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2 July, 2015 - 16:38 By Tony Quested

Cambridge angel Coutu hands in her wings

Entrepreneur and technology influencer Sherry Coutu

Global entrepreneur and technology influencer Sherry Coutu has handed in her wings at the Cambridge Angels investment group.

She is standing down at the end of this summer to do what she does best – scale-up another exciting venture.

Coutu, a long-term judge in the Business Weekly Awards, told me: “I'm putting all the money I would usually invest in startups towards Founders4Schools – a charity piloted in Cambridge that is now nationwide.”

She has also scaled the incredibly successful Silicon Valley Comes2Cambridge and UK ventures, which has encouraged collaboration between tech companies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Business Weekly understands that Coutu may be recruited to David Cameron’s team of technology ambassadors. She has excellent links with Downing Street, which has hosted SVC2UK events to foster closer links between Anglo-American entrepreneurs and startups.

This newspaper recently highlighted the burgeoning success of the Founders4Schools initiative that Coutu has so expertly nurtured.

Founders of business in the Cambridge technology cluster and the Greater Cambridge and Peterborough hinterland are driving entrepreneurship down to primary school level through the initiative started by Coutu.

Founders4Schools enables teachers – mainly at secondary schools but also at primary level on request – to arrange for founders of successful, growing businesses to visit their schools and inspire their students.

Most importantly, business leaders that are part of the Founders4Schools venture, are able to advise youngsters from a position of unprecedented strength.
They spearhead companies that are scaling up internationally at an impressive rate – one of Coutu’s great passions.

Since she founded the venture in 2011, Coutu has attracted 327 business leaders locally to go into Cambridgeshire schools to evangelise entrepreneurship. Nationally some 8,600 successful business leaders are involved.

The cumulative turnover of the Cambridgeshire businesses involved is almost $8.54 billion (£5.786bn). And the average growth of their companies is 20.78 per cent, Coutu tells me. She says: “This is scale-ups, not startups, which is a very important factor for our economy, as you know.

“It is fantastic that so many business founders want to pass on their experiences to young students to inspire them to follow an entrepreneurial path.”

At high-impact events, business founders speak about:-
• What they studied when they were in secondary school
• What motivated them to set up their businesses
• Why they recommend entrepreneurship as a leading career choice for any person keen to have a positive impact on the world.

Students also hear about real-life applications from Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects – making a critical link to how learning STEM directly relates to growing and scaling successful enterprises. Founders4Schools is a free service for teachers across the UK.

Founders4Schools uses technology to make it easier and more time efficient for teachers to arrange events at their schools via the Founders4Schoools website. Teachers can arrange their own events through the service.

Stemming from Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, the Founders4Schools programme champions entrepreneurship and seeks to encourage school-aged children to attain more by considering entrepreneurship as a viable career choice.

Pilot programmes run in 2011-2 reached over 2,450 students and measured results. Some 96 per cent of students felt inspired by the speakers and debate with 94.6 per cent saying they would be interested in attending a similar event in future.

Coutu says that 54 per cent of students want to find out more about business planning or technology skills after one of our events, compared with a national average of only 24 per cent of students who hope to study STEM.

High profile partners are Linkedin, DueDil and Postcode Anywhere and Founders4Schools has an impressive roll of advisers.

They include Ariel Eckstien, managing director of LinkedIn EMEA; Nick Heller of Google; David Rowan, editor at WIRED magazine (UK); Martha Lane-Fox – cross bench peer at the House of Lords; Michael Acton Smith, CEO of Mind Candy and creator of Moshi Monsters; and Robert Sansom, a Cambridge angel and chairman of Business Weekly Awards winner CCS.

• Entrepreneurs can join the initiative and teachers tap into the resource at https://www.founders4schools.org.uk
 

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