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Future Worlds shortlisted for Guardian University Award

Future Worlds shortlisted for Guardian University Award

When Future Worlds launched in December 2015 I remember a tangible energy in the room, a real belief that collectively we could build an authentic and meaningful startup culture at the University of Southampton. A belief that UK Universities were sitting on an incredible untapped opportunity in the form of their aspiring entrepreneurs, and that the way to unlock that potential wasn’t through a single initiative or assisting with one step in their journey, but though a nurturing ecosystem spanning from inspiration to execution and success.

Alex Dunlop Josh ValmanTo really help these brilliant individuals succeed, grow the economy, create new jobs and truly make a difference in the world with their ideas, this startup culture needed to be built piece by piece from the ground up. As I stood on stage, an entrepreneur myself, explaining how Southampton had all the ingredients, the talent, the facilities and the networks to make this happen, two things were going through my mind.

On the one hand, I had complete unwavering confidence that every element of this plan was possible. On the other hand I was remembering the words of Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, that the key trait of any great entrepreneur is ‘delusional optimism’.

And Kahneman was right, of course, much of what we were planning to do would be an uphill struggle, one that many wouldn’t even bother trying to achieve. But what he didn’t reckon on was the collective power and will of the incredible network of seasoned founders, investors and industry leaders who were starting to join our network.  Since we launched, we’ve built this network to over 40 mentors, ranging from directors of Apple and Salesforce to founders of billion dollar companies, all of whom offer their help and advice at no cost. And I’m delighted to announce that yesterday, our collective achievements were recognised through being shortlisted for the Guardian University Award for Entrepreneurship.

So on the 29th of March Sophie and I will head up to London to the awards ceremony and discover whether Future Worlds at the University of Southampton is leading the UK in helping foster the spirit of creativity and self-belief within aspiring university entrepreneurs.

Reuben Wilcock 1Being awarded this accolade would be fantastic, but the shortlisting itself is a great indicator that we’re on the right track. Proof, that bringing the vision of an authentic startup culture to life at Southampton is not just making a difference here but is also being recognised right around the UK. And it’s times like this that encourage us to step back from our hectic lives in the Future Worlds studio and reflect a little on what Future Worlds, powered by our mentors, has achieved so far.

We’ve supported almost 70 aspiring University entrepreneurs who have raised over £2 million between them and created over 20 new jobs. We’ve filmed well in excess of 100 videos, promoted over 200 events, competitions and funding opportunities and published over 90 articles, all on our unique platform futureworlds.com.

For two years running, we’ve made Southampton the only UK university to have a stand at the Consumer Electronics Show, bringing our startups to a global audience. We’ve inspired a new generation of entrepreneurs through talks by teenage millionaires and seasoned founders and helped them raise funding by hosting real investment pitching events.

So step by step, my optimism is being proved less delusional and this flourishing ecosystem is beginning to resemble more closely the West Coast of the USA than the South Coast of the UK.

Stay tuned in a couple of weeks to find out how we do on the night!

Reuben Wilcock

Director, Future Worlds

Reuben co-founded Future Worlds and is currently Principal Enterprise Fellow for the Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering. He is a serial entrepreneur, having started a number of companies including a successful university spinout, Joulo Ltd, which was acquired in 2014. Reuben also runs the Future Worlds Incubator which commercialises promising university research.

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