Uncertain times bring opportunity. A survey by Goldman Sachs has revealed that the share of respondents starting a new business in recent months has risen sharply, while the Centre for Entrepreneurs in the UK revealed a 47% increase in new business creation in the summer.
So it’s hardly surprising that ambitious young professionals try to make their own luck when opportunities are thin on the ground. It’s well established that aspiring MBA students no longer join programmes solely to climb the ladder within the corporate world, but increasingly to either explore alternative career options or become their own bosses. Business schools have been steadily feeding entrepreneurial support into their curriculums for a number of years. Specialist modules on start-up creation, developing incubators, establishing support networks with entrepreneurial alumni and engaging with potential investors have all become commonplace in providing students with a solid launchpad for their ambitions.
Some institutions go further than others. Keen to establish entrepreneurial connections for students beyond the classroom, Germany’s ESMT Business School shares ownership of a co-working facility and innovation hub in Berlin. Made available to all students both during and after their studies, the hub provides links with incubators and venture capitalists across the city. And while The Wharton School is taking courses in entrepreneurship and innovation to the next level with a Venture Lab as part of an ambitious seven-storey entrepreneurship center, Tangen Hall, the incubator at France’s emlyon business school has been around for nearly 40 years, creating over 1,300 new businesses and directly creating over 12,000 iobs in the process.
MIM GRADUATES: A HIGHLY ENTREPRENEURIAL GROUP
However despite the wealth of support available, launching a venture still brings significant risk. Many start-ups barely make it out of the starting blocks and, for those that do take off, the financing, workload and know-how required to keep them afloat, let alone grow them, can prove to be too much for many founders to handle.
For MBA graduates, with professional reputations to maintain as well as the more practical responsibilities such as mortgages to pay and families to look after, the risks involved are sometimes insurmountable. Perhaps that is why Masters in Management (MiM) graduates are emerging as the forerunners of the start-up scene.
Interviews with alumni and panels with career services directors at the CentreCourt Specialized Masters Festival last month underlined the exciting professional opportunities for MiM students, whether with the leading consulting firms, banks, tech giants and other global Fortune 500 companies. But this generation graduating from a business Masters in their early twenties are also highly entrepreneurial in their outlook. There’s an abundance of reasons why; at this early stage in their career MiM students and alumni have little to lose when launching their ideas into the world, no professional reputation or status to maintain and, for most, little to no financial responsibilities that dictate the need for immediate financial returns.
MEET THE MIM ENTREPRENEURS
Their energy and optimism translates into thinking broadly about the ventures they want to pursue. On the MiM this open mindset has already helped push boundaries in other areas, for example paving the way for greater gender parity in the classroom, and welcoming aspiring entrepreneurs like Mauritania-born Khdejia Sidi Boubacar. A born self-starter who taught herself English from watching TV, she worked to become the first Mauritanian woman to be awarded the Chevening Scholarship, and used this to travel to the UK, to study the MiM programme at Durham University Business School. The programme enabled her to launch Raiona, a business match-making service which brings companies big and small together to tackle common business problems.
Not all MiM entrepreneurs start out with a desire to launch their own ventures. Sarah Colburn had originally struck out on the path to a career in financial services before the MiM programme at UVA McIntyre caused her to reconsider her options. Today she is the founder of boutique paint company Backdrop – a wildly different career to the one she had planned, and certainly more colourful.
For Paula Mora, with a BA in International Relations under her belt from Florida International University, she originally planned to embark on the MiM programme at Spain’s IE Business School to build the skills to advance her career within The World Bank. However her studies, plus access to the School’s start-up incubator opened her eyes to other possibilities. Today she heads-up Symba – a start-up dedicated to boosting diversity in the workplace through internships, bootcamps and ambassador programmes. “The opportunity to develop my start-up through IE’s Venture Day, Entrepreneurship courses, and countless mentors proved to be invaluable,” she says.
‘MY EDUCATION NOT ONLY GAVE ME THE TECHNICAL SKILLS BUT ALSO THE CONFIDENCE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR’
Sarah and Paula are not alone in having their career plans radically altered by their MiM experience. Hailey Brook McFadden had recently decided against a career in Law when she embarked on the MiM at Wake Forest University, and joined the programme to explore her options. Her studies proved so effective in building business know-how that she launched her own digital marketing platform immediately after graduation, and at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Being open to a younger, less professionally established applicant, the MiM typically welcomes students from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. With a BSc in Civil Engineering from UT Austin, Jason Burchard could not have seen himself launching a business management tool specifically designed for musicians, podcasters YouTubers and other performers, but a trip across the ocean to join the MiM programme at the London School of Economics’ Department of Management enabled him to explore his options, and emboldened him to take the plunge.
Similarly, gaining access to Berlin’s vibrant start-up ecosystem provided the impetus for ESMT MiM alumnus Malte Lorenz to rethink his career path. Since beginning his studies in 2015, he’s launched two successful social ventures. “Not only has it given me the necessary technical tools, but also the confidence to become an entrepreneur,” he says.
‘WE HAVE MANAGED TO MAKE A CAREER OUT OF OUR PASSION’
This characteristic openness on MiM programmes has also enabled young professionals to get to grips with a variety of niche skills in emerging industries, which is also helping to boost start-up success. For example, Robin du Fayet used the entrepreneurially focused MiM programme at France’s NEOMA business school to access the school’s start-up incubator and gain a foothold in the online gaming industry. Together with co-founder Thomas Bourbon he launched BetOnYou – a platform which allows gamers to profit from the time they spend online. In under a year, Robin was able to raise €1.25million in funds to grow the company. Today it has a top 10 app and 250,000 users across five different countries. “Thanks to our entrepreneurial experience, we have managed to make a career out of our passion,” explains Robin.
Returning to the early makers of emlyon business school, alumnus Thomas Rebaud has harnessed the possibilities of AI to launch Meero – a service enabling image creators to enhance their revenue by identifying companies that have recurring visual content needs. And, in Belgium, MiM alumnus Dieter De Mesmaeker has used the skills gained at Vlerick Business School to create DataCamp – a start-up designed to democratise data science education. His company provides greater access to and training in coding tools like Python, for all.
This passion for giving back, and championing social causes is commonly held amongst entrepreneurial MiM graduates, reflecting the current demand from many for their studies to be tailored to help tackle global challenges. MiM entrepreneurs have a knack for launching ventures that not only provide profit, but social betterment. At Imperial College Business School, a chance meeting on the MSc Management brought co-founders Misha Patel and Anusha Mahtani together to create the Zola Collective – a platform which enables small-scale African businesses to access a global marketplace. The duo have used the platform’s success to further build ethical supply chains which that employ female farmers, preserve biodiversity and maintain a low carbon footprint. “The biggest lesson for me was understanding the Triple Bottom Line theory”, explains Micha, “and how business should incorporate a measure of their success by understanding their impact on the planet.”
SUPPORT FOR ENTREPRENEURS FROM FINANCIAL & STRATEGIC ADVICE TO WORK SPACE
Leo Ng was pursuing a career in finance before starting the MiM at London Business School, and the exposure to the tech industry and entrepreneurship changed his perspectives and his career goals. With fellow LBS co-founders they have launched Treeapp, a mobile app that has already enabled over 20,000 users around the world to plant trees for free. With hindsight the real value of the MiM for Leo lies in the change of change in mindset and skillset, which he says subtly develops over time within the school environment.
Another MiM alumnus helping organisations minimise environmental impact is Shubham Lakham, whose eco-friendly start-up Bredlak is revolutionising eco-friendly recycling at an industry level. He credits his MiM, earned at EDHEC business school in France for enabling him to turn a profit in his first year. “EDHEC played a pivotal role, almost central to the formation of my company. From receiving invaluable financial and strategic advice to providing a work space at the EDHEC incubator.” Four years in, and Bredlak is going from strength to strength. Shubham hopes the company’s continued growth will help to transform society for the better.
Transforming society is also high on MiM entrepreneur Tony Martens’ to-do list. Whilst having entrepreneurs for parents may have meant pursuing a career in entrepreneurship was a no-brainer, for him the time spent at Nyenrode Business University in Amsterdam was vital in developing his capabilities. “Throughout my education the professors tried to stimulate creative thinking and focus on finding solutions for multiple problems. When you combine the two, you automatically end up with the perfect foundation for an entrepreneur,” he says. His start-up Plantible is on track to revolutionise food sustainability, and even help tackle climate change.
‘ONCE EXPOSED TO THE BENEFITS OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP, IT’S TOUGH NOT TO BECOME ADDICTED’
For Usman Chaudury, the MiM programme helped him to follow in his family’s footsteps and become his own boss. “Entrepreneurship was always something that I was surrounded by. Most of my family in the states consists of business owners, and so it became familiar long before it became my goal,” he says. He chose to join the Master of Management programme at Duke Fuqua, and has no regrets. “Once you are exposed to the benefits of entrepreneurship it’s tough to not become addicted to it.”
Another advantage of the younger MiM generation of entrepreneurs is their ability to see beyond boundaries and adapt to the rapidly changing world around them. Meghdut Roy Chowdhury began his foray into the world of entrepreneurship at the age of 19, and used his studies at HEC Paris business school to enhance his business portfolio. Today he is the founder of nine initiatives ranging from a student education consultancy, to a live music venue in his home town of Kolkata. Speaking on the value of his MiM studies he says, “it helped me broaden my vision of what is possible. I have become fearless as an entrepreneur and I take more calculated risks now than ever before.”
His sense of fearlessness is shared by Bhavesh Agrawal, who had launched two companies before completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Delhi and was well on his way to a third. Despite early success, Bhavesh felt unfulfilled and so decided to take a risk by enrolling to join to first ever cohort of the MiM programme at INSEAD. Though only two months into the programme Bhavesh has no regrets, and plenty of ideas for future ventures, inspired by his globally and professionally diverse classmates.
And finally there are those that have learned to pivot in the face of a global health crisis. Arohi Jain, who started a rock band during high school continued to pursue her entrepreneurial ambitions through university. After her first startup shut down she realised that she needed to hone her business skills and joined the Master of Management program (MM) at Michigan Ross. A year ago she developed a smart mask that provides high comfort and high protection to people living in polluted air environments. She is now servicing the Covid market, and has already blown past initial funding goals on Kickstarter.
From saving lives and planting trees to boosting diversity and making the world more colourful, this generation of MiM entrepreneurs are imaginative and purposeful, and show that combining newly acquired business skills with following your passion can be the best career move of all.
The MiM Entrepreneurs Of 2020
|MIM Student||School||Hometown||Undergrad Program||Venture|
|Bhavesh Agrawal||INSEAD||New Delhi, India||University of Delhi||Vertex Management|
|Khdeija Sidi Boubacar||Durham University Business School||Nouakchott, Mauritania||University of Nouakchott||Company match service|
|Jason Burchard||London School of Economics||Nashville, Tennessee||University of Texas at Austin||RootNote|
|Usman Chaudry||Duke Fuqua||Annapolis, Maryland||Catholic University of America||Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise|
|Meghdut Roy Chowdhury||HEC Paris||Kolkata, India||Techno India Saltlake||Topcat CCU|
|Sarah Colburn||UVA McIntire||Larchmont, NY||Denison University||Backdrop|
|Robin Du Fayet||NEOMA Business School||Paris, France||Lycée Carnot||BetOnYou|
|Arohi Jain||University of Michigan’s Ross School of Busines||Delhi, India||Shiv Nadar University||BreezeBubble|
|Shubham Lakra||EDHEC Business School||India||Delhi University||Bredlak|
|Malte Lorenz||ESMT Berlin||Hanover, Germany||FHDW Hannover||Hungry Ventures|
|Tony Martens||Nyenrode Business University||Amsterdam, The Netherlands||Nyenrode Business School||Plantible Foods|
|Hailey Brooke McFadden||Wake Forest University Business School||Holly Springs, NC||Wake Forest University||Power Move Marketing|
|Paula Mora||IE Business School||Miami, FL||Florida International University||Symba|
|Leo NG||London Business School||Hong Kong||Exeter||Treeapp|
|Anusha Mahtani||Imperial College London||Dubai, UAE||University of Warwick||the The Zola Collective|
|Dieter De Mesmaeker||Vlerick Business School||Londerzeel, Belgium||KULeuven||DataCamp|
|Misha Patel||Imperial College of Business||Nairobi, Kenya||London School of Economics||The Zola Collective|
|Thomas Rebaud||Emlyon Business School||Paris, France||Emlyon Business School||Meero|
DON’T MISS: MEET THE MOST DISRUPTIVE MBA STARTUPS OF 2020