I wish I could do over and over because it really was such a great experience. It brought so much new knowledge and understanding to me, which I know is a huge aid to everything I do now in the business world. It’s brought me into the amazing environment and community of start-ups, where I constantly meet crazily brilliant people, and it’s made me even more of who I am today. For anyone looking at taking part in Venture Up my advice would be this: Work hard, take the blows, listen to everything, network as much as you can, work harder, and remember to give a bit of time to yourself. 

A collaboration between the Young Enterprise Trust and Creative HQ, Venture Up is a six week entrepreneurship accelerator programme for New Zealand’s aspiring young leaders. The programme runs for six weeks full time, from 11 January to 19 February 2016, at the VUW Design School campus in Wellington, educating, connecting and toughening up 40 of the best and brightest entrepreneurial talent.

Applications are open now to anyone aged 16-21, provided they have left secondary school, and close at midnight on Monday 21 September 2015.

To apply click here.

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