One of the most valuable skills I gained at INSEAD is undoubtedly time management and prioritisation.
Gauthier Willems

Gauthier Willems

Nationality/Passport: Belgian Year of graduation: 2024 Current Role: Strategic Consultant for International Expansion

Tell us about yourself!

Ambitious and hardworking, I've developed a genuine passion for entrepreneurship. 

Growing up in a household where my parents were entrepreneurs, I've witnessed the dedication and perseverance required to build and sustain successful ventures, and it's deeply ingrained in me. 

Soon completing my Master's in Management at INSEAD, I'm eager to immerse myself in the world of business and gain invaluable experience at Bain & Company consultancy. There, I plan to leverage my entrepreneurial drive to propel forward my current project, Estate Bridge, with determination and strategic insight.

Fun facts you would like to share

Prior to attending INSEAD, my brother and I managed a window-cleaning business while pursuing our university studies. It proved to be an incredibly enriching experience, as it involved interacting with clients, getting hands-on with the work, and conquering our fears of heights and spiders along the way.

Can you tell us about why you chose to pursue the INSEAD MIM?

Three pivotal experiences shaped my decision to pursue the INSEAD MIM programme. 

Initially, upon completing a Master's in Corporate Finance in Belgium, I recognised the significance of broadening my academic horizons. I sought a programme with a global outlook that would expand my career prospects beyond the realm of finance.

During my exchange programme in the Czech Republic, I developed an interest in international settings enriched by diverse cultures. This experience reinforced the importance of global exposure and the necessity of comprehending various cultural dynamics within the business sphere. 

Moreover, my tenure in investment banking in the Netherlands proved instrumental. There, I discovered my capacity to excel and find fulfilment in an environment surrounded by exceptionally skilled and motivated individuals.

The INSEAD MIM programme encapsulates these crucial elements flawlessly. It offers international immersion, fosters a highly competitive atmosphere, and presents an array of career pathways across diverse sectors. 

To me, INSEAD represents more than just an educational institution; it serves as a gateway to exploring new professional frontiers while being immersed in a vibrant and diverse global community.

You mentioned you are pursuing an entrepreneurial venture while at INSEAD, could you tell us more?

Together with my brother, Guillaume Willems, and one of our close friends, we've launched a venture called Estate Bridge. This online marketplace aims to improve how real estate agents collaborate by fostering efficiency and transparency. 

Like many successful business ventures, Estate Bridge emerged from a significant frustration with existing platforms. One of our co-founders, Ralph Beuselinck, a prominent luxury real estate agent in Spain, personally experienced the shortcomings of current platforms, which no longer align with agents' expectations.

Estate Bridge serves as a B2B platform for real estate agents, aiming to centralise the entire real estate market onto a single platform and facilitate profitable collaborations. Agents will be able to share properties from their portfolios with other agents, addressing a critical need in the industry. This facilitates transactions where certain agencies may have specific buyer clientele but lack suitable vendors, and vice versa. Additionally, real estate developers will have the opportunity to showcase their projects on our platform, allowing multiple agents to view, sell, and earn predetermined commissions.

Initially, Estate Bridge will operate in Belgium and Spain before expanding to Portugal, Italy, France, and the UAE. This strategic expansion plan reflects our commitment to scaling our platform and meeting the diverse needs of real estate professionals across different markets.

How did you manage your time between your coursework at INSEAD and your entrepreneurial pursuits?

One of the most valuable skills I gained at INSEAD is undoubtedly time management and prioritisation. 

With a multitude of events, coursework, career opportunities, and more, the ability to discern what truly matters and focus on it becomes paramount. Learning to say no and directing my interest toward what is most valuable to me has been essential.

Prioritising my entrepreneurial venture was a carefully considered decision. While coursework is undoubtedly important, I view it more as a means to further my learning and ambitions rather than a mere measure of achievement. I strongly believe that you are here to learn for your personal endeavours, whatever they might be.

This prioritisation played a vital role, when I embarked on the Bain & Company application process. This endeavour required not just dedication but strategic planning and the ability to focus on the most impactful activities. 

Successfully securing a job offer for 2025, amidst managing coursework and my entrepreneurial pursuits, was a testament to effectively leveraging the INSEAD experience

Integral to this achievement was the support from a cohort of exceptionally talented peers, who prepared and surrounded me with the competence and encouragement necessary for the interview process. This underscores the importance of focusing on what truly matters, utilising available resources to the fullest, and the invaluable role of a supportive community.

Moreover, I've been fortunate to have my brother and co-founder, Guillaume Willems, as a reliable confidante and partner throughout this journey. Surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals, whether it's a sibling, friend, or fellow classmate, who can provide support during challenging times is invaluable advice. Recognising that time is finite, working on efficiency and being able to rely on your team are skills that can propel your undertakings.

What resources or support did INSEAD offer that helped you in developing your entrepreneurial venture?

INSEAD's alumni network is one of the most valuable resources available. Throughout my time at the institution, I have actively engaged with the Entrepreneurship-in-Residence platform, where past alumni generously offer coaching and advice to current students. This resource has proven invaluable, providing access to insights and experiences from individuals across the globe that many can only aspire to have. The genesis of Estate Bridge is significantly influenced by the expertise and knowledge shared through this platform.

Additionally, the Centre of Entrepreneurship organises the INSEAD Venture Competition (IVC) multiple times a year, allowing students to collaborate and develop business plans. Participating in the IVC has been an enriching experience, offering abundant feedback from industry experts. While the chance to win up to €35,000 is enticing, the real value lies in the judges' constructive guidance and reality check.

Did you find any particular courses or professors at INSEAD particularly helpful for your entrepreneurial aspirations?

In any class at INSEAD, you have the opportunity to gain insights that can impact your endeavours. Professor Florian Ciocan's lectures on process and operations management were particularly pertinent to our challenges at Estate Bridge. Moreover, engaging with professors more personally, such as during lunch sessions, opens doors for asking tailored and nuanced questions.

The accessibility and willingness of all professors to guide and advise students in their respective fields are truly remarkable. I vividly recall an advisory session with INSEAD’s Honour Professor Martin Roll, whose counsel provided invaluable insights for our start-up and extended far beyond. Advice from individuals you deeply respect and admire carries a weight that surpasses knowledge gained from books.

How did networking opportunities at INSEAD benefit your entrepreneurial journey?

I was pleasantly surprised by the power of the INSEAD brand in opening doors and presenting unique opportunities. 

Shortly after my admission to INSEAD, a Belgian start-up, Otamiser, approached me, seeking assistance with their international expansion. Otamiser specialises in revenue and ranking management in the hospitality industry. 

Their decision to reach out was influenced by their recognition of the global reach and influence of the INSEAD network. The collaboration has proven to be mutually beneficial, yielding positive results.

What advice would you offer to other INSEAD students who are considering pursuing their entrepreneurial ventures while studying?

It’s a simple phrase used by one of the biggest retail brands in the world: “Just Do It!”. Engaging in entrepreneurial pursuits offers a steep learning curve unlike any other. Embrace the challenge, for it is through entrepreneurship that you'll encounter some of the most valuable experiences.