HEC Hosts Its First Startup Day

HEC MBAs Lavaniya Das, Arvin Nuckchady and Florent Bolzinger introduced the B-school's first startup day

HEC MBAs Lavaniya Das, Arvin Nuckchady and Florent Bolzinger introduced the B-school’s first startup day

California’s Silicon Valley may be the most widely known startup hub, but entrepreneurship fever is spreading across the Atlantic. It’s already entrenched in many top European business schools, many of which now offer classes, incubators and clubs to feed their startup-minded students. But for three MBAs at HEC Paris, these changes don’t go far enough.

The Entrepreneurship Club at HEC will host its first Startup Day on November 8.

The Entrepreneurship Club at HEC will host its first Startup Day on November 8.

Lavaniya Das, Arvin Nuckchady and Florent Bolzinger, who head up HEC’s student-led MBA Entrepreneurship Club, will host the B-school’s first ever Startup Day on November 8. The six-hour immersive experience will give their classmates and MBAs from surrounding schools a crash course in entrepreneurship without the commitment of signing up for a class or starting a company. Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and industry experts are expected to shed light on the conference’s theme: “The WRONG good ideas and the RIGHT bad ideas.” The speakers include Thibaut Mercey, co-founder of Prestodiag, a pathogen detection system; Maxime Guillaud, founder of retail website TheTops; French venture capitalist Christophe Raynaud; and digital media consultant Olivier Ezratty.

“We realized that many people have really, really good ideas, smart ideas, but they’re not successful at the end of the day because they make avoidable mistakes. On the opposite side, there are not so good ideas that are really successful,” says Nuckchady, president of HEC’s Entrepreneurship Club. He points to Le Slip Français, a manufacturer of patriotic underpants in France. The idea sounds kitsch, but HEC alum Guillaume Gibaut grabbed national attention with a viral marketing campaign and turned his underwear brand into big business. Success stories such as Gibaut’s have stoked startup interest in Paris, according to Nuckchady. “New people want to create new ideas,” he says.

This is particularly true for MBA students, according to event co-founder Das. “Many people don’t realize that MBA students have a lot of initiative and creativity, even if they don’t come from creative backgrounds. So there’s a level of individuality that needs to be expressed, and it’s something that needs to come out,” she says.

Startup Day has received a positive, if modest, response. So far, 70 students have signed up and another 30 are expected to attend from surrounding schools. The founders also invited local engineering students to participate. The intent of including non-MBAs is two-fold, according to Nuckchady: Attendees can build complementary networks and the engineers bring another perspective to entrepreneurship.

The three MBAs behind the event have founded four businesses between them. But neither Nuckchady nor Das plan to jump back into entrepreneurship immediately after graduation. Both aim to broaden their corporate experience before returning to the startup life. It’s a sentiment that many of their classmates share. Das estimates that fewer that a quarter of her classmates plan to start a business right after graduation, but she predicts that 50% would be open to it in 10 to 15 years.

“Opening one’s own company is a risk at the moment,” adds Nuckchady. “There are the MBA program fees, so students want to get the return on their investment as quickly as possible. And there’s a huge competition on startups: Everyone has good ideas, but there are not so many investors. A few MBAs are postponing opening a company to get more experience, so they can more easily get funding in the future.”

Even if MBAs aren’t willing to make the jump into entrepreneurship just yet, Nuckchady hopes Startup Day will expose them to information they can use both now and later down the road. “From the student perspective, we hope that they will learn something valuable that they can apply to their own businesses, so they can see how to use their ideas and defend them.” On Friday, the Startup Day founders will be proving their own idea. So far, they’ve got a solid pitch.

 DON’T MISS: HEC Paris Hosts MBA Olympics or IESE MBAs Tour Silicon Valley Startups


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.