In December 2020, Tony Jamous was prepared to weather a possible quarantine and other isolation measures in order to attend one of the most important events of his life: the graduation of his younger sister Laudie from IMD’s MBA program. 

“All these memories came flooding back to me and it felt great to be on campus again,” said Tony. “It was a pleasure to see that despite the global crisis, the good things about IMD haven’t changed.” 

The ties that bind 

From studying by candlelight in Lebanon to ski trips in the Alps, siblings Tony and Laudie Jamous have shared both difficult and carefree times over the years. Since Laudie’s December 2020 graduation from IMD’s MBA program, they can now add a shared alma mater to their list of joint achievements.  

Tony readily admits that he is the stereotypical big brother, protective of his little sister. But being nine years Laudie’s senior, his memories taper off around 18, when he left home for France. There he would earn a degree in engineering, focusing on computer science; Laudie and their parents would wait eagerly for his news and updates.  

“Tony is my inspiration and my role model,” said Laudie.  “My family was – and is – so proud of Tony. He was the first in our family to travel and study outside of Lebanon.”  

On her first visit to IMD years ago, she said, “We came here in December just before Tony started his MBA. We saw his apartment and went skiing for the first time.” 

Laudie doesn’t remember much detail from his studies at IMD, except that he seemed exceptionally busy during that year. 

“Now I understand just how busy he was,” she smiled, recalling the difficult MBA coursework and hours upon hours of late-night studying and assignments.  

Tony experienced his departure from Lebanon differently: having been uprooted from his family at only 17, he only remembers Laudie until age 10. 

“She was just the cutest little girl,” he said. “Laudie hasn’t changed much – she is still amazingly smart, active and very curious about the world.” 

Start-up family 

Tony worked in France in the tech sector before moving to London and later pursuing his MBA at IMD. He launched a tech start-up – Nexmo – after finishing his studies. It specializes in creating application program interfaces ("APIs") for text messaging and voice communications, allowing developers and enterprises to embed contextual communications into mobile apps, websites and business workflows via text, social media, chat apps and voice. Measured by revenues, Nexmo is now the world's second largest Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) company, and was sold to Vonage for $230 million in 2018. 

He didn’t wait long to begin his next adventure, Oyster. The software platform launched in December 2018 enables companies to employ staff in other countries as easily as in their home country.  

“We are lowering the barrier to cross-border employment so anyone in the world can have a great career,” said Tony of his mission-driven business. “80 million jobs will go unfilled in the ‘Western world’ resulting in a $10tril loss. Why not tap into the 1.5 billion knowledge workers who can do the job from anywhere?” 

Follow, then lead  

Laudie followed in Tony’s footsteps and studied in France as well, where Lebanese students have a direct route into the post-Baccalaureate system.  

“I chose renewable energy engineering because of the frequent electricity breakdowns in Lebanon,” explained Laudie. “I remember studying by candlelight when we had no power and I wanted to pursue this kind of engineering to be able to change that reality.” 

Eventually this led to work with nuclear fusion and the multinational ITER project – the biggest fusion project with collaboration between China, the European Union, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States; it aims to prove fusion is a reliable and sustainable energy source. She began as a project planner, and later acted as project performance manager for several different divisions and teams, helping to prepare the way for the fusion plants of tomorrow. While Laudie believes fusion will indeed be a reliable future energy source, it may take decades to realize its potential.  

“It is probably going to happen for our grandchildren at the earliest,” said Laudie. “I chose an MBA because I wanted to quickly make an impact on society. It has given me the tools and the network to be able to do that faster than making fusion a reality.” 

New leaders, new opportunities 

Tony’s Class of 2009 faced the aftermath of the financial crisis, when jobs were scarce and the fear of a long recovery clouded the graduating participants. Yet he recognizes that Laudie has an even bigger challenge with the social and economic fallout from the turmoil of 2020.  

“2020 was a real inflection point and I hope it helps develop new leaders who are much more adapted to the reality of the world,” he said, “This includes sustainability, generational issues and of course the pandemic that changed everyone.” 

Furthering her commitment to sustainability, Laudie co-founded the TOGETHER Initiative in 2020. TOGETHER aims to unite a network of professionals and institutions to spark innovation, promote responsible and inclusive leadership, and place sustainability at the core of every business strategy. This inclusive IMD alumni group is gaining steam and determined to lay out actionable goals toward real progress in sustainability in 2021. 

Both siblings agree that we can’t continue traveling or consuming the way we used to – and believe that this new generation will change the way we live and work on every level. 

Laudie’s future is wide open to opportunity – she is looking for position in the renewable energy or sustainability sectors. But in this tough job market, she is also considering going into business for herself – after all, the blood of entrepreneurship runs in the Jamous veins.                      

Would the two consider going into business together? 

“A start-up is quite challenging at the beginning and I know I would have his support,” said Laudie, who, like many younger siblings, is determined to stand on her own two feet. “I may be the little sister, but at 31, I need to prove that I can do it on my own.”