I spent half my weekend moderating a one-day seminar on entrepeneurship held by the
The aim of the seminar was to bring together students from across the UAE, give them some pointers, guidance and ideas on entrepreneurialism and then get them to work together in teams to present an entrepreneurial idea that mapped to one of a number of available themes. The teams were then to give a two minute elevator pitch and a panel of judges drawn from both academia and the real world would then award one group. These would qualify for the ‘Company’ training course held by INJAZ, an NGO that’s part of Junior Achievement Worldwide.
The INJAZ course is really cool: in 15 weeks, students work with mentors from the private sector to set up their own company, from honing the initial idea through building the business plan to incorporating and running it. At the end of the process they can liquidate it (if, of course, it gets that far!!) or keep it running. 20% of students that take this course go on to become entrepreneurs (compared to 3 or 4% of students on average) and 60% go on to take upper management positions in their careers. So it would appear to be working and even worthwhile.
I was amazed at the standard of work done by the AIESEC team running the event. It was evident that a lot of really strong team-work had gone into it and the way in which they worked together was truly exceptional. At their age I was still playing with girls and synthesisers, inserting anything rumoured to screw you up into my body and generally sticking two fingers up at anyone that I thought would be shocked. These guys were 10 relative years older than me. I found myself wondering how they’d have reacted to meeting young snotty, the 19 year old Alexander. I rather think they’d have tutted pityingy and offered me some money for a coffee before walking on to their meeting with a group of interested VC funds.
And then the student groups attending the event not only listened politely to the presentations and the panel session, but asked the panellists questions that reflected evident interest in the whole thing before they went off and worked together, never having met each other before, coming out of the two-hour workshop having worked effectively as teams to produce presentations that had ideas behind them and that were presented creatively. I’ve worked with teams of PR people that have had 3-5 years of practical work experience that couldn’t do that.
A heartening, great and (nobody that knows me will believe this) humbling day. If I missed the air of rebellion and the whiff of the tear gas being used to break up the groups behind the barricades, at least I tried my best not to show it.