From the first spark of a new idea to carefully developing the details of a market launch, running a successful start-up takes much more than just luck.

No one knows this better than EMBA alumnus Alain Dargham, who left the high-profile world of investment banking with the ambitious goal of transforming entrepreneurship. His vision is to ensure the pathway to entrepreneurship is less fraught by relying on evidence-based approaches that transform entrepreneurial journeys from a disjointed process to an application of science.

As a leading member of IMD’s Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE), he volunteers on a regular basis by providing guidance to participants and alumni. Specifically, he serves as a mentor and is a strategy advisor for entrepreneurs involved in Information and Communications Technology.

Growing the IMD entrepreneurship community

IMD ACE is an initiative launched in 2015 that creates value through entrepreneurship and innovation by facilitating IMD faculty and alumni collaboration. It promotes the development and consolidation of business ventures and start-ups proposed and launched by IMD participants.

“My goal is to help ACE become a fully fledged entrepreneurship platform that brings people together, invests in start-ups and grants loans,” said Dargham. “I want to leverage the strong IMD brand and make ACE self-sustainable.”

ACE makes entrepreneurship more accessible to alumni and fosters an ecosystem aimed at facilitating mentoring and the funding of business projects as an engine for innovation and growth. It operates globally in collaboration with local IMD Alumni Clubs and hosts regular – now fully virtual – events spanning a range of topics of interest to entrepreneurs.

From private equity to entrepreneurship

Dargham knows better than most that the path to entrepreneurship is a challenging one. After completing his PhD in Finance at the Sorbonne, Dargham went into private equity investments. He worked for several firms that funded companies with equity investments, wherein they maintained control of the company with majority ownership.

But after many successful years in the equity game, Dargham’s mindset and goals changed completely after earning his EMBA at IMD.

“I had not been involved in venture capital before I was at IMD,” said Dargham. “Professor Jim Pulcrano’s program, in particular, showed me how venture capital investment really worked.”

This exploration made Dargham realize exactly where he wanted to invest his future – in the impact that only entrepreneurship can create. He co-founded DAA Capital Partners, a company that specializes in venture capital and logistic real estate investments.

“With 17 years of investment banking and private market investment experience, I wanted to do something that I was truly passionate about,” Dargham said, adding that his primary desire was to generate value to humankind, even on a small scale.

Process-driven leadership

Dargham says the Holy Grail of entrepreneurship is actually leadership and execution but admits – thanks to his scientific background – that he’s a process-driven person. Participating in IMD’s High Performance Leadership program and learning reinforced his belief in the importance of a blended approach to leadership.

“It means directing your focus to what is in front of you – what you can do – instead of what you don’t have and what you want. It is done by being present in everything you do”.

IMD boasts unusually high rates of alumni entrepreneurship; approximately 5% of MBA and EMBA alumni will found their own company immediately after graduation, and 50% will be become entrepreneurs of during their careers, according to IMD.

“We need to make entrepreneurship a science and move from tinkering (trial and error) to best practices (correlation) and hopefully to more predictive models (causality),” he said. “This will help us to better project, predict and ultimately shape the future.”

Under Dargham’s watchful eye, the growing ACE initiative is helping more and more alumni achieve their dreams of becoming an entrepreneur – aiding them in the often fraught and confusing journey.

“We live in a continuously uncertain environment, we are required to accept and contain our own anxiety and that of others.” said Dargham. “ACE helps by preparing alumni and accompanying them along a clearly defined itinerary to success.”

 

IMD ACE is currently setting up chapters in several regions across the world. If you are interested in hearing more, please contact Igor Karpachev at [email protected].