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Four Tuesdays in November: How business series reflects broader Cambridge diversity


By Opinion | Keivan Aghasi, research associate, Cambridge Judge Business School


To increase diversity, founders should not hire clones of themselves
To increase diversity, founders should not hire clones of themselves

The business community in Cambridge has a greater intensity and diversity that many much larger cities.

Keivan Aghasi, research associate at Cambridge Judge Business School
Keivan Aghasi, research associate at Cambridge Judge Business School

After growing up in Iran, I lived for more than a decade in big cities in Italy, Sweden and Denmark before landing in Cambridge last year. I quickly learned that Tehran, Milan, Stockholm and Copenhagen – though many times larger – lack the sheer intensity and diversity found here.

This dawned on me when I attended the November series of Enterprise Tuesday events at Cambridge Judge Business School, which I joined this autumn as a research associate at the school’s Entrepreneurship Centre.

The audience ranged from company owners to would-be entrepreneurs to potential investors – young and old, men and women, idealists and realists from all over the world.

And the diversity hardly stopped at the audience: from the podium, the themes from very different speakers ranged from the beauty of stubbornness, to making tough choices, to artistic vision in business, to avoiding a mirror image of yourself in hiring.

Here’s a brief summary of what they had to say...

Rachel Hurst, chief operating officer of Cambridge-based coding and marking business Domino Printing Sciences (which was acquired by Japanese printing giant Brother Industries in 2015), talked about the cultural challenges of integrating acquired firms, and how companies need to make tough decisions in using limited resources for internal investment or outside acquisition.

George Mpanga, known as the spoken-word artist “George the Poet”, talked about how his involvement in social enterprise (he’s an ambassador for the LifeSkills programme, among other activities) stemmed from his belief that art should reflect communities and vice versa in order to shape and reform our world.

Lloyd Dorfman talked about how he founded Travelex in 1976 as a single shop near London’s British Museum, and transformed it into a global business that now operates in more than 1,500 shops and airports in more than 50 countries. The big breakthrough was getting into Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 4 in 1986, after initially being rejected as a too-small upstart.

The lesson, he said: be persistent, and be ready to push back if the answer is “no”.

The final evening in the November series of Enterprise Tuesday (the series runs every year in February and November) featured three company founders or co-founders – Jon Reynolds of smart phone keyboard firm SwiftKey, Ed Newton-Rex of artificial intelligence firm Jukedeck, and Dominic Collingwood of sports and pub marketing platform MatchPint – who talked about building a “dream team”. They said that trust is paramount, and it’s important to hire people who bring complementary skills to a company both young and established – in other words, founders shouldn’t hire clones of themselves.

What has really struck me since arriving in Cambridge is how incredibly dense it is in terms of activities and variety. It’s hard to believe how many things happen in a city of this relatively small size.

Every night there can be 10 events in areas ranging from physics to literature to business that are all so interesting that you have to choose between riches. The diversity of Enterprise Tuesday reflects this broader kid-in-a-candy-shop delight.

• Keivan Aghasi is a research associate at Cambridge Judge Business School

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Seven ways to cure the ills of the NHS with commentary from Cambridge Judge Business School academic Stefan Scholtes

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