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Impressions from the INSEAD Startup Bootcamp

I had the honor this Sunday, to be one of the judges at the INSEAD’s Startup Bootcamp, organized by Adrian Johnson and his team. What a great experience it was! Definitely less stressful than pitching to the investors yourself :). I can say this with some certainty, as I have recently gone through this myself when seeking seed funding for the My Visual Brief project. Now I know what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence 

For those of you who might not know, INSEAD is rated as the 5th business school in the world by the Financial Times; with Harvard, Stanford and Wharton just above it. The quality of the pitches and a great organization of the event definitely prove the high quality standards of the school.

So how did the Bootcamp go?

The students had 2 days (Friday and Saturday) to organise themselves into teams, crystallize their ideas and prepare a pitch. Differently from the other startup bootcamps these days, they were allowed to start a business of any kind: from a mobile app to a traditional bricks-and-mortar business. They were also allowed to select to whom they would pitch their idea: investors if they needed money, customers if they did not need the money and just wanted to sell a service, or strategic partners. The teams then pitched their ideas on Sunday afternoon and the top 3 ideas were selected. So that’s when we, the judges, came into the picture.

I thought that Adrian made a great twist on the traditional startup bootcamp model by allowing the students to pursue any kind of business. This freed them up from the need to work only on a high-growth tech company idea, which everyone in the startup world is obsessed about. As if it was the only type of business worth doing!

Because of that, the students were more able to be themselves and you could really see that they had divided into teams pursuing ideas that more or less matched their personalities. That’s one of the key elements towards creating a sustainable venture: starting a business that is right for you.

When we were selecting the winners and there was a tie between a few startups, one of the questions we asked ourselves was: is this the right team to implement this idea? Do they have the experience and the know-how to turn this into a success? If not, are they mature enough managers to accept their limitations and foresee which skill gaps they need to fill in by finding the right people to help them?

I think the beauty of entrepreneurship is precisely having this freedom to pursue an idea which is meaningful for the entrepreneur while creating a system to achieve it in the way that the entrepreneur chooses. The entrepreneur is a creator, an explorer, a risk-taker, an inventor. S/he is the one that sets the standards and creates his/her own rules. True entrepreneurs don’t stick to a system (although they know how to navigate it) nor follow the standards imposed by others. They break the rules and create their own systems.

So in this sense, Adrian organized this Bootcamp in the true spirit of entrepreneurship. Bravo to him and the students!

I am happy I was able to share my entrepreneurial experiences so far with the others. I surely have learned a lot myself as well. Thank you, Adrian, for the opportunity!

Now back to working on My Visual Brief…

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