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Stanford Ignite Innovation Programme to be offered in London

Stanford Ignite Innovation Programme to be offered in London

by Disrupts MagazineMay 10, 2016

Yossi Feinberg is Professor of Economics at Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) and Faculty Director of Stanford Ignite, a 10-week global innovation and entrepreneurship programme.

We had a chat about the return of Stanford Ignite to its Canary Wharf campus in London at the end of September 2016.

In a few short months, Stanford Ignite will be back in London. Could you tell us briefly about the programme: who is it intended for and what innovation can we expect in this edition?
It’s intended for anyone who wants to create a new business. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an entrepreneur, or you are in charge of creating a new business within an existing firm. You could already have many years of experience managing teams and projects, but you want an all-encompassing view of all the aspects of the business. We are looking for people who want to create an impact. And we give them the tools to do that.

In fact, anyone can apply. And we have a lot of experience in figuring out who’s a good fit for the programme. We ask to provide background information and answer a few questions that help us understand why you want to come to the programme. And we also ask for two recommendations. Then we interview the applicants and decide who gets admitted into the programme.

You led the expansion of Stanford Ignite to Bangalore, Beijing, Paris and Santiago. The programme also runs in New York City, São Paulo, and of course in London. What is unique about the London programme and how does the business experience that participants gain here compare to other campuses worldwide?
We’re running a large number of programs all over the world, and we saw that basic principles of every discipline in creating a new business apply anywhere. But you implement and execute them differently to win in a different ecosystem, country, and market.

In our curriculum the focus is on execution and translating the general principles into the particular project you’re working on. We teach all the fundamental aspects of creating a new venture: Accounting, Finance, Marketing, Economics… and so on. And then we have mentors, professors, coaches, panellists and specialists from the local community to guide the team through the project. The learning is tailored and specific not only to the location, but to the particular industry and particular project.

If you’re working on a specific project you need to learn from the people in that industry who have expertise you want to learn from.

One could argue that in business the crucial knowledge transfer takes place beyond the classroom. How does Stanford Ignite – London ensure its students stay competitive?
It’s definitely not enough to stay in the classroom. Learning also happens when you go outside. But you need to learn how to learn.

I’m on the ground for four out of the seven weekends of the programme. I work with teams together with three other faculty members, all very experienced in working with new ventures. We do check-ins with each team so that they have a guided process of developing the venture. We provide each team with mentors from the relevant industry and through working on the project itself, you learn how to learn.

So does everyone come up with the new venture by the end of the programme?
We get people in different stages of where they are in creating new ventures, and the objective of the programme is not for everybody to come out with a particular business plan. We don’t select and incubate ventures. We select and incubate people. Some people come in with an idea in their mind. Some people come with the venture that they have already started to create. Some come in without any idea but wanting to do something big.

By the end of the programme we want them to have the skill set not only to generate new ventures, but to really understand what it will take to make that venture successful, to have all the skills to create a business, or to be able to study someone else’s business plan and understand whether it’s good or not to spend next 10 years of career on it. A business plan is not an objective.

In your research you deal extensively with strategic decision making and modeling uncertainty. In what practical ways does Stanford Ignite equip its participants to tackle future uncertainty for their own businesses or innovative products, and how does it help them in moving forward?
Every new venture has to deal with uncertainty, ambiguity and unawareness. That’s a big part of it when you think about educating entrepreneurs and people who want to create an impact. We teach to deal with all these three dimensions: how to execute in the face of uncertainty, how to de-risk a new venture. Dealing with ambiguity is hugely important. We provide the learning that helps to address unawareness. You need to understand the market, the industry, the competition. Figuring out all the uncertainties in front of you is what this education process tries to achieve.

Since its inception in 2006, Stanford Ignite participants founded ventures that eventually became acquired by companies like Google, Twitter, and Roche. What are your favorite student success stories so far?
Every few days I get an email from one of our participants. I have just had an email from a founder from Bangalore. She told me her new venture was just acquired, and how grateful she was to the Ignite programme that empowered her to achieve that. This kind of emails make my day.

We have the ventures, you can look up it up on the website, big successes and big exits. But I don’t measure successes with dollar amounts. Some of them are non-profits. But they have huge impacts on people’s lives.
It is empowering people to make that impact, that’s what we’re trying to do it at Ignite. Success is about how impactful the individual is, whether they return back to their organisation or start their company.


  • Application Deadline: 02 June, 2016
  • Programme Dates: 23 September – 04 December 2016
  • Eligibility: Our program attracts innovators and entrepreneurs from a diverse set of industries, including engineering, finance, medicine, and law. Graduate students currently pursuing a master’s, MD, PhD, post-doc programme in a non-business field or professionals with a bachelor’s degree and some professional experience (an advanced degree is preferred).
  • Financial aid: Accepted participants can apply for four 50% tuition discounts.


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