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Business & Finance Series: Expert Comment

Entrepreneurship in the time of Covid-19

Aurore Hochard, Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes at Cass, offers advice to start-ups navigating the pandemic, and discusses the benefits of the New Venture Creation course.

by Nahda Abdalla (Senior Communications Officer (Dubai))

Economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus has made this time particularly challenging for entrepreneurs and SMEs as they grapple with the impact of the pandemic on their livelihoods. According to recent findings of a report published by Wamda and Arabnet, more than 70 per cent of start-ups in the Middle East and North Africa region have been adversely affected, with 22 per cent having had to suspend their operations.

From ensuring business continuity while also protecting and reassuring employees, to deciding where to prioritise limited resources, to securing funding from angel investors, the challenges facing entrepreneurs are numerous.

For businesses to survive the crisis, Aurore Hochard, Head of Entrepreneurship Programmes at Cass Business School, says now is the time to consider changing how they operate and potentially even plan a pivot strategy.

If you have a business that is heavily reliant on technology, you are at an advantage compared to those who have had to shutter their physical operations in the wake of the public health crisis. For start-ups that have traditionally been operating offline, finding a way to engage with their customers online is key. It is equally important to look at ways you can offer new products and services that consumers can benefit from or are of value to the community during this challenging period.

While venture capitalists and angel investors continue to invest – albeit cautiously – Aurore notes that tech-based businesses are more likely to attract investor interest during this period.

She advises start-up founders to do their due diligence on investors and "skilfully negotiate the terms of the investment with them to ensure that everyone is not only on the same page but also equally benefits from the deal. The ultimate goal is to reach a fair end agreement and hopefully form a new partnership with your investors."

New Venture Creation Course

Now, more than ever, it has become important to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills necessary to build and run a sound startup.

While entrepreneurs do not necessarily have to be experts in all business fields, Aurore emphasises the importance of being knowledgeable about core business areas.

The four-day New Venture Creation (NVC) course, offered as part of the Cass Executive MBA in Dubai programme, seeks to do just that. From learning how to pitch and market your brand to raising funds and being aware of the legalities surrounding start-ups, the course gives budding entrepreneurs a 360-degree view of what it takes to run a scalable business.

“We also have the support of prominent local entrepreneurs who deliver talks to the students illustrating real-life examples of how things could go wrong during the initial stages of launching a start-up. As a budding entrepreneur, you would not only get valuable insight but also save time and resources by avoiding some common mistakes.

"The New Venture Creation course can also help you discover people with similar interests and it may even be where you meet your co-founder,” explains Aurore.

The benefits of taking the course are not only limited to those with a desire to develop and manage a business venture. It may also appeal to professionals working in established corporations. Aurore says the course empowers employees, managers and senior executives with an entrepreneurial and innovative mindset to build on their ideas.

She said: “Corporates tend to be rigid and sometimes lose sight of what they are working towards. What the NVC does is encourage professionals from these companies to think about the bigger picture and how to produce better results. The only way to foster team spirit within an organisation is by applying the same principles used in startup environments. It’s a challenge but we’ve seen the positive effects of doing this.”

The New Venture Creation course will run online from 18th - 21st  June.

Find out more: www.cass.city.ac.uk/study/executive-education/our-programmes/new-venture-creation

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