Start-up skills: highlights from the sprint

This post originally appeared on the Future Worlds blog

It’s not every day that a group of Business School students get together with their peers from Electronics and Computer Science, to compete for VIP entry to Ministry of Sound. Not often do these students collaborate to create business ideas, monetise and marketise their plans, then hone their pitch, all under the guidance of expert mentors. At our recent ‘Skills Sprint’ event, however, we achieved just that, all within the space of five hours. Here are a couple of my highlights:

The humble Post-it note

Future Worlds mentor Robbie Rice introduced us to a fresh way of brainstorming using the Post-it note. Brainstorming sessions can be problematic: they tend to have a bias towards the more vocal or extrovert members of the group, at the expense of valuable ideas which are left unvoiced. We were particularly aware of this at the Skills Sprint, with teams made up of people who hadn’t met each other before, and who had varying levels of experience.

Robbie showed us a great way of ensuring all voices and ideas are heard:

  1.  Pose the problem – write down what it is you’re going to address.
  2.  Write down ideas on Post-it notes. In silence, each individual writes up their ideas.
  3.  Read out each note.
  4.  Call for any more ideas. Discuss how ideas might be merged.
  5.  Vote for the best ideas. Each individual places a sticker or smaller Post-it note on the idea(s) they’d like to take forward.

Just 15 minutes after the start of the event, this technique had diverse teams eagerly coming up with ideas in response to a real-world business challenge set by University spinout BluPoint. Ideas generation is a key startup skill. You can find more details on this approach here.


As a business idea develops, there comes a point when you’re going to need buy-in or investment from someone else. We wanted to highlight this key startup skill during the event, so got teams to pitch twice: once for their initial idea, and then second for investment. Why twice? Pitching can be intimidating – particularly the first time! – and we wanted to give people the chance to develop and improve.


Each team was given valuable feedback on their first pitch from Future Worlds mentors, as we recharged our batteries over pizza. Their advice ranged from pitching behaviours (“Look your audience in the eye”; “Pause after a big claim to give it more power”) to content, and was well-received by each team. I was really impressed by the resulting quality of the second pitches, which were succinct, confident, and compelling.

The lesson? Future Worlds has some excellent mentors, able to give valuable advice in a short space of time. Even the most nervous pitcher can improve under their guidance!


Reuben WilcockOur first joint Skills Sprint event was a bit of a trial run. We were really pleased with how it turned out, both in terms of outcomes and delivery. As someone who works mostly with Southampton Business School students, I was struck by the synergy of two groups of students, with different academic backgrounds, and how valuable their cooperation was.

Overall, an excellent event. Here’s to the next one!

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