This year Skills Academy we have something very exciting for those of you who are entrepreneurially inclined! The Big Ideas Competition (1 June 2017) is back and this year, the winner will not only receive £2,000 worth of startup funding, they will also be fast tracked through to NACUE’s Varsity Pitch semi-finals in October to be in with the opportunity to win an additional £10,000, AND a chance to win a funded place on a pre-accelerator programme with FFWD.

One of our graduates, ‘Slava’ (Viacheslav Baranovskiy), who has completed the pre-accelerator programme with FFWD, is here to tell us all about his experience.

Slava, it’s really great to hear you have won a place from this competition. Can I ask, what attracted you to enter this competition in the first place?

First of all, I was really interested to apply for Fast Forward pre-accelerator because I’ve never been in accelerator programs before. Also all the information about the program looked really attractive in terms of program structure, team and external partners involved. On top of that Fast Forward doesn’t take any equity of your startup ownership, so that’s also a big plus.

What was the highlight from your experience of working with FFWD?

The mentoring sessions were the most attractive and helpful part of the program for me. Each day in Fast Forward we had at least 4-5 mentors (from business consultants and entrepreneurs to venture capitals and investors) with solid and various background to help us resolve different questions we have for our startup. It was a great opportunity to get the whole range of opinions on the same questions such as ‘understanding your target audience’ and ‘improving your product’ to ‘how to achieve best execution of your startup milestones’ and ‘when to fundraise’. Moreover, it was valuable to expand my professional network and keep in touch with mentors and program fellows after completing the Fast Forward program.

What was the most challenging aspect in your experience of taking part in the competition?

I think it was to explain why your startup is so interesting, what is special in your business idea, what is valuable and what contributions it can make. The difficulty is to explain all this in a very short, clear and simple way. But the good thing is that it comes with practice, so I would highly recommend anyone to apply for such competitions which help you to clarify your ideas and make it clear for everyone – for your customers, for press and media, for partners and investors.

How do you feel about your success?

I consider success as a pleasant reward for your consistent passion and efforts you put everyday during your entrepreneurial journey. However, there is no final point on your way – than more you do, than more tasks and challenges you get. What you can consider as ‘success’ at early stage of your startup, is not so great yet in comparison to successful stories of big market players. In my opinion, it’s better to don’t focus too much on your achievements euphoria and just to do what you are really enjoy. 

Other students may be thinking about entering such competitions, do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement for them?

Absolutely, I highly recommend Fast-Forward pre-accelerator! If you need to get some feedback/advice, to expand business network and speed up your startup expansion, please apply to such programs as Fast Forward! Everyone I met there were more than happy to help and gave really valuable and honest advices. Moreover, staying in the community of passionate and highly-motivated people gives you extra energy to succeed on your startup journey. Especially if your startup is at very early stage – it’s really valuable to get guidance and mentorship to make sure you are on the right track. Finally I would like to thank all Fast Forward team, external guests and mentors, Fast Forward fellows for your help and contribution! 

Like what you hear? Click here to find out more about entering The Big Ideas Competition! Anyone with an idea can enter, it really is as simple as that! Don’t wait too long though, applications close 19th May 2017.

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