They Call Me Mr. Start Up

“Well, it’s not so bad! I think I’m even going to have time to read a couple of novels along the way.” These are exactly the thoughts I shared enthusiastically with my friends back home when I received the course schedule a few days before kick-off.

Then the first week hit, leaving me with only a few hours of sleep and a whole lot of networking and career workshops.

A bit of wishful thinking and I figured that with all the activity associated to the beginning of the degree, things would settle down very soon. The interesting part is, you can choose to have it pretty laid back (relatively) at INSEAD! But is this what you want? What your heart truly desires? To have a laid back year at INSEAD? You can launch your professional or personal life in any direction you wish! You can choose from a plethora of social or professional activities, workshops, or sports and outdoor clubs, without mentioning anything about the low cost flights all over Europe or Southeast Asia.

It is in those spirits that I didn’t hesitate to join an intensive 48-hour Entrepreneurial Startup Bootcamp that was offered by a finance angel. My heart quickly took over, and decided for me: I’m not here to have a relaxing year off work.

Bring on the challenges, workshops and never-before-seen activities!

With 34 other MBA candidates, the weekend was launched Friday night at 7pm where we touched base with dynamic duo consisting of angel Charlie Mason, bootcamp director, and start-up artist INSEAD alum Alexander Argyros. We set off to get acquainted with the three crucial start-up ‘P’s: People, Proposition, and Pitch. Within 4 hours, 35 ideas were proposed by participants and we got in teams of two to four with an idea to cherish and pamper over the next 44 hours. Fully aware the end of the weekend culminated with pitching the proposition to seasoned professionals of the startup sector, I wondered how we were to come up with a decent presentation.

 

Finance angel Charlie Mason in rapid-fire mode.
Finance angel Charlie Mason in rapid-fire mode.

Starting Saturday at 9am sharp, we quickly got hands-on training on how to target a problem and transform it into a market opportunity. Through an ongoing iterative process, we developed a plan to acquire clients as well as develop the financial needs and requirements of the venture.

The most crucial aspect I realised, was the importance of teammates all completing one another through the entire process.

You close the books and go home in the middle of the night, to arrive once more, at 9am sharp on Sunday.

Masterplan!

One of the many appeals of the start-up world is the paramount importance of presenting to external parties to obtain funding. This is exactly what the third day focused on: How to pitch your startup venture to investors. How to capture an audience in only a few minutes, and keep your public hungry for more.

By the end of the weekend, the 10 teams proposed their idea to a panel of three, and five semi-finalist teams were shortlisted to present in a more detailed fashion. In the second round, a winning team earned the top spot, to close an intense weekend of learning and building new ideas and network.

Coming out of the fruitful weekend, I was totally exhausted, and took a few days to reflect on what I had gained through these 48 hours. Many people went into the workshop in order to develop an already existing idea, and to learn how to enhance their proposition. Others went out of curiosity, and in order to learn more about a fascinating sector. I was part of the latter group. After all, 53% of INSEAD alum go on to be entrepreneurs at one point or another during their professional careers. Before this weekend, I had always been afraid of entertaining a startup idea as I didn’t know how to develop it. I was scared that I wouldn’t know what to do with it, and that the opportunity would be ‘wasted’. Well not anymore! The bootcamp also convinced me an idea is only the beginning to starting one’s own company. It’s all about the right people coming together and completing one another, in order to build a project that goes in the same direction to stand the test of time.

Most of all: go out there and have fun!