Written on 26 November 2019.
I worked as a salesman and a human ressources manager, then as a CEO in Europe and Africa in the car-rental business, the food sector and the music business. I launched my own company aged 45 and sold it four years later. I went to a post-secondary prep school before attending business school, but then dropped out a year later to join the company where I had interned! Almost, three decades later, I became director of EDHEC’s incubators in Lille, Paris, and Nice and Programme Director of the MSc in Entrepreneurship & Innovation. Theory and practice united. Life can have interesting twists and turns!
The MSc was created in 2009 and this is my fourth year as director. I took the job because I found it challenging, interesting and fun. I was also humbled by the vote of confidence from Dean Emmanuel Métais. I’m passionate about culture, education and knowledge transfer. As programme director, I get the best of all worlds: I accompany our students in their entrepreneurial endeavours and teach a class ‒ “pitching with success”.
The MSc is constantly evolving. It’s a continuous improvement process. An academic programme cannot be frozen in time. The world, the technology, the economy, the start-up ecosystem … they all evolve, as does a programme. It means that we, as programme directors, must remain attuned and alert to any signs of weakness and always be a step ahead. We have to listen to our primary consumers, the students, and get their feedback on programmes. I don’t survey them formally, but I ask them how the programme meets their needs. And, of course, I get direct feedback from class representatives. Consequently, all students in the next intake, for example, will take a mandatory course in coding and app development at Le Wagon.
I want them to find their place in the world. When I take them to San Francisco to explore Silicon Valley on our final study trip, for instance, I don’t just take them to visit tech companies, I also show them the ecological and social issues of the region. In this way, they can form their own views of the world.
I truly believe that after graduation, our MSc students are fully capable of taking on an innovation scheme at a start-up or a larger company. I just want them to find their true career path, to be passionate about whatever they do. One path is no better than another. I don’t believe that entrepreneurs are kings. As I mentioned, I created my company at 45 and sold it four years later. I moved on. We must be entrepreneurs of our own lives.
I remain connected to my students and I’m happy to see them enjoy what they do. I recently heard from a German alumnus who has launched a range of insect-based pasta. She told me she was grateful to have learned how to pitch her project to raise funds. The ex-EDHEC founders of Canard Street, the duck-based street-food company and the Pumpkin mobile payments app are successful and love what they do. I’m proud of them and of all my students.