Discover Your Inner Entrepreneur

Mona El Bajani

Entering INSEAD as a 16J Partner, I viewed the coming year as an endless stream of potential paths, but one avenue I didn’t expect to go down was towards the start-up world. However, one can say that at INSEAD there are a growing number of Entrepreneur-spirited individuals. Personally, this journey started during the first few weeks when my B-schooler and I received an invitation to the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, hosted by the INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship. Why not, we said, lets have a go at this.

Briefly, I can say it was one of the best academic learning experiences I have had in my life (hand in hand with MIT’s Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp – but that’s another story). With that, I was hooked – I got the Entrepreneurship "itch”, as they say. During the next 10 months, I went on to constantly test the depths of my entrepreneurial waters. I tapped into INSEAD’s resources to develop different skill sets, learn about common pitfalls, and the like. Below, I share some of the opportunities I looked at and you too can look at during your time at INSEAD, whether as a student or a partner:

1- INSEAD Entrepreneurship Club (IEC): The student-run club IEC is one of the most happening clubs at INSEAD. They host speaker series, networking events and career treks. The most impressive event was the week-long event in which IEC and INDEVOR joined forces and created the Social Impact - Entrepreneurship week.

This week was a great opportunity to dive deeper into particularities of the impact entrepreneurs are able to make. It was an eventful week – a panel discussion, a start-up pitching forum and talks from successful entrepreneurs (students and C-level professionals alike). The week ended with an entrepreneurship and social impact career forum, from which I took the opportunity to connect with a speaker and ended up interning at a multi-family wealth management office in Singapore.

2- Campus locations: According to Campass’s Startup Ecosystem Ranking 2015 report, which has insights on the world’s top start-up territories, Singapore and Paris rank in the top 20, in spots 10 and 11 respectively. In Singapore in particular, you can access Block 71 right across the street from the campus.

As per The Economist, it is “the world’s most tightly packed entrepreneurial ecosystem”, and hosts hundreds of start-ups and incubators. On the other hand in Fontainebleau, The Mews was created. Housing INSEAD’s aspiring entrepreneurs, it is a collaborative work space and a first step towards an incubator. It is also used as a space to host many of IEC’s events.

3- The People Around You: One of the benefits of being involved in the MBA experience is the student community. People come with a wealth of experience, knowledge and ambition, from all corners of the earth, namely in the case for the 16J class: 72 countries. There is a lot of networking involved with students from three batches (the one you are connected to, plus the 2 that overlap).

There will be many students who have come from the start-up scene, whether from accelerators, VCs, fundraising or start-ups. These same people might one day make great advisors too. There is also a wealth of Alumni who have built many successful and inspiring companies, of which you are connected to through the INSEAD community. Reach out to them when needed and they will surely be more than happy to help.

4- Entrepreneurs in Residence (EiR): This program connects experienced entrepreneurs and professionals with current students in a one-to-one setting. These experts are more than happy to mentor, share feedback, help refine concepts, as well as provide insights in different industries. You are given the opportunity to be involved in this scenario given that you are partnering up with a current student on a project.

5- INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC): Founded in 2000, this competition is a great chance to join INSEADers around you on a venture project. Even if you don’t come close to winning the 15,000 Euro prize, there is a good chance you would learn a lot about the different realms of entrepreneurship – be it conceptualisation or the financial aspects. It can be loads of fun too.

6- Library: The library hosts many great books that you can lend for two to three weeks at a time. These books include fascinating subjects such as Nassib Taleb’s Fooled by Randomness or even pure academic journals. The choices are endless!

7- INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship (ICE): The ICE looks to promote entrepreneurial ambitions and activities within INSEAD. They are fond of the social impact space, as one of the INSEAD values is: “Business as a force for good”. Annually in Fontainebleau they organize the INSEAD Entrepreneurship Forum, which brings together speaks and discussion panels on relevant topics for entrepreneurs.

This wraps up the top not-to-miss resources when planning to explore the Entrepreneurship life – whether you’re a partner or a student at INSEAD. Be sure to benefit from the many initiatives and resources, as they may open up doors for you in directions you might not have thought of just yet. As a last note, the odds are usually against entrepreneurs –statistically you are more likely to fail at your first venture, and first few.

The opportunities to give up will be ceaseless, but don’t let that stop you; keep your determination up, as succeeding as an entrepreneur takes hard work and persistence. Regardless of the risks, be curious, talk to diverse groups of people, see failure as an opportunity to improve, have a contingency plan (or maybe a few) and lastly, follow your heart, and your gut. Opportunities don’t happen; you create them – so go get them!