News (from Edinburgh Research and Innovation)

Students learn to start a business in three days at the University of Edinburgh

  • 17 November 2013
Students learn to start a business in three days at the University of Edinburgh

A successful US entrepreneurship initiative has been run in the UK for the first time at the University of Edinburgh, hosted by Edinburgh Research and Innovation's award-winning student enterprise service, LAUNCH.ed.

Is it possible to get a business up and running in three days?

This was the challenge set for over seventy students from a wide range of academic backgrounds who participated in an inaugural US entrepreneurship programme at the University of Edinburgh designed to hone their entrepreneurial skills and create a fledgling business in that short timeframe.

The students, from Fresher to PhD level, attained the necessary skill sets to create a business in just 72 hours through 3DS (3 Day Startup) - a US entrepreneurship programme being run in the UK for the first time as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week.

3DS teaches entrepreneurial skills to university students in an extreme hands-on environment. It creates a living entrepreneurship laboratory on the university campus by bringing together students with diverse backgrounds, including computer science, business, engineering, law, design, communications and others. Participants gain experience in cross-disciplinary collaboration, brainstorming and ideation, and group productivity, including ad-hoc leadership and decision-making under severe time constraints. 

This proven programme provides students with the tools they need to start successful companies. Over 3,500 3DS alumni from 70 programmes across four continents – including programmes at Harvard, MIT, and the University of Texas – have started more than 41 companies that have collectively raised $14.5 million in investor capital. More than a dozen have been accepted to prestigious incubators and accelerators, such as Y Combinator and TechStars.

Originally founded at the University of Texas at Austin, the 3DS programme has spread to other universities in North America, Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia. The group has now partnered with the University of Edinburgh to bring the concept to the UK.

How much can you really accomplish in three days? “A whole lot” says Paul Devlin from LAUNCH.ed; the University’s award winning service for student entrepreneurs. “The finished product of the weekend isn’t a full-fledged revenue-generating company – it’s a team with an idea that has enough momentum to become a real company. From there we can nurture the team into a successful business”.

The LAUNCH.ed programme has supported more than 150 students to form a business. Over the last two years alone 60 student-led companies were formed and many of these students have gone on to raise funding from VCs, Scottish Enterprise and several awards schemes raising over £1.75 million in start-up capital.

So what did the students get out of it? “The worst case scenario is that they worked with brilliant people from numerous disciplines toward the common goal of building real companies and products,” says Maia Patrick Donohue from 3DS.

“Great connections happen at 3 Day Startup: co-founders meet, complimentary skill sets collide, and friends are made. The best case scenario is that you will be a co-founder of a wildly successful new tech start-up.”

3DS was brought to the UK with funding from the European Regional Development Fund’s (ERDF) Interreg IVB Open Innovation project that promotes innovating with partners by sharing risk and sharing reward. The event is part of annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, running from 18th - 24th November, the world’s largest campaign to promote entrepreneurship which plays a critical role in encouraging the next generation of entrepreneurs to consider starting up their own business.

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