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Entrepreneurship and Innovation

At London Business School

Jeff Skinner, Executive Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship
at London Business School, talks to us about ‘being entrepreneurial in any
context’ and how the School does this, both in and out of the classroom.

Q: What is London Business School’s

approach to entrepreneurship?
Over the years, the portfolio of
entrepreneurship courses has grown
considerably and student demand has
matched that growth. We go from teaching
courses on the very early stage of
developing a business, through to courses
on specific types of ventures such as
social entrepreneurship, technology
ventures and creative ventures, which
require very different approaches. We’ve
recently introduced another course,
Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets,
taught by John Mullins and Rajesh

Our approach is to bring out new sources

of value for our students and to try
Jeff Skinner, Executive Director of
something new. We know there’s a
Entrepreneurship and Innovation
demand for understanding
entrepreneurship in an emerging market
that’s being blown around on corporate
and there’s certainly an enthusiasm for it.
waters, they suddenly realise that they can
The faculty here also believe that this is an
have a real impact.
important and strategic topic, and, crucially,
it builds on their research interests.
There’s a responsibility on every manager
to initiate and incubate ideas. It’s the same
Q: Do you think that entrepreneurship
type of process, especially at the early
plays a role in ‘traditional’ companies
stages, as a new venture entrepreneur
and if so, what does that mean for the
has to go through.
skills of existing managers?
The entrepreneurship faculty at London
Q: What makes a good entrepreneur?
Business School are not just teaching
People say that entrepreneurship is all
people how to start their own ventures;
about risk-taking, but in reality,
we’re teaching people how to be
entrepreneurs actually try to limit the risk
entrepreneurial in any context. The same
or transfer as much of the risk to other
issues of building coalitions, writing
people. They tend to be incredibly
business plans, securing finance and
resourceful. The best entrepreneurs are
persuading other people that you’re right
good at spotting the weaknesses in their
while objectively testing whether an idea is
own projects.
viable, are all issues faced by people
inside any organisation.
What we do at London Business School is
bring some rigour, so that the plans the
At London Business School we provide
students write are based on firm
the tools that enable people to take charge
foundations. We want plans to be solid,
of the ideas they have and to drive them
the financial projections to be solid and the
through the organisation. It‘s empowering
market research that the idea is based on
for individuals to no longer feel like a ship
to be solid. We want potential investors to
be wowed rather than unmoved – the vehicle for finding out about their industry
latter being the fate of the vast majority of and market. We start with a block week
business plans that pass their desks. that’s packed full of the raw skills and
insights that an entrepreneur needs in the
Q: What can aspiring entrepreneurs early stages. We teach them to ‘power
expect from the faculty and learning at network’, cold call, pitch their opportunities
London Business School? and tell them how to keep themselves out
There are many people who have a of court.
plausible idea and initial drive but who lack
any methodology and insights to take it Q: What is the greatest benefit of
forward. participating in the summer school?
The students are paired up with a mentor
By studying and observing many and this is probably the most distinctive
entrepreneurial ventures we’ve come to part of the course. We’ve assembled a
understand some elements of best and great band of about 60 successful
worst practice and can thus help students entrepreneurs who really enjoy working
avoid the worst mistakes and assist them with students. They’re a tremendous asset.
in achieving what they’re aiming for. We
also help them to apply the frameworks, At the end of the course, the students
knowledge and tools that they learn in present back to a group of 40 experienced
their other courses and apply them in an entrepreneurs – saying whether they still
entrepreneurial context. think their idea is viable and why. Many
conclude that the idea is viable but in a
Q: What other entrepreneurial very different form or using a very different
resources does the School offer business model. Most acknowledge that
outside of courses and electives? their original idea was naïve and they have
The student and alumni entrepreneurship to change it in a number of different ways
clubs are fantastic assets to the School. for it is to succeed – which is the whole
They are large and lively clubs and create point of the exercise. The next touch point
a wonderfully supportive and challenging, with us is when the students are ready to
spirited entrepreneurial community. pitch to the Enterprise 100. The Enterprise
The students organise a magnificent 100 are a terrific group of business angel
annual entrepreneurship conference investors that are associated with the
together with various business plan School and it is a powerful piece of
competitions. The latest initiative is the support we offer the students.
Entrepreneurial Leadership Speaker
Series, which is also entirely student Q: What difference do you see in
driven. (For more information, please visit students after the summer school? By the time the students reach the end the
course, the increase in maturity and
The entrepreneurship faculty work closely confidence is quite phenomenal. But even
with the student committees - we’re very at that stage, very few students have
interested in what they are doing and have started a business by the time they leave
some tacit knowledge on what has and here. We may see them about 18 months
hasn’t worked well in the past. We’ll later when they feel they are ready to pitch
always strive to find them speakers from before the Business Angel Club, which is
our various networks but it’s their show. the School’s business investor group.

Q: Can you tell us about the At that point, you’re seeing the same
Entrepreneurship Summer School? students from the beginning of their career
The Entrepreneurship Summer School is and you’re just thinking wow, these guys
the elective for students who are have really got it. When you compare how
passionate about starting their own they are now with how they were at the
business. It gives them the chance – and beginning of their programme, there is just
the push - to go out and bring their ideas no comparison, so we’re obviously doing
to life. The summer school extends over something right.
two months and is limited to 50 students
from within the School and out. For more information on Entrepreneurship
Students work in groups of up to three at London Business School, please
using the initial idea they come in with as a visit our website.