The brainchild of Brandon Taft, an American from the MBA Class of 2022, InStep is a digital health app that hopes to improve the accessibility, representation, and convenience of healthcare. The winning team will receive financial support and mentorship over the course of one year to help implement their vision.

InStep was selected from three finalists by a jury in Silicon Valley comprising IMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur Thierry Maupilé, IMD professors Jim Pulcrano and Benoît Leleux, IMD alumnus and Venture Capitalist Olivier Laplace, and Kevin Linker, Managing Partner at Raine Next Gen Communications.

“I am honored to receive IMD’s inaugural MBA Venture Award,” said Taft, who worked as an account manager at tech startups before coming to IMD. “It has been a privilege to work with Jim, Thierry, Olivier, and Kevin through this process, and I am extremely proud to have stood alongside all my classmates who participated in the competition. Our team at InStep is excited for the year ahead!”

The MBA Venture Award was made possible thanks to a financial gift from Maupilé, who wants to strengthen the IMD startup community by providing budding entrepreneurs with the funding and mentorship needed to launch and grow innovative business ideas.

“To sustain its leadership, IMD must continuously innovate in order to attract top candidates to its flagship MBA program,” said Maupilé, who is currently the Chief of Business and Product Strategy at the new Japanese venture company Rakuten Symphony. “As an MBA alumnus, I am very fortunate to contribute to the ongoing success of the MBA program. Entrepreneurship leadership development is an increasingly important component of a world class MBA. So, each year, the Venture Award will help an MBA candidate to implement his or her idea and vision of innovation and disruption.”

Nine projects were submitted by 11 members of the 2022 MBA Class for this year’s award. Among the finalists were “Tribe” by Fabrizio Guadagnolo and Geoffroy Dehen, which aimed to revolutionize the ticketing of events through the use of NFT technology, and “Oasis” by Amogh Sharma, an eco-friendly technology that uses an innovative heat recovery system to produce fresh water from air.

As winners, Taft and the InStep team will receive a financial grant of 100,000 Swiss francs as well as mentorship from Maupilé, Pulcrano and Leleux and an IMD-backed loan of 100,000 Swiss francs. 

In addition, Fondation Inartis, a non-profit that aims to promote innovation in the tech and life science fields, has offered additional optional benefits including up to 10 desks in one of their open spaces, rent free, for one year.

Other benefits offered by the Canton of Vaud through its Innovaud agency include the option of additional funding and interest-free loans, training grants for tech employees, free coaching, support for work permit applications, and support to participate in tech events, provided the company meets certain conditions.

IMD has a long and rich history of helping new ventures through its annual Startup Competition. Some 40% of the Top 100 Swiss startups have benefitted from the support and expertise of IMD’s MBA or EMBA alumni. One of these, Artmyn, was recently sold to online auction house Invaluable. IMD-connected startups have attracted over $700 million in the latest funding rounds, and IMD also recently partnered with Innovaud on a new scale-up program for fast-growing startups.

“We’ve always had a vibrant but small group of entrepreneurs in the IMD community, and the IMD Startup Competition has helped more than 500 over the past 24 years,” said Pulcrano. “But I’m certain that Thierry’s gift will spark more to consider an entrepreneurial move in their careers and attract more entrepreneurs to IMD. We also hope it will encourage other successful entrepreneurial alumni to step forward and follow in his footsteps.”