A taste of Silicon Valley in Swansea

Back in July, I attended an event at TechHub Swansea entitled ‘Lessons from Silicon Valley’.

This was an incredible, fascinating and motivating talk by Alan Brown – associate dean, innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Surrey – with contributions from Mark Thompson, senior lecturer in information systems at Cambridge University. Despite a warm room, the late afternoon session kept the audience of would-be entrepreneurs wide awake.

Alan spoke with passion and humour about his own experience of building and driving a start-up, working 20 hour plus days and struggling to manage costs against cash flow while sleeping on a sofa.

He’s a technologist and has held senior research and development positions at several companies, operated globally and personally experienced the highs and lows applicable to technology start-ups, the acquisitions, the organisation changes and the endless funding meetings. He’s also a strategist, an academic and a MBA lecturer.

The audience was treated to a brief business development 101 course on how to develop and validate new business start-up propositions, which Alan littered with many examples from his work consulting with a wide range of organisations (name checking several major brands) to working with the students and incubators sat around the University of Surrey.

Much of what he said was relevant not only to those looking to build new businesses but also to those in the audience from DVLA, which is very focused on moving to digital ways of providing services for customers. Some of the techniques he went through, such as using a business model canvas, will hopefully be seen in transformation projects near us all soon.

Mark opened up about his own experiences of an organisation he was deeply involved in, going through a major transformation and experiencing many of the pains seen by start-ups and becoming a business leader and entrepreneur himself.

He re-enforced many of Alan’s points, especially around the need to pivot a business quickly and often, during the early stages of developing a new business, offering to test the hypotheses (the guesses) that underpin the rationale for believing you have something the market will want.

Another great Tech Hub session.

Stuart Moore is an executive consultant architect at the DVLA and director of Kyber Consultancy Ltd.

Image credit: Patrick Nouhailler/Flickr