With no time constraints and no limitations on vertical, INSEADERS is trying to make entrepreneurship sexy for the business school’s alumni network
In the world of coworking spaces, accelerators and incubators, there is a disconnect between ideals pitched by marketing campaigns and the on-the-ground reality.
Fellow companies, sometimes sharing a table, are often complete strangers to one another.
Now, a former entrepreneur and ex-corporate venture capitalist, are launching INSEADERS, a Singaporean-based incubator hoping to leverage the INSEAD business school’s alumni network. The programme is in partnership with A*Star, the Singapore government’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.
“One of the motivations for us is creating an environment with a sense of belonging and community. ‘I’m going to help that [person]. Create a system,’” INSEADERS Co-founder (and job-titled Rockstar) Micheal Collins told e27.
Singapore is the world’s first incubator associated with INSEAD, but the team has no intention of making the programme an entirely Singaporean venture. It is already starting the work towards opening an INSEADERS in Fontainebleau, France; Abu Dhabi, UAE; and the US.
Potential startups do need to have a link to INSEAD to qualify for the programme, but fellow Co-Founder Rani Francois-Marie Saad (who holds the job title “Highflyer” in the institution) said, “However, if one of the alumni believes in a startup somewhere else, we will not say no.”
The mission is to point recent INSEAD graduates towards entrepreneurship as a favoured path for recent graduates to pursue. For example, finalists in the INSEAD Venture Competition will automatically qualify to work in the incubator.
INSEADERS will not target specific sectors and will approach financial agreements according to the individual company’s needs.
In terms of a revenue model, Collins and Francois-Marie Saad said it has enough funding for the first stage of the project, but because INSEADERS is just starting up (the entire project really started to come together less than six weeks ago) the team believes it’s the wrong move to be overly focussed on long-term revenue plans.
“We’d be rewarded if everyone else is successful,” said Collins.
One step towards accomplishing this goal is to do away with the ‘cookie-cutter’ programmes that are standard operating procedure across Singapore.
Companies apply for an accelerator, pitch an idea and if they make the cut, they would have a set time frame (usually three or six months) to accomplish certain goals. But, Collins and Francois-Marie Saad brought up the point that a company may have an amazing idea, but cannot get into the correct programme because the startup has been incorporated while a batch is ongoing.
“Everyone is focussed on valuation, we want to focus on value creation,” said Collins.
To elaborate, while talking around a tall table in the new 180 square metre space in Block 71, sitting on glorified stools, Collins pointed to the chair,
“This sounds silly, but we chose the chairs and high-tables to make people feel uncomfortable,” he said.
The idea being, comfort breeds contentment — an enemy of innovation. To be fair, the chairs were not THAT uncomfortable.
While INSEADERS is hoping to be a bridge between the school and entrepreneurship, Collins and Francois-Marie Saad hope the programme can also be a contributor to INSEAD besides simply as a post-graduation opportunity. It has four plans for working with the business school.
- Competition top-ups: If INSEAD is offering a US$10,000 reward for a competition, the incubator could get involved and help raise the number to, say, US$15,000.
- Creating scholarship opportunities for the school.
- Helping inject more cash when it comes to quality businesses.
- Enter and contribute funds for INSEAD’s endowment.
In the business world, INSEAD is a global brand with roots in France. So, why is the incubator programme being started in Singapore?
“Because we are here,” said Collins. Francois-Marie Saad jumped in to elaborate,
“People will believe and respect your company if you take action. We’ve been a bit bold, risky, but I think it went well. We focussed on actions.”
The experience brings up a larger ethos INSEADERS wants to promote with its incubatees, and is a reason the kick-off programme is coming out of Singapore.
“Without action, the world may still be an idea,” said Collins, quoting the admittedly cheesy saying from Georges Doriot, the man who founded INSEAD business school in 1957.
Photo courtesy of INSEADERS
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