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 !


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.

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 and are willing to do the CLEP test prep. 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.
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.

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.
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:

How does a city becomes a startup hub?

What does it take to build a strong startup community and a strong startup culture? Everyone claims that Barcelona can become the next Silicon Valley, but is it truly the case? What made Silicon Valley so different than all the other places? This movie is just about that. It help you understand how Kitchener-Waterloo became an internationally recognized hub for entrepreneurs. It’s probably not as popular as Silicon Valley itself, but it’s a strong place if you’re looking into launching a venture in North America.

“Twenty years ago, no one would have believed the Kitchener-Waterloo area would blossom into the most vibrant technology start-up community in Canada” – USA Today

“It comes down to good entrepreneurs, good ideas and the support of the community,” – Jim Balsillie, Co-Founder of BlackBerry

“Tech in Waterloo Region has grown to a $30-billion industry.” – Iain Klugman, CEO of Communitech

Startup Community is a film about what makes Waterloo Region different. They’re talking to local entrepreneurs and finding out how the region made them succeed in a way that no other place could have. They’re talking to people that have helped local non-profits make their first $10,000, built multi-million dollar businesses from their parents’ basements, as well as the people behind 60 million hit YouTube videos.

Learn more about their community here: http://www.startupwaterloo.ca/

The bumped road to become entrepreneur

What does it take to become an entrepreneur? What are the pitfalls and the risks? Why are people still doing it? What is it to fail?
We really recommend you to have a look at this movie of Startup Kids that is a documentary over young people starting out their idea all over the world and sharing their experience. Two Islandic girls traveled around the world to meet those entrepreneurs and share the vibe that animate them. It´s really energizing and worth watching to understand what it takes to launch your career into entrepreneurship !!

The Startup Kids is a documentary about young web entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Europe. It contains interviews with the founders of Vimeo, Soundcloud, Kiip, InDinero, Dropbox, Foodspotting and many others who talk about how they started their company and their lives as an entrepreneur.
The movie is made by two Icelandic entrepreneurs, Vala Halldorsdottir and Sesselja Vilhjalmsdottir, who founded their first company shortly after the economic collapse of Iceland and wanted to motivate other young people to become entrepreneurs.

You can find out more about this documentary on the official website http://thestartupkids.com/

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.