Matt Kuppers is the founder and CEO of Startup Manufactory. The London-based startup consulting firm, also nicknamed “McKinsey for Startups”, provides consulting to startups, advises governments, and teaches entrepreneurship. The company counts multiple HNWIs, the European Commission, and the London School of Economics among its clients. Matt has been working in the startup industry since 2008 where he has worn multiple hats from working in venture capital, founding multiple startups, mentoring with startup accelerators until he became a Venture Development Consultant. Matt undertook research in game theory at LSE as a PhD student and also certified in Science Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford.
Q: What is your background? Why are you doing this?
Before joining the startup industry, I spent several years in social sciences where I was all set to become an academic by pursuing a PhD. Before and during my time at LSE, I worked with two HNWIs who had become successful entrepreneurs. This inspired me becoming an entrepreneur myself and leading a much more fulfilling life. So I decided to drop out and change my career.
Q: What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is about carving your own path, it’s about imbuing your own individuality on your and other people’s life. It’s about having an impact on society, and of course, it’s about making money. For some, it’s also about innovation but that depends on the business model, I would say. An innovator that commercialises innovation is an entrepreneur. Someone buying into a fast-food franchise may be less innovative but also acts entrepreneurially. It all boils down to the ability to maximise the utility of resources in order to create value.
Q: What made you decide to become an entrepreneur?
If you look at the degrees of freedom on the spectrum of opportunities people have these days, academics, artists, and entrepreneurs rank very high whereas traditional career options such as a lawyer, banker, or employees, in general, are more confined to a high degree of assimilation. Since I always had a predilection for self-actualization and self-determination becoming an entrepreneur was the optimal career choice.
Q: So what would you say are the top skills that needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
Intellectually, I believe critical, analytical, and strategic thinking are paramount. They help to keep a clear view in difficult situations and act upon them in order to keep the focus on the bigger picture. Also, the ability to acquire new skills to adjust and perform in unknown territory is helpful. There is no perfect skill-set, I suppose, as people have different talents, but experience plays a big part too.
Q: What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
As a Venture Development Consultant, I provide expertise to clients looking to create a livelihood for themselves. Witnessing the transformation and the growing sense of purpose in my clients as they progress is mostly rewarding. Also, providing advice and having an impact on organisational level is very rewarding too as large organisations are made up of many people. In essence, it’s the opportunity to have an impact, learn, grow, contribute, and be recognised.
Q: What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
I am inspired by the principle of giving. Many governments are too caught up in politics and their leaders are often too self-assertive so they end up failing to have a sustainable impact on the people they represent. In the West, billionaires are pledging their fortunes to charity in order to advance human potential and promote equality. In the Middle East, leaders are using their wealth for the betterment of their societies. This is why I am inspired by the principle of giving embodied in individuals or organisations rather than by individuals or organisations itself.
Q: If you could have 5 minutes with the above indiv/company/org, what would you want to ask or discuss?
To come up with a plan that gets rid of all military conflicts and puts the progress of mankind through reason, love, and science on the top of every governments’ agenda.
Q: What has been your most satisfying or successful moment in business?
The most satisfying moment always is providing something useful to someone successfully. Business is only the manifestation of creating value through win-win situations but the most quantifiable way.
Q: What would you say have been some of your mistakes as an entrepreneur?
Perhaps not having been selective enough when it came to people in the past. The quality of Startup consulting depends on the level of experience of the startup consultant. And I would not trust a startup consultant that didn’t fail a startup even once. But mistakes are part of the learning curve so it was good to learn and move on.
Q: What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
Oxfordshire has a high concentration of science parks, innovation hubs, educational organisations, venture capital firms, and top-tier talent. It’s the perfect ecosystem with lavish resources to be an entrepreneur in. Perhaps an airport or a high-speed link to Heathrow would be useful, though.
Q: If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship information or resources in Oxfordshire, where would you send them?
Definitely to the Oxford Launchpad at Said Business School.
Q: Any last words of advice?
When someone tells you something can't be done it's more a reflection of their limitations than an assessment of your abilities.