AOD Grad School presents Sri Lanka’s first Startup School for Creatives

A pathway to launch, innovate, incubate, create leadership for organizations and create change in industries, all whilst graduating with a MA in Design Management and Entrepreneurship. Startup school will be the catalyst to build the 'reset generation' of entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs that will lead change.

AOD Graduate School was well timed in its launch as the world steps into a new dynamic in the 'new normal' which requires a different type of talent, one where design takes the lead, creative problem solving skills are imperative and entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs thrive. The partnership with world renowned and industry recognized De Montfort University coupled with AOD’s strong network of entrepreneurs, funding bodies, and international experts provides a unique exposure to students, which cannot be matched anywhere else in the country. As the pioneers in design education, driven by the vision of creating impact through design and founded by one of the most recognized creative entrepreneurs, it will be the go-to school for those driven to become entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs that become the force of change and transformation in the corporate world.

The AOD Graduate School’s (AOD GS) Startup School will provide a well-rounded holistic exposure to future entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. At the end of the 2 year program, students will not only exit with a MA qualification but also be equipped with the correct balance of knowledge, skills, attitudes and networks to be a successful entrepreneur or intrapreneur. The ultimate purpose of the  program is not only to enable talent to enter the broad spectrum of employment opportunities available within the global marketplace but also to be a part of the momentum driving the industry forward using leading edge thinking in global management practices.

In conversation with Creative Entrepreneur, Founder and Chairperson of AOD - Dr. (Hon DCL) Linda Speldewinde shares her view on building an entrepreneurial ecosystem to nurture future creative leaders of Sri Lanka that can take the island to new heights.

Q1: We see a lot of masters and other short term programs. What is this start up school and what is its mission?

AOD has a legacy of successful design entrepreneurs and leadership for organizations that have really created impact. I noticed that there is so much synergy that we can offer to mentor such prospective talent who are going to create and transform many industries. There's so much impact and transformation we can create as a nation by mentoring this talent in the right way. The world has changed dramatically and how we respond to it and more so succeed in it has to take a new look. It’s not enough to have an academic qualification which looks good on paper unless it is coupled with hands-on skills and ability to practically apply it and create some tangible, value adding impact to industry or society. Startup school has a mission to create a cohort for the industry who will use design management and entrepreneurship for growth and transformation

Building entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs is not an easy task. It differs from person to person and there is no textbook formula for success. What it takes to become a successful entrepreneur has a lot to do with building the right mind set, understanding each individual’s characteristics and grooming them to leverage their strengths as their tools to succeed.  There is no shortcut to it, and short term startup training is not sufficient.

The startup school which is part of AOD graduate school aims to address this gap. It is a long term effort to build the next generation of creative entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs. While offering a 2 year part time MA in Design Management and Entrepreneurship which will provide a solid base it is complemented by the required mentorship, additional skills and exposure by creating an environment that helps them to dream, create, innovate, launch and very importantly sustain.

Q2. What does the De Montfort University program offer to build this future entrepreneur AOD envisions?

De Montfort University was identified as the best strategic partner for AOD in its venture into Masters Qualifications because we share many common values and principles in our approach to design education, the importance given to industry alignment and practical skill development being at its core. DMU has also been named as one of the 150 best young universities in the world by the influential Times Higher Education magazine.

AOD has always looked to provide the design talent needs and always been tuned in to global trends and changing requirements while providing holistic experience for which is what has made the AOD designer, one of a kind and will carry this ethos to the Graduate School too.

Similarly De Montfort University curriculum is also constantly attune to world demands and is frequently updated to ensure the talent produced is up-to-date and aligned to what the world demands.

We are in an era where it’s about lifelong learning. Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs can never be done ‘learning’ and as educators and mentors it is important to provide the correct formula and eco system that would help to develop this 'entrepreneurial mindset' and synergy  

Q3: What kind of support and exposure do students get to actually build businesses at start up school? 

We are focused on building all rounders! At AOD, we have always created an ecosystem which helps our students to be nurtured to achieve their goals. With startup school, we take this to a new level of mentorship that would be quite an engaging learning experience. The environment we create with industry, government and global is going to be the pathway for the students to find their synergy to launch their ideas. They will get a structured program of knowledge through the recognized DMU MA and also get mentorship and training through the startup school’s incubation activities and events. Those who join, not only join the AOD grad school but gain access to the entire ecosystem it belongs to which is housed at Colombo Innovation Tower with a strong network of industry links, global experts, funding bodies and more.  It is a holistic support system to actually build and grow businesses that are sustainable.

Q4. As a leading entrepreneur what do you feel is very much required and demanded by the industry from future Creative Entrepreneurs and Design management strategists? 

We see so many new startups spring up, which is great! New ideas and bold leaders who will dive in and explore and take action is exactly what is needed. However, an idea alone or successfully creating hype and having a few successful sales is not sustainable and is not true entrepreneurship. The most critical gap I see is the lack of creative entrepreneurs that can sustain.

While it is important to encourage these dreamers and doers they need to be backed by the right eco-system for them to succeed. An environment that provides the right skills, network, attitude and especially an entrepreneurial mindset is what is missing and this startup school aims to fulfill this gap. The same goes for building successful intrapreneurs who can think differently and take the companies and departments they work for on to its next phase.

Q5. To whom is this most suitable for? 

It is a program that is open to a wide range of doers. It is not only for designers but also for those in the corporate world or has started their own companies. We are looking for impact makers who see beyond a 2 year MA program and want to see real growth in them and in their business at the end of this period. It is for future creative leaders that have big ideas and want to make it a reality, business strategists and management decision makers who want to change how businesses operate – the driven student, the global shaper.

This program is not only for designers. It's for anyone with a vision to build businesses with entrepreneurship and transform businesses with leadership. This will be the place where you might meet your next business partner, investor, and coworker. Startup school will provide its platforms and support to achieve these global shaping ideas. It's suitable for this kind of caliber student who has such visions.

Q6. What is the vision you see for these creative leaders that are going to graduate from AOD Grad School? 

I see this as a pathway, a journey towards becoming true creative entrepreneurs the world requires now whether it be starting up their own business with a sustainable model, scaling their businesses or driving the right kind of change in the organizations they work for. Irreplaceable talents that will inspire others, deliver tangible results and be geared with the right knowledge and skills to face entrepreneurial challenges.