10 Lessons For Student-Entrepreneurs: The Entrepreneurs Of Tomorrow

At Bridge 2023, we discussed:

- the differences between start-ups, spin-offs, and spin-outs
- intellectual property, publications, and regulations
- the role of universities in supporting the ecosystem
- co-founding dynamics and fundraising
Here are 10 main highlights for student-entrepreneurs:

1) Re-wire your entrepreneurial approach. Instead of going full-on research mode and then trying to commercialise it, think about end-users' needs and what research and innovation can help them.

2) You don't need an MBA as a PhD student. You can acquire business skills and team up with others who have complementary skills.

3) At early proof-of-concept stages, consider grants as a main funding source. Afterwards, approach angels, VCs and consider corporates. Innovate UK has great programmes. Accelerators can play a role too.

4) Approach the tech transfer office at your university, they can help with IP and assessing the commercial potential of your invention.

5) Don't publish your research if you want to patent it. Apply for a patent first. Otherwise, it's considered state of the art and no longer novel.

6) Patents are important as they are part of your unique selling proposition and are important to investors. Once IP is sorted out, you can incorporate the company and consider a licensing deal.

7) Universities usually ask for equity in spin-outs and royalties on licensing. US universities can be more founder-friendly with equity as low as 10% and royalty below 3%.

8) Use networking events and entrepreneurial programmes to build your team and networks. Make sure you work with those you align on values and principles with. You're unlikely to exit before 5-10+ years. It's a long-term relationship.

9) Use cliff vesting with co-founders. We recommend a period of 4 years. It's harmful if one walks away with a large equity after a few months.

10) Never be afraid to negotiate. No terms are fixed - whether equity, anti-dilution rights, types of shares, etc. Make sure to ask.

Thank you to Oxford Brookes University for hosting us at their Start-up and Spin-out Creators Event at Bridge 2023.

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