LSE alumni turn their university into a start-up powerhouse
A Google-backed head student, the CEO of a Unicorn and a university venture capital fund have teamed up to create a startup powerhouse at one of London’s most iconic universities, the London School of Economics (LSE ). Recently ranked as one of Europe’s top unicorn universities, LSE has a number of high-profile success stories within its network, including Oaknorth, Mano Mano, Oda, Bitpanda, Allbirds and Tractable unicorns.
The number of companies created by the founders of the LSE has grown from just over 1,000 in 2010 to over 2,600 in 2020, with more than $ 12 billion raised in venture capital since the start of 2018. Over 160 countries are represented by LSE entrepreneurs, including 30% in the UK, 25% in the US, 7% in India, 5% in Germany and 2% in Canada.
The four LSE alumni behind the initiative include Jack Lee, who runs a Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) program to help more students get into tech and help LSE students. . Adam French, former CEO of Scalable Capital, has teamed up with Houghton Street Ventures partners and co-founders Hannah Leach and Veronika Kapustina to create one of London’s largest student-focused venture capital funds.
The goal of their combined efforts is to create an ecosystem at LSE that will provide students with access to cutting-edge technology programs, ideas and ideas, as well as seed funding and mentorship for the funding of the series. B, all in one place.
The GDSC program aims to create peer-to-peer technology communities that bring students together to develop unique solutions through technology events, collaborations with Google. LSE’s projects include Project Ember which is developing machine learning AI that tracks overseas wildfires as they occur, Project Fungi, which analyzes brownfields in London to convert them into urban agricultural sites; and Project Carbon, a website add-on that tracks carbon emissions in partnership with credit card companies.
Lee’s initial goal was to recruit 100 students in London into the program. In the end, he recruited 1,700 from all over Europe. Within six months, tens of thousands of attendees were on board, creating one of the largest student tech communities in the world. Working with fundraising partners such as Houghton Street Ventures, he says, has taken things up a notch.
“It provides continuous feedback on common stumbling blocks in the early stages of a startup, for example bringing close friends without the right skills to the team or pursuing cool ideas that don’t actually solve a problem.” , explains Lee.
Joining partners was initially difficult, as many other student groups and universities aim to do the same. However, the GDSC program enjoys support from Google in terms of funding, expert technologists, and events.
“Over time, as our community grew, the interest of financial partners grew as we showcased projects and startups that are not just side activities or fun projects, but teams of students who are ready to engage and achieve the real deal, ”says Lee.
Historically, funds that have a link with academic institutions have focused on the commercialization of research-based spin-off companies and the transfer of intellectual property from the university to a company, for example, the commercialization of biotechnology initiatives. or hard sciences like the Oxford vaccine. As a result, the focus of the story is usually focused on STEM-based projects or businesses with a technological or scientific breakthrough at the center of their solution.
“What we haven’t seen as much in the UK is the focus on alumni-founded businesses more generally, in the same way that has been popularized in the US,” for example, with funds managed by Alumni Ventures Group. , says Adam French.
Houghton Street Ventures is a newly formed venture capital firm that will invest in LSE student and student businesses globally at an early stage. “The vision is to be the glue of the LSE entrepreneurial ecosystem: putting everything together to create a thriving community,” says Hannah Leach. “We work closely with existing student-focused initiatives and programs on campus, including LSE Generate, GSDC, Kickstart London, the Entrepreneurship Society and the Data Science Society, to support and encourage the entrepreneurial DNA of the student body. . “
The challenges faced by the founders of LSE alumni are the same as those faced by startups in general, including a high failure rate. However, as Leach explains, the platform being built at Houghton Street Ventures will give former LSE founders an edge they never had before through adding value and access to the all of the LSE community of angels, co-investors and follow-up investors to secure their initial seed funding.
There is consensus that universities should provide more opportunities for students and alumni to connect to help them understand the industries they work in and share the issues that professionals face. Students are also encouraged to approach alumni of their university for their expertise and perspective.
Lee adds, “Partnerships between early entrepreneurs and seasoned CEOs offer students new perspectives on leadership, technology and industry. We have yet to see the final result of the GDSC program, but one thing is for sure, Google, Houghton Street Ventures and our partners are continually investing and improving in the program to make it easier for students to access technology and to create solutions. that matters.”