When Vangelis Souitaris joined Cass Business School in January 2004, he became its first ever professor of entrepreneurship.
Located in the heart of London, with the sound of finance and banking beating through the city’s arteries, Cass was, and still is, a school with finance at its core. But to adapt to technological change and the rise of entrepreneurship, innovation was needed—and Vangelis didn’t rest on his laurels.
“Initially, we created a group of six full-time faculty members, who would teach and research the academic side of entrepreneurship,” Vangelis explains. “But we wanted to deliver more than basic research—the key to developing entrepreneurship is the practical side.
“We wanted to create the infrastructure for teams to start their own businesses within the business school.”
Today, Cass is ranked among the top ten business schools globally for entrepreneurship by the Financial Times.
Cass entrepreneurs are supported by a school startup fund—set up following an initial £10 million donation from alumnus Peter Cullum in 2010, patron of the school’s Peter Cullum Center for Entrepreneurship. A mentorship program connects students with alumni entrepreneurs.
Among them, Catherine Darlington, who set up craft cider company, Pilango Cider, together with her husband, after completing a part-time EMBA at Cass. She mentors students on Cass’ MSc in Entrepreneurship.
After learning the building blocks of business and testing the market in the first year of her EMBA, the New Venture Creation module in her second year helped Pilango formalize and structure their business plan.
“We were taught to tackle business plans with a multifaceted approach. It was so important not to neglect any one area, or to specialize too much in another,” she recalls.
Cass hosts a number of initiatives that mold budding entrepreneurs into successful startup founders.
Catherine will be in attendance at ‘The MBA in a Day’ event, held at Cass Business School on November 11, where Vangelis will speak about the entire process of creating a business, from idea conception to launch.
The wider university’s City Starters Weekend event invites students from all disciplines to turn up on a Friday with the seed of an idea, and pitch it in front of potential investors by Sunday.
Cass alum Prasana Murthi took part in the City Starters Weekend alongside Catherine last year and this year he also returned as a mentor. Showcasing the opportunity for work/study balance, he began working as a product manager for online gaming company Gamesys during his EMBA—entrepreneurial skills can be applied within companies as well.
“The first thing I’ve noticed is the keen sense of marketing that is needed to initiate success and to attract customers in the current market,” Prasana says. “Cass really taught me to expand my thought process and views on how a business looks for value and turns that into revenue or profit.
“Some say entrepreneurs are born, not made,” he continues, “but I think, with passion and drive, it is possible to make an entrepreneur.”
During his EMBA at Cass, Prasana visited San Francisco’s Silicon Valley—the world’s foremost tech startup hub—visiting companies like Google, Tesla, and Salesforce, as well as accelerators Y Contributor, 500 Startups, and Rocket Space.
Members of the EMBA cohort also had the chance to visit emerging startup ecosystems in Chile and Israel.
But in terms of startup infrastructure, Silicon Valley reigns supreme. Vangelis, though, thinks London is more than up for the challenge.
“London is one of the hottest areas for entrepreneurship in Europe,” he says. “We have Silicon Roundabout less than 500 meters from Cass, and around that, the atmosphere has really changed—there is more appetite now for startups and entrepreneurship courses.”
You can meet Vangelis, Catherine, and Prasana at Cass’ upcoming ‘MBA in a Day’ event on November 11th.