Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Entrepreneurship: what to expect from School

I have been a regular follower of your blog this year and I must thank you for creating lot of excitement for me at the thought of attending INSEAD next year.
You do an excellent job portraying the strengths ofthe school.
I really appreciate the perspective of your blog based on your entrepreneurial background.

I have a few questions for you.
Most critically, I will be paying a visit to thecampus this friday (Dec 1) and wondered if you could give me any tips on how to make the most of the trip.
At this point, I know of the standard 1.5hr info session and the rest of the day I will explore the campus trying to absorb the culture. If you have any insights on what I should try to see or do, please letme know.
Second, I am very curious to get an insiders opinion on the entrepreneurial spirit at INSEAD. I am especially interested in the chances I might have at meeting potential business partners in the program.
My dream would be to meet other bright students from diverse professional & cultural backgrounds who are keen to start a business together. Based on your experience, is it reasonable for me to assume that this is possible? I realize the majority of students are looking to consulting or banking careers so I am very interested in the motivations and size of the others. Thanks for any help you can provide! I look forward to hearing your thoughts."

I've just received this great mail. I take the liberty to disclose it, as myself had the same questions prior to coming to INSEAD.

Concerning the Campus Visit, it is useful in showing your motivation, and tackling heads-on Admissions with your objectives. If they feel the school can do something for you, they'll accept you, otherwise they'll be honest about their limitations. Then you'll be able to attend some courses, to get a feel of what is expected from you. Don't be overawed though, as it always is intimidating to see a section of 65 discussing with great intimacy with the Professor. Then you have a cocktail party with co-visitors and Students alike. Take this opportunity to start networking.
I would encourage people coming on Campus Visit with clear questions about whether the School will fit the bill, to require some face-to-face meeting with either Entrepreneurship Club, Professors, or fellow Students. Most of the time, you can have a chat with a current student from your country. You can make the most of your visit by seeing potential Houses you want to live in, and get the recommendation from current Students if you really want a particular House.
About Question 2, you share your dream with many people at INSEAD, that's one positive point. Further, the School is as good as you can get in Entrepreneurship in Europe/Asia. Therefore, my guess is that you can't find a better place to start up your business. Now, be realistic, very few people actually start right after School, though that definitely happens (notably a 2 student-project in Tourism that has a turnover of 2m euros+, 2 years ago).
Three interesting paths:
- more than half of INSEAD alumni start a business or take over a business at some point in their career
- every year some students create their own business
- a portion of students run their family business after INSEAD too.
Even bankers or consultants take Entrepreurship classes; entrepreneurship is ubiquitous: in classes, there's always a special light on start-ups (notably Prices and Markets), in conferences, in P5 Students and current ones. Is INSEAD the place where you'll meet your business partner? I don't know, but certainly you increase your chances exponentially over here.

Yet again, I'm only in P2. Next January, I will start my Entrepreneurship path. It would be fairer to comment on Entrepreneurship by then. I'll keep you posted on this, as I have a crystal clear view of my expectations.
Up to this point though, my main message is that INSEAD can contribute to your entrepreneurship dreams, is where you have the most important chances of finding your business partner, and makes you believe that everything is possible.

To finish on this, I'd like to add that the network possibilities in Fonty are immense. Entrepreneurship Profs are really well connected in Europe and the World, and will provide any assistance needed. I believe that if you work on your project you'll have all resources available from School even after graduation.

I was having a similar discussion with my House mates yesterday. Even if we did not specifically talked about business partners on entrepreneurship ventures, we were comparing our views of networking and connecting at School, nearly 4 months into the Programme now.
It's difficult to come with a definite statement. I know that some group experiences did not turn out well (in particular, one group now submit individual papers for all assignments), and some have turned out to be over-the-top experiences. In between, you have most groups. I was telling my House mates that P3 onwards must be different. For one thing, groups will be among similar interest people (Entrepreneurship, Finance, Family Business, Marketing etc.), then, presumably, electives will be more intimate (20 to 48 people). And people have now started to form cliques and are moving out and in houses to gather. All these interactions, according to me, just multiply the chances of finding the dream business partner.

By the way, I don't want to sound overly naive or positive thinking, as the email writer claimed that INSEAD strengths were clear (ie. not so much its weaknesses). It's just that strengths just jump at your face - you are changing to a better self, and both yourself and people around you can sense the transformation taking place. As to weaknesses, since the School's learning method is "unveiling the mystery" it really makes sense to talk about them once the mystery is revealed...

In any case, P2 is not the best time... A very strange period indeed, mix of intimacy, fun in class, but also a bit too fast and tiring. Come on P3!

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