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Founders4Schools Talks: Student Blog

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The following blog was written by six year 10 students during a recent Founders4Schools talk on 10th November in which the yeargroup got to hear from and question five different entrepreneurs about their lives and businesses.

The 180 pupils are all creating a writhing mass of excitement, mainly about the talk but also from the opportunity to miss period one. Mr Baker gave a small introduction and then the first speaker, Malcolm Coury.

Malcolm Coury (Managing Director of Money Wise Independent Financial Advisers Limited)

Malcolm Coury took to the stage first and started by saying that he wanted to inspire at least one person and that would be worthwhile. Mr Coury says that leading a business is not for everyone, he cited that he had been self-employed before starting his own company.

Mr Coury’s first self-employment was a window cleaner. As a window cleaner he realised that he had natural business skills as he was able to secure new business easily. After being a window cleaner he became a self-employed car cleaner but working for the garage he actually ended up selling several cars, despite that not being part of his job. Today he runs a financial services company which had an annual turnover of £3.8 million in 2014 and is approximately 10% up on that in 2015. He started another business in 2004 which was sold in 2007 and now employs over 3oo people and turns over about £30 million.

Money doesn’t motivate him, it is purely a commodity. He explained some entrepreneurs are motivated by money, he has been motivated by seeing co-workers succeed, glad to see their careers grow and develop. He advises us not to chase money – he hasn’t enjoy half his time in financial services as he feels he went into it for wrong reasons, i.e. to earn money. Therefore, he advised us to go into something that we’re passionate about and money will follow.

When employing, Mr Coury does not put as much emphasis on academic grades and achievements as one might think. He believes that the best employees are the ones who are genuinely interested in the business itself and want to contribute.

Sedar Atamert (Founder and CEO of Epoch Wires Limited)

Mr Atamert began his talk with a hands-on “balloon test”, representing expanding business horizons. Mr Atamert came to the UK in 1984, and managed to get a well paying job. In 2013 he started a new business – “Epoch Wires”. Epoch wires creates superconductive wires that enable new types of technology. He explained he was inspired to start a new business, because he wanted to take a risk that could make a difference to the world.

Mr Atamert’s son studied at the Perse, and became an entrepreneur aged 15, selling kites imported from China, he had imported 80 kites, but sold only one. He refused to be discouraged, however but said that people didn’t buy the kites because although they wanted them, they didn’t need them.

Mr Atamert says that we can make difference in future by challenging ourselves and stretching boundaries, being passionate and loving what we do and being curious and exploring. He then asked balloon blowers to burst balloons with pins which he said was a metaphor for entrepreneurs : there was some money in the balloons as well!

Ray Anderson (CEO of Bango Plc)

Ray Anderson starts by telling us that he will say 8 things in eight minutes. His first experience was when he was 13 and he bought old stamps. He found out that his stamps were worth much more than he bought them for. In a week he had over £600 and bought a state-of-the-art radio.

At the University of Cambridge (Natural Sciences), he used his book grant to spend £40 on a microwave oven, purchasing jacket potatoes in bulk and selling them to other students for lower price than the college food. He made enough money to buy a computer.

He made his first computer game, ‘Sheepdog’ and was able to sell 1000 copies at £5 per cassette. His father said that it was wrong to take money from people before finishing the game and made him send money back; his business was bust.

Deciding to switch to Computer Science from Natural Sciences, he started selling DRAM (dynamic random access memory) chips he had purchased from a friend who could import them from the USA without paying for duty.

Mr Anderson continued his career in business by starting a personal computer company in Cambridge, where he developed a graphical user interface called X.desktop. This software he had been working on was sold to Steve Jobs’ company NeXT. He continued with this idea through a new start up called IXI that eventually became the leading vendor for UNIX workstation user interface software. His company sold for 25 million pounds and X.desktop became the industry standard for work stations. .

Now Mr Anderson leads Bango a company which is a mobile payment company which partners with Google for Google Play, Amazon for Amazon Appstore,Samsung for GALAXY Apps,BlackBerry for BlackBerry World and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), Mozilla for Firefox Marketplace and Microsoft for Windows 10 and Windows Phone Store.

Dr Wen Zhang (Managing Director of Comsol Limited)

Dr Zhang grew up in China where as a 14-15 years old student she worked for 12 hours a day. An awful thought to a British student who in comparison works 7 hours a day! As a student, Dr Zhang was very interested in Maths and Physics. Many people told her that girls should and could not do Maths and Physics, but she ignored them and continued to study it.

As she spoke about her interest in Physics and Maths she said ‘You can do it.’ This resonated with the year as a murmur went through the crowd. Dr Zhang started her first business by taking tourists rock climbing in Tibet. When hiring new employees, Dr Zhang looks for passionate engineers who want to contribute the business.

She likes computer games and poker, and feels like you need to understand why you enjoy and like something. She also feels it is very important to believe in yourself, have a strong academic background, and have a strong passion for what you do.

Dr Zhang is now the managing director of a technology company in Cambridge.

Richard Thurbin (Product Director of Cloud Amber Limited)

Mr Thurbin walks to the back row and tells them how he p***** around at school and wouldn’t try in the classroom. He is addressing those with back row mentality and claimed he had one whilst a teenager. Not focusing and reluctant to work in lessons, he left school with mediocre grades.

Mr Thurbin’s first job was working in a co-operative, where he quickly became bored. After a very short time, he quit his job and went to university to study computer science, a decision frowned upon by the rest of his family. During university he became friendly with the founders of a new start up, creating Solar Powered LED bus displays and was offered a job once he had finished university.  Starting with only 5 employees, the company was immediately successful and after a few years employed 120 people. The signs of its success can be seen in the fact that most bus stations in Cambridge have his company’s product.

Mr Thurbin rose up to being head of research and development. Being ambitious and motivated he decided to take a risk and set up his own business, which he still works at today. He set up his business in 2006, just before the 2008 crash, but with self-belief, and money, he made it through the crisis.

He started the business with no money or resources, just a strong work ethic and an idea. The business revolved around traffic data distribution and decisions to do with congestion. The business sold for 5 million pounds. Mr Thurbin’s key message was to work hard and be motivated to succeed.

Mr Thurbin claimed that the best depiction of entrepreneurship in Hollywood is “Jerry Maguire”, as it shows someone working differently from society. Mr Thurbin said that everybody told him that it was not going to work but now his company provides over 40 systems across the UK.

A short Q and A session followed

The last question was a particularly interesting one on success : “our first speaker told us about his definition of success and I would like to know what your definitions of success are in your various sectors?”


Richard Thurbin: Winning at everything.

Sedar Atamert: Making a difference.

Ray Anderson: Leaving behind something that has changed the world.

Wen Zhang: Pushing my boundaries.




Featured Image Details:

Photo by winnond. Published on 21 January 2016
Stock photo – Image ID: 100391118

One thought on “Founders4Schools Talks: Student Blog

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