Oftentimes, the most difficult part of entrepreneurship is knowing how to start.
This is the niche that Maxime Arnulf, MBA ‘21, and Armin Rachwalik, MBA ’22, wanted to fill when they launched the HEC Paris EPV (Entrepreneurship, Philosophy, Value) Circle, a 35-person cohort that offers a laser-focused first entrepreneurial step for HEC Paris students and participants.
Both budding entrepreneurs were themselves enticed by HEC Paris entrepreneurship programs like X-Entrepreneurs, HEC Launchpad, and, of course, the Incubateur HEC; the EPV circle will serve as an informal stepping stone to HEC’s broader entrepreneurship ecosystem.
“I came to HEC Paris to make the most out of the university’s strong startup ecosystem,” explains Maxime. “After a few months, I realized that I had never met any students from those programs. To enter the HEC Incubator, for example, you need to have a proof of concept, running users, and financial leeway,” he continues. “We prepare people who only have an idea, taking them from that stage to the stage that they’ll be able to be able to apply to programs that require more maturity.”
Among HEC’s most seasoned entrepreneurs are the school’s Executive MBA participants, who, according to Maxime, were “very interested in the club” when it launched. “Engagement from the EMBA’s was definitely highest,” he explains. Adds Armin, “usually we don’t have access to the EMBA’s, who serve as startup mentors and cohort members alike, but having the ability to do this will give us opportunities for collaboration across programs—MBA’s, EMBA’s, and Masters’ students included.”
The co-founders explain that the club’s relatively small size guarantees a strong link between participants and mentors. This tight cohesion is woven into the club’s operational DNA: at the start of the 6-month session, each member’s individual goals are identified, and then workshops are developed that cater to every individual’s needs. These can include co-founder meet-ups, pitch-creation workshops, mentorship or funding opportunities.
Interest from EMBA’s in the hands-on, inter-program, entrepreneurial venture has been strong.
Today, some 30 EMBA partcicipants are mentors and/or founders at the EPV Circle, coming from a variety of cohorts.
For financial expert David Ekabouma, EMBA ’22 and one of the first mentors integrated into the nascent program, the EPV Circle represents a unique opportunity to share his extensive financial industry knowledge via mentorship, an experience he characterizes as “a win-win situation.”
“A mentor gets the opportunity to expand their own skillset in exchange for providing their own valuable advice,” he explains.
Veteran corporate marketing and branding pro Renata Leite, EMBA ’22, echoed David’s sentiment about the mutually beneficial nature of mentorship in discussing her own motivations for joining the EPV circle.
“When Maxime invited me to join The EPV Circle, my answer was an immediate yes! I already mentor young executives and this activity is something very dear to me. Every time I finish a session I have the impression I also gained as much as I shared. The energy exchange is a real boost in my motivation,” she explains. “As we say very often at HEC Paris, I’m very looking forward to “sharing my brain”, and why not, to help them launch the next French unicorn.”
Hervé François, EMBA ’22, a seasoned startup adviser with 20 years of experience in financial markets in five different countries, is another member of the EMBA Class of 2022 putting his vast expertise at the disposal of the EPV Circle and its participants.
“I have extensive experience in developing startups and projects from ideation to market, so it made sense to be part of this project,” he explained. “On top of the technical aspects that I am able to contribute—I have been doing this for many years—I was interested in helping the HEC Community and future alumni, because you need to know how to give before you receive. “
Though the program is still in its infancy, founders Armin and Maxime are already heartened by the response they’ve received across the programs.
“It’s a very fruitful environment for people to share their experiences, and also to team up for their entrepreneurial ideas in the future,” says Armin of the EPV circle experience thus far. The German MBA student also emphasized how special of an opportunity it was for Master’s students to participate as equals in thegroup with the MBA’s and EMBA’s.
“My dream would be that in the coming years we have a startup driven by a Master’s student, an MBA, and an EMBA. This would be the best-case scenario,” he says.
EPV Circle membership is limited to current HEC students. However, alumni are highly encouraged to contact the Circle to take on roles as advisors or mentors.
More CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies have graduated from HEC Paris than any other university in Europe, and nearly 4,000 graduates are currently CEOs, CFOs, or have founded their own companies. According to the Financial Times, the HEC Paris Executive MBA is ranked #1 in Europe and #3 in the world; click here to learn more.
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