The first UK IMD Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship event was recently held in London. 

The Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) was launched last year and is a forum where alumni interested in entrepreneurship and innovation can come together to explore mentoring and funding business projects. At IMD’s home in Lausanne, roughly every month ACE holds an event bringing together investors and entrepreneurs. Each event fills up quickly and the demand continues to grow, including beyond IMD’s campus. 

The London event was titled "Why Entrepreneurship Matters" and included a panel with Carlos Eduardo Espinal, Partner at Seedcamp, Europe’s premier seed investment fund; Randa Bennett and Patricia Salume, Founders at VeeLoop; and Alex Guest, IMD MBA alumnus, and CEO and founder of the nutrition company Zingy Life. 

The 42 attendees spanned 46 years of IMD’s lifetime: The audience included IMD MBA alumni from classes from 1976 all the way to 2016. The event was organized by Patricio Hidalgo, IMD UK Alumni Club Committee Member, with support from the rest of the IMD UK Alumni Club

Stories of entrepreneurship 

The evening included lively discussion and inspirational entrepreneurial stories.

Carlos Eduardo Espinal discussed how Seedcamp focuses on funding early-stage start-ups with valuations up to £2 million that are tech-driven and have promise to solve real world challenges.

The voices of start-up founders were heard loud and clear at the event, with a number of them present. Their consensus was that from early-stage, creation and then on to the growth stage, it is all about the journey. They agreed that it is essential to learn throughout each stage, to be resilient with rejections and failures, to keep a clear vision, and to passionately believe in your service or product.

Many founders discussed the need to adjust to market realities or to create markets, and to pivot as needed. Others, like Alex Guest, said that he does not believe in pivoting for his project and feels the need to stay true to his plan. His previous experience with other start-ups that failed, helped inspire his current venture.

Expanding knowledge along the way

Another observation by a number of start-up founders was that part of their journey to success is expanding their know-how of all areas of the business, from cash and finance to tax compliance and programming to digital marketing. They start off with passion and vision embodying a “just do it” approach. But they later need to increase their personal and functional growth to make sure their initiatives continue to thrive.

Carlos Espinal described the evolution of the London start-up ecosystem and its inflection point (around 2012), when solid London-based venture capital firms got active and a plethora of entrepreneurs entered the start-up market along with a new generation of technology companies taking off.

The entrepreneurs present at the event talked about how as businesses grow, there is a need to bring subject matter experts on board, especially in emerging areas like artificial intelligence. They expressed concern about finding relevant talent in the London ecosystem and questioned if business schools could strengthen the talent pool.  

The importance of culture

Another learning point of the evening was that in start-ups, building culture is as important as building the company: “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” participants said and expressed how a poor culture can easily doom a start-up to failure.

Closing the panel, Carlos Espinal urged the entrepreneurs to treat fundraising as a process. He said it is important to reflect and jot down notes after a failed pitch to learn from those mistakes in the future. Tracking progress is also important, he said, such as creating milestones and showing that they’ve been achieved. He also said it is key to have a story telling approach to investors and to make sure that they don’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

Find out more about IMD’s Alumni Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and its upcoming events.

Read about the recent growth of the community

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