News Stories · Entrepreneurship - Innovation

IMD MBA Venture Award to support entrepreneurs of the future

The grant aims to strengthen the IMD startup community by providing budding entrepreneurs in the IMD MBA class with the funding and mentorship needed to grow innovative new business ideas.
July 2022
IMD MBA Venture Award to support entrepreneurs of the future

With the 2022 launch of the MBA Venture Award, IMD alumnus and serial entrepreneur Thierry Maupilé intends to help MBA candidates embrace entrepreneurship in a new way, by providing the financial support and mentorship to grow a business idea that will bring benefit to society. 

Having completed his MBA at IMD’s predecessor institution IMEDE in 1988, Maupilé worked in the emerging field of wireless communication at French firm Honeywell Bull and then Motorola, before going on to become a key executive in three successful US technology startups: IPWireless, Starent and most recently, Altiostar. 

Interested in tech from a young age, Maupilé was inspired by the 1969 moon landing, and so curious about technology that he dismantled the television set in his parents’ living room to understand how it worked! 

An understanding of the impact of technology, as well as the role played by ventures in driving innovation will be important for all successful business leaders in the future, regardless of the industry, said Maupilé. “Innovation will only happen with entrepreneurs. Even large companies will have to embrace this idea of small teams,” he told Jim Pulcrano, IMD Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship and Management. 

Maupilé said the objective of the award was to give an MBA candidate, armed with a promising idea and the knowledge and skills gained at IMD, “a little plus” that will help them on their entrepreneurship journey. 

“The last thing that you want to do as an entrepreneur is to worry about money,” said Maupilé, who is currently the Chief of Business & Product Strategy at the new Japanese venture company Rakuten Symphony 

The financial grant of 100,000 Swiss francs will be awarded to one MBA candidate or a team of MBA candidates each year. In addition to the funding, the winning candidate will receive mentoring from Thierry Maupilé, Jim Pulcrano, and Benoit Leleux, the Stephan Schmidheiny Professor for Entrepreneurship and Finance, for 12 months. 

The award is open to any member of each year’s current MBA class. Candidates may apply individually or as part of a team. At least one of the venture’s founders must be an IMD MBA candidate. However, collaboration with individuals from other institutions and backgrounds is encouraged. 

Lowering the barriers to entry to entrepreneurship 

Thierry Maupilé, who was very instrumental in establishing the IMD Global Center for Digital Business Transformation, an IMD and Cisco initiative, hopes the award will provide a differentiating factor by facilitating entrepreneurship. 

Thanks to the app economy, Maupilé believes the barriers to entry to entrepreneurship are lower than before. “Creating a business no longer relies on physical assets or heavy engineering capabilities. It’s about software and putting a small team together and then you can really create new business models.” 

From this year’s MBA class, 11 candidates have submitted their intent to apply with nine projects and have until mid-July to submit their ideas for an eventual product or service.  

The proposal should outline the venture’s value proposition, target market, expected competition and should list the assets and competencies the venture will need to acquire or build, as well as how the candidate intends to use the funds. 

All startup ideas will be considered, and it is expected that the proposals will be ambitious and target a sizeable market. Proposed ventures can be existing startups – as long as they are less than two years old – or completely new ideas. The winner must commit to their venture full-time for at least 12 months, starting 1 January of the following year. 

What I am going to look at is not so much the idea itself, because good ideas don’t always translate into successful ventures, but it’s about the team,” said Maupilé. 

The most successful entrepreneurs, in his opinion, are patient and resilient and surround themselves with an A-team that will pull together when times get tough. “You need to be very frugal. Yes, you could conquer the world, but you also need to be extremely focussed. When you realize maybe it’s not the right direction, you can reset.” 

Each year, MBAs will have until mid-July to submit their ideas for an eventual product or service. The proposal should outline the venture’s value proposition, target market, expected competition and should list the assets and competencies the venture will need to acquire or build, as well as how the candidate intends to use the funds. 

A jury comprising of Maupilé, Pulcrano and Leleux, and at least one external venture capitalist will shortlist the candidates. This year’s winning candidate will be announced on 2 September during the MBA trip to Silicon Valley. The final jury will be comprised of Maupilé, Pulcrano, Professor Omar Toulan, the Dean of the MBA program and at least one external venture capitalist. 

Maupilé is confident that the MBA program which teaches participants to work under pressure will set candidates up to become successful entrepreneurs.  

“The world is becoming more and more complex, moving at a faster pace. Innovation will happen with small teams in a venture format. How do you analyze and navigate the context around you? IMD provides a lot of tools & skills but more importantly the right mindset,” he said. “In a start-up venture you have to be ready for the roller coaster ride. There will be phases of excitement and of depression. It’s not just a linear trajectory. I’ve really learned and used what I’ve experienced at IMD.” 

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. 

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