On the weekend of 17-19 November, we (Monique Andrew, Nick Ellwood and Michael Bean) took part in the InsureTech & RegTech Venture Creation Weekend (VCW) at Cambridge Judge Business School. The VCW is an event for students, postdocs, professional and researchers working on emerging technologies and innovations in InsureTech and RegTech, who are interested in learning how to translate their ideas into ventures as part of a startup team.

It’s a great chance to challenge yourself by working with a new team in a time pressured environment. It provides an opportunity to experience the journey from idea creation to development, refinement and eventually pitching – all within 48 hours.

The weekend is structured to get you out of your comfort zone early by getting everyone to take part in a game called ‘half-baked’ where pairs are given two random words and have to come up with a business idea in a few minutes before pitching the idea in 30 seconds to the audience.  Individuals or teams are then given one minute to pitch their real idea to the audience who vote for 10-12 ideas, the creators of the winning ideas then form teams to progress with the idea over the weekend.

VCW team selection

Originally, we had a number of related ideas that we wanted to combine, and a team of six. We recognised that we needed to narrow our focus, but this proved difficult with a large team of diverse perspectives and opinions. Whilst this provided rich conversation and welcome challenge, in the end we decided to split into two teams of three, each pursuing their preferred concepts.

The calibre of participants both from in and outside Cambridge, along with the mentors and judges was outstanding. Having access to leading industry professionals throughout the experience was extremely beneficial as they helped us to refine our concept and gain insight into the insurance industry. We will certainly stay in touch with a number of new contacts that we met over the weekend.

Our key learning from this experience is that it is important to maintain a focused approach from the outset, it is much simpler not only to develop, but also pitch your idea if you are seeking to solve a specific problem. In addition, if a team is not entirely aligned with the idea, it’s OK to go in separate directions (as long as it is done maturely, over beers.)

Whilst the weekend is an incredible learning experience, it does not have to end there. We will be looking to progress the idea that we created over the weekend, just as we know that other teams will be doing so as well.

The team receiving their awards with Penny James, CFO of Direct Line Group