Why launching a startup after my MBA at IESE Business School?

Launching a startup is hard, but is at least as much intense and fun as studying an MBA. After two years going through the intensity of the MBA program, you’re ready to go on the next journey, the entrepreneurial one !

machine-learning

Pre-MBA / Pre-startup life

My background is in computer sciences engineering. I have been mainly working in tech before my MBA. During 7 years I have hopped from developer to software architect in different companies and different industries. I was clearly taking the career path of a IT technical expert.

During that period I realized to what extent IT is something that everyone wants but only few are the ones that are really good at it. Nowadays, coding schools are popping out because there is such a need. Also I realized that many people have startup ideas, but from all the ideas that people have, only few end up really being implemented for lots of good reasons (no time, no skills, no team, no money, …). Then I thought, but why am I not moving forward with a couple of ideas? In the end, I’m the technical guy, I should be able to build them.

I quickly realized that, in order to launch a successful startup, it takes much more than just having the technical skills. Then I realized that an MBA would be the right path for me in order to learn the skills that I was missing and get the international exposure to grow big. In particular, the IESE Business School with its MBA was clearly standing out and offering much more than many other programs for general management and entrepreneurship.

MBA-Conundrum

The MBA atmosphere

In 2015 I enrolled in the IESE Business School MBA in Barcelona for an amazing jouney. During two years I got immersed in an extremely different environment than the one I had been confronted before. Switching from developer and engineer collegues to business men with so many different backgrounds and cultures. It has been for me a transformational experience in many ways, but primarily in the frame of mind. Actually I realized that my premise of requiring technical skills to launch a startup was wrong… you actually need much more skills: business, finance, management, HR, … and actually every entrepreneur is lacking at least a couple of them. What you really need is the passion, the capacity to learn fast and more importantly, to gather the right people around you.

During the second year of the MBA I saw a lot of different companies coming on campus to recruit. They all seemed really nice with very competitive salaries and interesting jobs … but also very intense recruitement processes because lots of students want those jobs. At some point I really questioned myself about the path I was taking. Is it really reasonable to try the startup path after an MBA while so many great offers will probably never seem so close? Yes clearly, it takes a lot of motivation not to apply and stay aligned with your objective when you have all this FOMO around.

startup-creation

I felt that there was something missing in all those jobs. It felt like I would have to report to other people, have a determined career path and so many constraints I didn’t want to go for right away. Moreover, one of my main motivation is to have ownership on the impact that I have on people, profit and planet… how can I have ownership if my boss and my boss’s boss are actually telling me that this is what I should do. How can I stay creative and decide myself the path to take?

Something very big is happening in the world this decade, so many things are changing very fast. When you’re stuck in a job, you lose the agility to react to those changes and adapt. I feel that so many big companies are continuing business as usual because it’s the only thing they know… and the few employees that want to instill a change often struggle to get their voice to the decision power. I also feel that coming from a top business school, we also have the responsibility to give back what have receive in the form of impact, this is why launching a startup felt right for me at this moment.

Stylicist-logo

Launching my startup: Stylicist S.L.

So my co-founder, Manish Jindal, and me just spent the summer working hard on the first release of our product. Stylicist was registered to the tax authorities a few weeks ago and we’re now a few days before the launch of our beta-release. Don’t hesitate to join asap if you want to follow us.

We believe that the fashion industry is stuck in a state of mind of consumption. So much marketing is spent on making you buy more and more… when does it stops? We feel that the system is broken. At every corner you hear about climate change, pollution and green initiative. Meanwhile in fashion, we’re still stuck in the good old way of doing stuff: purchase – use – dispose! We all know that the « use » part is often not to the whole capacity of usage of the piece of fashion.

Stylicist-app

Therefor we decided to implement the circular economy in this value chain and explore where we could improve. It felt immediately right to extend the lifetime of a piece of clothing, but also to guarantee it’s disposal in the right way. Thus we decided to assist the final user in the management of their wardrobe in order to optimize and make the best use of their closet during the complete lifetime of the items.

Now we’re all set and launching soon !! Follow us to know more about Stylicist:

Social media and the raise of extremism

Wait! What? Extremism and social media in the same sentence seems a bit strange right? Indeed, social media tends to refer to freedom of speech and openness; Extremism on the opposite refer to racism or closed mind, …

Well yes, I see a correlation between the rise of social media and the rise of extremism and I will tell you why! Let me explain you.

The problem of suggestion algorithms

In the old times, when you used to read the newspaper to get informed, or even when you used to watch TV you were bombarded with a lot of information. Some of which was interesting to you, some not. But at least you were aware of what happened in the world in a kind of generic way. Even if you were more interested in the results of the last football championship than in the presidential elections, you could not avoid reading the cover page of the newspaper with the face of your new president. You had still the freedom to chose which TV channel or which newspaper to buy in function of your affinities, but in general you tended to be a little bit informed in an objective way.

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La force du réseau familial

Sens de la famille

J’ai la chance d’avoir grandi dans une grande famille. Mais que veux vraiment dire ce mot « famille » ? Oui, Je suis né dans une famille, avec deux parents, et plusieurs frères et soeurs. Mais est-ce que c’est tout? Est-ce que la famille se résume à ça? En tout cas, la famille est une des seules chose que j’ai reçu dès ma naissance et que j’aurais toujours. Voici donc une petite réflexion sur ma vision de la famille.

La famille c’est avant tout mes frères et soeurs avec qui j’ai grandi et qui m’ont suivi tout au long de ces années. Comme petit dernier ils m’ont inspirés, guidés, énervés, mais j’ai également des souvenirs extra avec eux. C’est donc aussi avec eux que j’ai le lien le plus proche.

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Un soutien

C’est ensuite mes oncles et tantes qui m’ont soutenus, encouragés, conseillés. Je les ai vu quelques fois par an pour certains, moins souvent pour d’autres, mais ils ont toujours été là en toile de fond et savaient globalement ce que je devenais. En cas de besoin je savais que je pouvais toujours sonner à leur porte pour un conseil.

Puis, environ au même niveau, se situe le cercle des cousins qu’on voit 2 fois par an pour certains, plus pour d’autres en fonction des affinités. On passe des bons moments ensemble, on partage et on échange. Souvent on se rapproche plus des cousins de la même tranche d’âge quand on est jeune, mais avec les années on tisse aussi des liens avec les plus jeunes et les plus âgés.

Un réseau

Un peu plus loin il y a la famille plus large qu’on ne connaît pas très bien. Souvent on entend parler de « cousins » car on nous demande si on connaît pas untel parce qu’il porte le même nom que nous… mais on ne voit pas qui c’est. Pourtant ça nous permet de les suivre de loin et de se dire qu’on a quand même une famille pleine de personnalités différentes avec des gens qui font plein de trucs chouettes et qu’on mériterait à mieux connaître.

On ne peut pas toujours connaître tous les liens familiaux qui nous unissent et les arbres généalogiques nous perdent rapidement. Pourtant il y a quelque chose qui nous rassemble car nous partageons d’une certaine manière un passé commun. Et c’est ça qui nous amène à la force d’une famille au sens large.

Maintenir le lien

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Aujourd’hui j’ai choisi de ne plus laisser les choses au hasard. Nous sommes tous plein de ressources, d’idées et de potentiel. Et nous avons quelque chose de fort qui nous relie, certes intangible, ce sont les valeurs que nous ont partagés nos ancêtres communs.

Je veux à leur image pouvoir être un maillon de la chaine. Même si nous sommes dans un monde complexe et que seul on se sent parfois un peu démuni. Je pense que c’est en famille que nous pouvons faire quelque chose.

Un réseau familial

Je suis convaincu que nous gagnons à mieux nous connaître et à plus interagir ensemble. Savoir ce que nos cousins font et pouvoir puiser dans les innombrables talents que la famille regroupe est une aubaine. C’est en partageant nos expériences de vie que cela est possible.

La famille n’est pas seulement un groupe de personnes dont on ne connait pas tout le monde mais qui portent le même nom que nous. C’est aussi un réseau de gens auquel on peut faire appel quand on a besoin. Que ce soit :

  • Pour un conseil spécifique et professionnel
  • Pour visiter une nouvelle ville / région / pays
  • Pour partager une passion

C’est en renforçant et en maintenant les relations entre générations qu’on peut tisser ces liens et y puiser des relations formidables.

Je pense donc que nous devons cultiver ces relations. Même si ce n’est pas toujours évident car le temps et la distance nous sépare, mais la technologie et internet nous rapproche ! C’est donc devenu facile d’envoyer des nouvelles de temps en temps, de se connecter sur Facebook ou LinkedIn ou de profiter d’un passage dans la région pour dire bonjour.

En ce début d’année ou ma famille grandi encore un peu avec mon fils qui vient de naître, voici un bon engagement à prendre.

Why is our democracy outdated?

I’ve always had a strong interest for public affairs, democracy, and in particular for the decision mechanisms used by our governments. I like studying history, and find the evolution through which ordinary citizens progressively got their voices heard a fascinating (and loose end) subject.

Luckily, I was born in Belgium, a democratic country, at peace since 1945. Our grandparents fought wars to defend some ideals, and thanks to their sacrifices we are now able to peacefully debate and promote our ideas. I was hence convinced that our democratic process was nearly perfect, and accepted with great enthusiasm when I got called for civic duty in May 2014 general elections.

Observing the election mechanics from the inside, I discovered an absolutely appalling voting process which completely broke my illusions. It was a total farce. I was serving in one of the “pioneer” precincts for electronic voting: to comply with Belgian law, the referendum was processed on 20+ year old machines, using magnetic tape bands, a system so rudimentary and fragile that many votes got misreported or lost due to wrong manipulations. The complexity of voting was such that countless people left the poll stations without having the certitude that their choices were being accounted for.

Furthermore, people didn’t vote for ideas, and few had a good understanding of who most closely represented their opinions. Rather, they would choose easy to remember names, or faces they recognized from TV, basically giving their voices to those politicians with the best media exposure and the most recognizable faces. That day, I understood why Belgium’s outgoing Prime Minister was invariably wearing a bow tie.

I was appalled at the complete disconnect between the electoral process and the basic notion of participative democracy, where decision makers should review ideas and promote them if a majority of their constituents feel positively about them. The lack of transparency in the voting process, and the difficulties in recognizing who defends which ideas could easily be solved simply by adopting some of today’s established technologies. I found that our politicians are expert communicators through Twitter and Facebook when it comes to spreading their ideas, but deliberately behind in their listening abilities.

I was of course aware of these shortcomings, but never realized to which point they completely distorted the democratic process. Through my civic duty experience, I came to the realization that I had the technical tools, the project management skills and above all the emotional drive to create a better solution. I want to enable every citizen to “audit” any politician’s past actions and positions. Furthermore, I want to create solutions that allow to “match” a politician’s stances with our own, simply through semantic analysis of the “big data” trail we leave behind, such as comments on news pieces or other public information. I basically want to enable the democratic process to function as it should. I am full of ideas to empower democracy 2.0, and I’m surprised of the lack of people working on that to focus their entrepreneurial energy.

Make from your travel a complete challenge

Make from your travel a complete challenge : Not only the summit, but also the way to reach it

Ce nouveau concept comment à faire de plus en plus d’adeptes. C’est le vélo-ski. Comment ça marche? Tout simplement, on attache ses skis sur le vélo et on est parti pour rouler jusqu’aux première neiges. Ensuite on change le vélo contre les skis (on ne prend quand même pas le vélo sur le dos) et on est parti pour faire sa petite promenade en direction de son objectif.

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Getting to FOSDEM 2014

Begin february I went to the annually biggest european conference on Free Software in Brussels, the FOSDEM. It was the opportunity to get in touch with the developper’s world and to listen to some conferences presenting libraries or tools that I may use in my project.

Since I’m developping a python web application I wanted to go to the javascript and python rooms to listen to their talks. I was surprised to see how small those rooms were. The rooms were completely full and it was almost impossible to get into it. I had to abandon the idea to listen to javascript talks. I was feeling frustrated because lots of javascript talks sounds very interesing. Fortunately the talks will be available on the web later.

In the python room I could listen to some interesting talks. Here is a little overview of the subjects :

Eve Framework

The Eve framework is a new web application framework that provides a quick tool to develop rest API. Powered by Flask, MongoDB, Redis and good intentions Eve allows to effortlessly build and deploy highly customizable, fully featured RESTful Web Services. You can also find more information on their blog.

Debugging

  • Sentry is a tool to manage the errors generated by a production application. When you application run into an exception you will get notified on sentry and it will generate a ticket. Sentry can also be connecter to any task management system like Jira.
  • Pyrasite is a module that allows you to execute code in your application during its execution. It is a tool for injecting code into running Python processes.
  • New Relic is a powerful tool to profile the thread of your application and determine which part of your code is the most heavily loaded anytime. The Thread Profiler is a low-impact profiling tool used to identify app bottlenecks in your production environments

Alembic

Alembic is a tool for database migration.

Python Fibers

Fibers is another implementation of eventlets. Eventlets are event-based threads that can be executed in a single process.

Databases

Couchbase is a document based database, so it is an interesting alternative for mongoDB for some specific cases.

We also got an interesting talk about how the New York Times decided to setup Cassandra in their software architecture.

But the last talk I heard was about mongoDB and gave some tips to switch from SQL to NoSQL : How mongodb can tackle most of your problems.