Voices from the Entrepreneurship Festival in London

I chose the ESCP Masters in Management because of what I had heard from friends and alumni about the diversity of experiences it offered as well as the School‘s intrinsic entrepreneurial spirit.  In fact, Jean-Baptiste Say was one of its founders and – fun fact – he coined the term entrepreneur well before Schumpeter!

It is partly in honor of Say’s memory that each November, in collaboration with the ESCP Blue Factory, the School organises the Entrepreneurship Festival with the aim to connect students, alumni, entrepreneurs and investors. The Festival takes place across all campuses and is supervised by the Jean-Baptiste Say Institute, directed by Professor Sylvain Bureau. The festival gives students a unique opportunity to practice what they’ve learned in the MiM business management courses.

The Entrepreneurship Festival stands out for the extraordinary amount of ideas and innovative projects being presented every year. Students enrolled in the entrepreneurship course in London taught by Ph.D. Professor Davide Sola, present their new business ventures generated by the ideas developed during the course. After having carefully developed the business model and minimum value system (see below for definitions), they deliver a pitch in front of an audience composed by students, external attendees, a jury and guest speakers such as Julien Decot, Director of Marketing Partnerships, EMEA at Facebook and Davide Facchetti, CEO of Dove.it.

Professor Davide Sola

After each group has pitched its ideas, and the jury has given constructive feedback, it presents awards to the most brilliant ideas. Let’s hear from last year’s contest winners at the London campus: Alessio Redeghieri and Teresa Pasquini, both in the Master in Management, were respectively winners of the Customer Award and the Industry Expert Award.

Professor Davide Sola, Customer Award Winners Teresa Pasquini and Robert William Johnson, with Dove.it CEO Davide Facchetti

“Could you please explain your idea and what inspired you to take it on?”

Alessio: “I am from Prato, a city famous for being one of the textile hubs in the world. Growing up in this environment made me well aware of the environmental problems caused by the fashion industry, especially the outrageously large carbon footprint it generates globally. This drove us to develop a social entrepreneurship project with a focus on sustainability.

My fellow classmates and I decided to create a brand, Re-Fabrics, to produce cashmere sweaters using fibers that come from old clothes, making 100% recycled fabrics. The results are notable: one Re-Fabrics jumper saves more than 1600 liters of water and completely eliminates the use of colorants, while at the same time being cruelty-free.”

Teresa: We developed a gamification app called “Playce”, whose main aim is to enable people to visit new places and do new activities by using the concept of learning-by-playing. We target cultural activities in indoor spaces (i.e. museums) as well as outdoor spaces (i.e. parks). We want to enable students, young professionals and also young families to get the most out of cultural activities.

Our app, thanks to an algorithm (yet to be defined) will suggest activities such as quizzes or puzzles. In an interactive and fun way, we leverage Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence to create content by gathering data from reliable internet websites (such as the Cambridge Dictionary, Encyclopedias, etc.).

We got the idea over a Friday night beer in a pub. We were talking about having an app that could help us find new activities to do in our spare time but in a fun way. We wanted to know more about the city we were living in (London). The idea of going to the British Museum with your friends and playing games while learning new things about Egyptian sarcophagi or Edgar Degas’ paintings was really exciting.

Teresa Pasquini presents “Playce”

“What did you find the most challenging in the process of creating the project? To what extent do you think the team is important to create a successful entrepreneurial idea?”

Alessio: Having the right team is everything. Silicon valley-based Y Combinator, one of the most famous startup incubators, often invests money solely by evaluating the team and not the financials. They believe that the idea that you have at a given moment in time will most likely be very different from the product or service you will launch on the market later on, so the team’s talent and ability to work together effectively is key.

To create the “MVP”* (Minimum Viable Product – see below), it was crucial to identify what customers really wanted from our product and how we could integrate the feedback we received in the ideation and pivoting phases. Constantly keeping in mind the customers’ needs has surely been the most challenging, yet formative aspect of the MVP creation.

Teresa: The most challenging thing was finding and shaping the idea to match the consumer’s needs and preferences. Before our last version of “Playce”, we developed 3 other ideas but when testing the demand through surveys, we understood that the consumers were not willing to pay for our products because we weren’t offering a product to answer the “Job-to-be-done” (see below).  Once we got it, making it profitable was difficult as well. We needed to ensure the “MVS”** (Minimum Viable System – see below) was generating profits by providing reliable data on conversion rates, fixed costs (offices, furniture), app development costs, and personnel costs.

Having the right team is fundamental: respect, trust and open-mindedness played a key role throughout the entire process. We needed to perform many tasks in a short period of time, so we needed to trust each other in terms of respecting deadlines and personal capabilities.  

Alessio Redeghieri, Shanshan Feng, Elena Galella and Beatrice Biazzo win the Industry Expert Award.

“Does Jean-Baptiste Say’s definition of entrepreneur describe you?  Do you see yourself becoming an entrepreneur?”

Alessio: I have always been fascinated by the role of the entrepreneur in society and I must admit that the definition given by Say, of the entrepreneur playing a central role in society who assembles pieces and sees potential where others don’t, seems like a very appealing set of skills to have. I do see myself in it but only partially. In fact, I was very happy to deploy my skills in a project where I see a lot of potential for the future even though at the moment I am more committed to another path for my career.

Teresa: Even though Say provided this definition two centuries ago, it couldn’t be more current. The new management strategies are helping us to enrich the concepts of innovation and creativity.  My participation in this project totally changed my future perspective. I would really like, one day, to be an entrepreneur and create an organisation from scratch.

“To conclude, would you encourage fellow students to participate in the Entrepreneurship Festival?”

Alessio:  I would definitely suggest taking part in any process that involves the stimulation of business creativity, especially if the purpose is to create a new venture. Even if it can be challenging sometimes to make things work in the exact way that you want, I have extremely enjoyed the process, the people and its outcome.

Teresa: I’ve learnt so much by taking part in this project – I recommend it to everyone. We learnt to use new tools like Invision, Launchrock, Google Analytics and Instagram Analytics. The most important thing that I’ve learned:  the importance of testing your ideas to be sure that they will find a demand in the market.

Carlo Rizzuto Ferruzza

With special thanks to Alessio and Teresa for their contributions

Definitions

*MVP: Minimum Viable Product, one of the two key elements of the Minimum Viable System

**MVS: According to the framework developed by S. Beer, a Minimum Viable System is formed by a Minimum Viable Product and a Minimum Viable Organization. Essentially  this forms a reduced, simplified but fully functional version of the future organisation

*** Job to be Done (JTBD) is a theory of consumer action. It describes the mechanisms that cause a consumer to adopt an innovation. The theory states that markets grow, evolve, and renew whenever customers have a Job to be Done, and then buy a product to complete it (get the Job Done)

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