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Monday, 10 January, 2000, 18:01 GMT
E-business sense 'essential life skill'

wotnot grab Early success story: Student union e-mail newsletters


Dot commerce has gone into the prospectus at another UK university, which sees it as an essential modern life skill.

University College London's new Digital Business subsidiary course is intended to equip students to set up their own businesses in the electronic age, as well as to cope in a world of short contracts and shifting career patterns.


Lots of people are employed as contractors and work for themselves, and this is bound to increase."
Prof Philip Treleaven
Those on the course have to produce a business plan, set up an accounting system and establish an internet site - a whole modern business.

Outside experts lecture on various aspects such as use of the internet, business law, and accounting.

With the new course comes an e-business 'incubation unit' at UCL that has already hatched one successful scheme: wotnot.net.

This is a student union information service, using e-mail instead of the far more costly traditional union newsletters.

Life skills

It was established by a 24-year-old graduate in Spanish, Damian Dutton, who took a pilot version of the new e-business course last year.

wotnot.net is estimated to be worth 24m - although that is in a field where valuing companies is a rather speculative science.

The course was the idea of Professor Philip Treleaven, who jokes that 24p might be more accurate. But given the high values put on some internet-related companies that do little and have never made a penny, wotnot.net does at least have a product.

Prof Treleaven says there might well be other success stories already that he would not necessarily know of. But realistically he expects only a few of those who have been through the course each year to start successful enterprises.

What it is more about, as he sees it, is giving people what are now "essential life skills".

"We think that our students - and also our staff - should see entrepreneurship as a career opportunity.

Out on your own

"But if you look around, lots of people are employed as contractors and work for themselves and this is bound to increase.

"The biggest hurdle for people is you go through life, you get to 45 or so and all of a sudden you are out of a job, and you are used to having a whole infrastructure around you.

"Now, more and more people are going to be working for themselves and they need to know a few of the basics and that's why we think it's important for them to know about how to start a business."

There is also "the big picture", he says, citing Stanford University in the United States as a particularly forward-looking institution in this respect.

"Trying to commercialise your research is really just the next stage. There's UCL, Cambridge, Imperial - if we don't do it, who is going to do it? We should be the ones who should be driving this forward.

"It has had a very invigorating effect on the place."

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See also:
06 Jan 00 |  Business
Schoolboy set for internet fortune
10 Jan 00 |  Business
Internet 'to transform finance'
29 Nov 99 |  Business
E-business: opportunity or peril?

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