I've always wanted my company to have a global perspective and I knew that INSEAD would lay the right foundation for me.
Why did you decide to do an MBA?
When I decided to do an MBA, I had been in the tech industry for a long time - first as a designer, then a programmer, then as a product manager. I had always wanted to start my own business but I felt that I needed a more holistic view of business before I was ready. I felt that an MBA would be a great way to fill in the gaps and make sure that I had access to experts as I shaped the thesis of my company.
Why INSEAD amongst all business schools in the world?
I chose INSEAD for its diversity, academic reputation, network, and international locations. I've always wanted my company to have a global perspective and I knew that INSEAD would lay the right foundation for me. Today, although we are still small, we are growing and StyleSage is a global company with clients on four continents, and head offices in New York and Madrid.
Did INSEAD meet your expectations?
I always knew I would be surrounded people smarter than me and that I would be challenged - and that part was definitely true. But I was also surprised by some unexpected things. For example, I had previously done a two-year masters programme where the classes were spaced out far from one another and where four classes per semester was considered a full course load.
At INSEAD, however, the semesters are condensed into two-month sprints and it was normal to take six to eight classes per semester. On top of that, there were so many activities to take advantage of, and so many places to travel to thanks to its international locations in Europe and Asia, I thought I would never sleep again. However, this fast pace turned out to be the perfect preparation for an entrepreneurial journey because I still haven't had much sleep since graduating a few years ago.
How has the MBA programme helped you in your start-up venture after graduation?
The first person I ever pitched my business idea to was Professor Sameer Hasija. If it weren't for his enthusiasm and encouragement, I'm not sure I would have pursued StyleSage as rigorously as I have. The late Professor Patrick Turner gave me the tools and perspectives needed to validate my idea. So many other professors, Claudia Zeisberger, Paul Kewene, Raomal Perera, to name a few, helped me with patient advice and introductions.
The INSEAD experience really created a special kind of bond and every single alumnus I have reached out to has given me valuable time, advice, and introductions to capital and business opportunities.
How has the INSEAD MBA changed your life and/or perspective?
The biggest way INSEAD has changed my life was introducing me to my co-founder and fellow classmate Robert Figiel. StyleSage literally could not have happened without him. He really is the best business partner anyone could ever hope for.
What is one of your fondest memories at INSEAD?
My fondest memory is probably when I managed to convince Professor Pierre Hillion into hosting me and seven other lucky students at his home in the French countryside to sample his famous wine collection.
What is the most important lesson you have gotten at INSEAD?
Your classmates are smarter than you so you need to learn from them. I spent the entire MBA programme pitching my business idea to classmates, and each time one of them asked a question I couldn't answer or challenged an assumption I couldn't defend, that signalled the next area I needed to work on. By the time I was done with the programme, I'd pitched StyleSage to over 60 classmates and I don't think any investors have asked questions my classmates hadn’t already.
What advice would you give to potential students looking to do an INSEAD MBA?
I would advise them to understand why they want to do an MBA and enter the programme with at least a semblance of a plan. You don't need to know exactly what you want but you need to have a hypothesis. Ten months can fly by very fast and you don't want to waste it!