- IMD Business School
Alumni Stories · Leadership

Earning a first class ticket to entrepreneurship through the IMD MBA

How the Cofounder of Nexmo, IMD alumnus Tony Jamous, embodies the start-up mind-set
June 2016

Life after an MBA may take on any number of business paths. Entrepreneurship is one that many business schools highlight. But very few business schools can congratulate an alumnus for succeeding as far as taking their start-up to a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar valuation.

When big tech news broke of a major merger between Vonage Holdings and Nexmo, IMD caught up with the cofounder of Nexmo, 2009 MBA graduate Tony Jamous, to hear more on how his journey took off since earning his IMD MBA.

The big leap to forming his own company in August 2010 came less than 1 year after graduating from IMD.

“Throughout the journey at IMD, I realized that there was no need to wait. I actually remember that one of the program readings at the time was the book The Monk and the Riddle; it talks about the deferred life plan and why you should just do it and give it a shot,” Jamous said.

The idea of entrepreneurship was one of the main reasons Jamous set off to do an MBA in the first place. With a solid background in computer science and technology, and already a few notions of how he might excel in the industry, Jamous used the IMD experience to fine-tune his ideas.

“Coming from a specific industry, IMD made me realize that, throughout various modules – marketing, finance, innovation and others – I could apply business principles to my industry and better understand where the gaps were and what problems we could improve along the value chain. By the end of the program, I had a pretty clear idea of what needed to be done to disrupt for value creation,” Jamous said.

And Jamous, partnering with an angel investor and co-founder Eric Nadalin, certainly found a sweet spot in the ever-growing cloud communications space. At the time of acquisition Nexmo had grown into the second largest communications platform-as-a-service company (Cpaas).

Cpaas – a buzzword in the industry – is a term for tools that are applications or parts and codes that are embedded in other applications. They are building blocks for software developers to provide customizable solutions for cloud-based communications. Nexmo essentially produces application program interfaces (APIs) so that its clients may quickly and effectively communicate. KLM, AirBnB, Thomson Reuters, Expedia and Alibaba are just a few of the companies that have turned to Nexmo to help reach customers in specific ways. And this is where the pairing of Vonage and Nexmo makes strategic sense.

Vonage is currently focused on offering enterprises cloud and software based tools to help collaboration internally and communications externally. They are a company who, along with a few other key players like Cisco, is revolutionizing how organizations invest in overall communications solutions – from switchboards to conferencing. Moving to cloud-based technology is cost-effective and allows for larger reaching possibilities. By acquiring Nexmo, Vonage gains a business unit that will be dedicated to customizing and refining the solutions it currently offers according to the varying and complex needs of organizations. And it gains a new route into organizations by going through software developers in addition to online and phone sales to reach new clients.

“It’s an exciting time to be part of the Vonage transformational journey. If you look at the company’s history, they started by being a consumer company and now they’re moving into the B-to-B space on a large scale level. That has a lot of interesting leadership challenges and business challenges,” Jamous said. “In the current setup, I’m planning to continue tapping into the entrepreneurial mind-set that stems from my experience at IMD. The start-up, innovative atmosphere of Nexmo is one of the reasons why Vonage came to us – we share DNA in our mid-sets.”

Moving forward, Nexmo will be known as Nexmo Vonage Company. Jamous will take on the role as President and will report to the CEO Alan Masarek. With offices in San Francisco, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul, Nexmo also will bring Vonage a larger international footprint, in an industry where networks are important.

The IMD network has also been an important one for Jamous. Though the MBA class size is small and elite, the school’s alumni network is large and powerful.

“I’ve kept in touch with classmates from my year and in others. Actually a 2006 MBA alumnus, Woo Kim, helped us build the business in Asia. He’s a venture capitalist in Korea and served in a role on Nexmo’s board. So IMD has played an important role in the success of this company,” Jamous said.

As Jamous takes on the new opportunity with Vonage, one that is destined to widen the scale and scope of projects on a global level, he offers two pieces of advice for current MBAs:

Avoid a deferred lifeline

If you really want to become an entrepreneur, just go and do it right after IMD. I know it’s a hard decision to make, but in my opinion there’s really no reason to wait. The sooner you know that you’re going to fail/succeed, the sooner you can adjust and fine-tune your approach. You can always go back and find a job – with the IMD MBA you have a safety net; you’re not going to be without a job. So if you want to start a business, leverage on the experience to increase your self-confidence and just go and do it.

Maximize chances of success

In order to maximize success, entrepreneurs need to be close to sources of capital. You need to be in a jurisdiction that is easy to deal with from a financial point of view and a legal point of view. So if you’re a technology entrepreneur, it’s very important to be in places like Silicon Valley or London, where you have an environment that is set up for you to succeed. Location matters. And, think big early on. It’s essential. The worst that could happen is you fail – but then you can adjust and move forward. The bigger you think, the more the risk on your career is worth it, so think big and push the boundaries as much as you can. Find out more about IMD’s MBA program.