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All your questions answered

All your questions answered

What is the selection process for startups?

A team of IMD faculty with extensive experience in entrepreneurial activities will select the winning startups, with advisory support from the Swiss government InnosuisseVentureKickMassChallenge Switzerland and verve.

We create a ‘short list’ of candidates within two weeks of the closing date, and steadily work to narrow down the list. If the IMD team has questions, a short interview, either in person or by phone, may be requested. We will contact the selected companies in early December and expect a formal commitment by the selected ventures shortly afterwards.

What do I need to submit?

To apply, you must submit a two-page executive summary, which should provide a clear and concise description of your product or service, your current team, the market you plan to enter, your competition, your timeline for implementation, and your expected financial needs for the year ahead.

When the competition is open and we are seeking new applicants, you may apply online.

What qualities are you looking for?
  • A real venture with an established team and resources already in place, not a hobby.
  • A strong willingness and desire to work and share with the participants, and a desire to learn from the collaboration; the founder(s) of the company must be the prime point(s) of contact with our participants.
  • Your venture must have at least one person working on it full-time.
  • Independent ventures only (not a subsidiary of an existing, established company or wholly-owned spinoff).
  • A willingness to be open with our participants about your company, its finances, and its technology. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA), developed by IMD, is requested of the participants.
  • Local ventures are preferred. Startups based further away (Paris, Grenoble, Frankfurt, etc.) may be considered but you must incorporate the need to travel to Lausanne in your budgets and time agendas since participants will not have the possibility to travel.
  • The ability to cover minimal costs (but these would always be discussed with you beforehand).
Can you tell me more about the Executive MBA project scope?

Up to 18 startups are chosen each year to work with three Executive MBA cohorts – a group of experienced international executives (average age 40 years old) who, in small teams, will analyze and challenge your business plans, teams, and company strategies, and pitch your startup to venture capitalists and angels in Silicon Valley. With the exception of a few meetings with the EMBA class, the majority of the work will be done virtually. One or two EMBA teams will be assigned to each company.

Our participants will not undertake specific projects, but will instead be looking at your company as a whole and reviewing your overall business model with the goal of putting together a strong fundraising pitch to present to potential investors in California during our expedition there.

One founder from of each startup is required to join the Executive MBA class for the discovery expedition to Silicon Valley for six days. The entrepreneur will be embedded in the class during the Silicon Valley expedition, and will participate in the activities of the discovery expedition at no charge, but must cover his/her own travel and lodging expenses.

Your company will be pitched to a small group of venture capitalists and/or angel investors. IMD’s EMBA participants will present these pitches and receive feedback on content and quality. Startup entrepreneurs are invited to talk with potential investors after the pitches.

Who has won the startup competition and worked with the EMBAs in the past?

Examples of previous competition winners:

Abionic, ArcaTrust, ARTMYN, BComp, BestMile, BioVersys, Dacuda, Dartfish, Diagnoplex, DotPhoton, FaceShift, Flyability, FotoKite, Geosatis, GlyArt Biotechnology, id Quantique, IDUN, Imverse, Kooaba, L.E.S.S., Lemoptix, Novaccess, Picterra, Qvanteq, SimplicityBio, Sonect, Spotme, Topadur, Vima and Xsensio.

If selected to work with the EMBAs, will we get investments from Silicon Valley investors?

It’s unlikely – but that is the nature of trying to raise money anywhere for any startup. When we meet with the VCs in California, it is usually a first meeting, so the goal of our pitch is simply to get their interest and have them ask for a second meeting. Silicon Valley investors have many, many local choices, so the competition for their time (and money) is fierce. You need to stand out, and perhaps even show an interest in relocating part of your team to the Valley.

Can you tell me more about the MBA project scope?

The class of 90 MBA participants is a group of experienced (average age 31) international students. Up to 15 startups receive the dedicated support of a team of 5-7 MBA participants over about three months between mid-January and April under the supervision of an IMD professor acting as coach to the project. Each member of a team puts in an average of 6-8 hours on the project each week, for a total support package equivalent to at least 500-600 work hours.

For these dedicated projects, the team will focus exclusively on the business-related issues of your new venture (e.g., customer value proposition, supply-chain management, market entry strategies) and developing critical components of your business plan to a point where it can potentially be presented to new funding sources.

The MBA participants will provide managerial and/or technical support (but will not substitute for the entrepreneurial team). We expect that entrepreneurs will be fully transparent in terms of strategy determination and will capitalize on the opportunity offered to work with the team.

As the MBA projects seek to develop elements of your startups business plan, it is critical that the participants are involved in the important strategic and business model discussions that will determine the future success of your business. This should be seen as a collaboration, not simply as a project.

What type of projects can you use the full-time IMD MBA participants for?

If you are selected as a winner of the startup competition, you will provide IMD participants with the real-life startup experience they need as part of their training. As such, we never select projects that do not involve the participants in the strategic and business model discussions of the startup, i.e. the issues that will determine success.

Startups looking for participants to simply run a market study, a competitive analysis, or similar limited activity that does not give participants true insights into your company will not be selected. While market analysis is usually an important component of a project, it should not be the only one. Participants should get involved in issues such as validating the customer proposition and the business model, developing the market entry strategy, etc.

Can you tell me who has won the MBA competition in the past?

Previous competition winners include: AC Immune, Axovan, Ayanda, Bluetector, Biowatch, CashSentinel, CombaGroup, Comparis, DahuShaper, Doodle, ecoRobotix, Endosense, FasTree3D, Gamaya, G-Therapeutics, Hyperweek, KeyLemon, Logifleet, Luckabox, LyncéeTec, loanboox, Memonic, NexThink, PicoDrill, Preclin Biosystems, Primequal, Qualysense, Rovenso, Softwing, SpiroChem, Sysmosoft, TheScreener, TwentyGreen, Uepaa, VisioWave, ViSee and Wavecall.