Opening Doors in Entrepreneurship

Dr Harveen Chugh (MSc Bioinformatics, 2002) is an expert in transforming ideas into successful business ventures. Currently an Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship at Warwick Business School, she specialises in teaching and coaching innovative entrepreneurs. Since graduating from Birkbeck, Harveen has established her own company providing universities with entrepreneurial expertise, won two National Enterprise Awards and held teaching posts at LSE, Imperial and Royal Holloway.

Harveen developed a strong interest in molecular biology as an undergraduate studying business and biology at Queen Mary. This passion for her subject led to a master’s in Bioinformatics at Birkbeck and later a teaching post at Imperial College, where she began her journey in entrepreneurship. “What drew me to the area is the mindset you can create by encouraging entrepreneurs, new ideas and innovation,” says Harveen. “That’s what still drives me today, there are a lot of ideas buzzing around in people’s minds. With a little bit of a nudge or guidance in the right direction, those can really go somewhere.”

Through her work at Imperial and in her current role at Warwick, Harveen has become a leader in the field of mentoring and coaching for entrepreneurship. She is also the co-founder of the Network for Coaching and Mentoring Entrepreneurs, a group of entrepreneurship educators from around the world sharing resources and developing practice. For Harveen, great coaching is about understanding the entrepreneur: “Listening really applies, because we often jump in to give advice when we’ve only heard a bit of the issue. It’s about asking the right questions and helping people to generate the answers and find them within.”

Harveen sees both challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurship in the impact of recent events: “With Covid-19, we’ve seen new opportunities in education tech and online education, fintech and payment systems, and obviously health tech with moves to online consultations. It’s forced businesses to be agile and adaptive, which is a real test.”

She also continues to be involved in entrepreneurial development activities at Birkbeck. Harveen has worked on the Pioneer programme, Birkbeck’s enterprise development initiative, as well as the Ability programme, Birkbeck’s career development support for students who are neurodiverse or have a disability. “At Birkbeck there’s such a genuine interest in building a positive and supportive student experience. What they are creating for students in terms of opportunities and entrepreneurship support really resonates with me.”

For those thinking about starting their own entrepreneurial venture, Harveen’s key advice is to explore ideas and to test your assumptions and hypotheses: “Test your idea. See if it is supported by the data. Research, read the data correctly and make a fair decision about what you need to do. It’s important to try to be objective, and if the data doesn’t support your idea, really face the feedback and be open to rethinking the idea, or even starting again with a new one.”