I just came back to work from INSEAD 5 year reunion. It was a great to be back to the beauty of Fontainebleau forest and chateau in late spring/early summer – makes me wonder why we are working so hard here in Asia ;).
It was also great to see that quite a number of my fellow classmates, having spent most of the past few years in consulting, banking or corporate, finally came out to build their own companies:
- SaaS for workflow management (think about the potential of Jira, at enterprise level)
- Car leasing in Eastern Europe (growing consumer market, and thus credit)
- Social platform for running, an increasingly popular, and high frequency, sport across the world
- Credit card aggregator
- Crypto hedge fund
- Etc. etc.
Many friends, especially in Fintech and ecommerce, are also actively looking at addressing some of the pain points they have been facing through entrepreneurship activities.
This is in addition to those who started company building immediately after graduation.
In fact, the Centre of Entrepreneurship told me that my class (or promotion as it is called at INSEAD) is particularly entrepreneurial.
Combination of factors
Looking back, a combination of factors probably made this the case:
- The fear of missing out (FOMO), a syndrome that persists across all INSEAD promotions. You are afraid to miss a party, an elective, a road trip … and of course, when your classmates are doing great things, how can you be left out?
- Related to that actually is the exposure to friends from more than 80 countries and dozens of different sectors. That opens us the horizon and also makes people wonder – can I do something more exciting?
- The school’s bootcamps and entrepreneurial courses run by an excellent faculty, especially the late Patrick Turner, whose wealth of knowledge and connections, as well as the memorable teaching style, inspired many. Realising Entrepreneurial Potential and the legendary Your First Hundred Days (YFCD) all gave students a real taste of running and growing a company. Glad to see that a revamped version of YFCD is made compulsory for all MBA students now.
- The entrepreneur-in-residence programme, which I am part of now. Entrepreneurs would go to campus on a regular basis to interact with students. I benefited a lot from these conversations – after a few of them, you grow more and more comfortable about jumping into the exciting world.
The first two are probably the most important – as people at this stage are probably very comfortable with their lives and career development.
Not in a rush
It is also interesting to see that many are starting their entrepreneurial journey a few years after graduation. I see this as a very positive development: although media is full of 24 year prodigies cum university dropouts, the average starting age of entrepreneurs is 34 years old, if I remember the numbers from a study correctly.
Given that INSEAD students on average started their MBA at the age of 29, this just ties nicely. By this time, you are financially more secure, you understand the dynamics of running a business much better, and you also have a better sense of the problem you are trying to address.
Of course, statistically I think the same trend is present in all the top MBA schools: INSEAD and Harvard are more noticeable because they have bigger classes (you know statistics…); Stanford and HaaS, well, are right in the Valley.
Glad to have company in this journey to build something exciting. Wish everyone all the best!