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Why City, University of London Is A Great Place To Launch A Tech Start-Up

CityStarters Weekend sees students pitch ideas to expert judges

Fri Oct 28 2016

An MBA was once viewed as a ticket to the C-suite — but not for this generation of business school students.

They are shunning cushy corporate careers in favour of founding start-ups.

Twenty-one percent of MBA and EMBA alumni started a company, according to data released this month by the FT.

Business schools are rolling out a slew of programs to help their entrepreneurial students. Courses on new venture creation and product development, and venture capital funds and accelerators are now common on campus.

Students at London’s Cass Business School were last week treated to CityStarters Weekend.

They were invited to learn new skills, network and receive expert coaching from successful tech entrepreneurs.

They could also pitch their start-up ideas to a panel of expert judges. Sponsored by Santander UK, there was £6,500 in prize money up for grabs for ventures hoping to become Europe’s future unicorns.

Aurore Hochard is the event's organizer and head of entrepreneurship programs at Cass.

We asked her why business school is a good place to launch a company.

She should know — Cass is in the heart of the City of London and also on the fringes of the Silicon Roundabout cluster of tech start-ups.

Here's what she told us:

Q. Networking is essential to running a successful start-up, and also a key advantage to studying at business school. What opportunities to strengthen an entrepreneurial network will there be at CityStarters Weekend?

There were plenty of opportunities to interact with and learn from the 26 different mentors, coaches and entrepreneurial practitioners, who gave presentations and supported the students during the weekend. For example, Zoe Peden, an experienced tech entrepreneur who currently lectures on the MSc in Entrepreneurship at Cass, delivered a presentation on the importance of customer acquisition.

Our judging panel consisted of: Michael Wilson, universities regional manager at Santander UK, Lotta Olsson, who runs the Launch Lab at City University and Giulia Piu, a London-based tech entrepreneur. Again, this was a great opportunity for our students to learn from experienced professionals. 

Q. What's your advice for nailing an elevator pitch?

You need to have several elevator pitches. You need to know who you’re talking to and how much time you have. You can then tailor your pitch to the aspect they are most interested in. So if you have just 10 seconds in an actual elevator, you need to be able to sum up your pitch in one sentence. If you have one minute, you have slightly more time and can go into a bit more detail. But make sure you practice it first.  

Q. This is the second year of the CityStarters Weekend. How are you building upon the success of the inaugural event?

Last year’s event was very popular and opened a lot of doors for our students. One of our speakers this year was Cass alumnus Matt Bland (MSc, Marketing, 2016). With the idea for a Juice-it-Yourself bar, Matt was one of the winners last year. He was awarded a cash prize, which he used to fund a follow-up idea called EatSafe. He went on to win CitySpark, a business ideas competition open to all City students and recent alumni with his idea.

We wanted to make as many students and staff as possible aware of CityStarters this year. Having run a successful weekend last year really helped in reaching out to our students and raising awareness of the benefits of being involved – the opportunity to learn from experienced industry professionals, to gain relevant experience to put on your CV, to hear about potential career opportunities, to build networks and, importantly, to meet new friends and to have fun. 

Q. What prizes are on offer from Santander UK?

Santander UK donated a very generous prize pot of £6,500.  This was divided up as:

  • 1st prize: £3,000
  • 2nd prize: £2,000
  • 3rd prize: £1,000
  • Runner-up: £500

Q. An MBA is no longer seen as a ticket to a corporate career, that's for sure. What is driving interest in entrepreneurship among Cass business school students? 

Entrepreneurship is a strong trend at the moment and of interest to many people – including our students. Some people want to have a break from corporate life, to follow a dream, engage with a new challenge and learn new skills. I think many people are attracted by the freedom to be their own boss and to work in a creative, independent and flexible way. Of course, it is very hard work launching a start-up but our students understand this.

Q. What entrepreneurial offerings are there for MBAs at Cass? 

We hold the Startup Seminar series, a free eight week evening lecture program, which provides business and start-up skills to all those wanting to find out more about the process of taking an idea and turning it into a successful venture. The seminars are a chance for our students to learn new skills from experienced business experts and to network with other likeminded people and local entrepreneurs.

We are also hosting the KPMG Mobile Work Congress in December 2016.

Other exciting events include our Thomson Reuters sponsored series of EntrepreneursTalk@Cass, which offer intimate, in-depth interviews with some of the UK’s most innovative and inspirational tech entrepreneurs.

Q. London is a hub for tech, finance, venture capital, and more. How is Cass able to profit from links to the London start-up community?

Geographically, we are really close – right in the heart of the City of London and also in Tech City. This means that it is easy to connect with the many different entrepreneurs and businesses that are based here – it’s easy to attend events to meet potential collaborators and investors, and to learn about the latest happenings in the start-up community.

Cass and City academics are also involved with City Unrulyversity, which is a free pop-up university near Brick Lane. Its mission is to inform, inspire, and empower the next generation of Tech City entrepreneurs by holding educational workshops and seminars.

Q. What's your view on the impact of Brexit on London's ability to remain an entrepreneurial capital?

Brexit certainly raised a lot of questions and there remain many uncertainties. I’m positive (and certainly hope) that it will have some positive outcomes for the UK economy.

A lot of predictions were made before and after the referendum. I feel it is too early to express an opinion on what the impact on London will be. I feel London is a great place to start a business and I trust entrepreneurs are resilient enough to find solutions to the issues and challenges Brexit may bring to them.

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School




On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.




On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.




On Campus


I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London




On Campus


The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.




On Campus


The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather




On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.




On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.




On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.




On Campus

Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society