Life Re-Boot @ the Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp
The last month has flown by and I am yet to recuperate from the excitement and surrealism of being at INSEAD. Like most people here, I am surviving a dense schedule that enables a cross of social, political and cultural immersion. I have made it my mantra ‘to be comfortable being uncomfortable’- conversing with people from countries I knew nothing about, dancing to songs I can’t understand, learning sailing and diving, partying on a helipad – and- oh yes -understanding a bit about competitive market pricing models, valuations and business uncertainty management -all of this while bonding with my study group comprising of a Moroccan, Chinese-French, Brazilian, Portuguese and an Indonesian!
But in true INSEAD fashion- I felt I could challenge myself even more. I signed up for what became one of the most exciting weekends so far: “ The Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp”. I always thought social entrepreneurship meant living a non- materialistic life devoted to raising funds, surviving villages and the perennial struggle to solve a societal problem—but by dawn Monday social entrepreneurship to me became: creating micro-economies, implementing knowledge in new areas, innovating, developing a pragmatic approach to change that is sustainable – with or without my presence.
It all began on Friday with 30 of us sharing our stories over dinner and garnering inspiration from each other’s backgrounds. Comprising people dedicated to the uplifting of slums to marine conservation to people with no entrepreneurial experience, the group mingled, debated and somehow gravitated towards 6 ideas- forming 6 motivated and eager groups with fuzzy yet ambitious missions: Fishing Nemo (marine life conservation), Travel Action (eco friendly travel), Handy Mamas (training underprivileged women in Nairobi), Prodigy Plus (innovative loan schemes for Indonesian students), Agro-Vision (optimizing rural agriculture supply chain), Corporate Leaders (innovative CSR programs).
Over the next 48 hours, Christine Driscoll Goulay, Associate Director of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative at INSEAD, guided the teams through a comprehensive methodology to starting a social venture including defining mission and value propositions. The diverse teams, including MBA, EMBA and external participants from Singapore and Indonesia , brainstormed, quarreled, negotiated, learnt, un-learnt, and innovated to develop solutions which each member of the team endorsed proudly.
On Saturday evening, the teams presented their plans along with their ad campaigns. Every team demonstrated unequivocal passion and commitment. The ad campaigns brought out the ingenious use of sticky notes, markers, apples and deep voices. For each group, what had started as one person’s idea was now a collective aspiration.
To reassure and support us, successful INSEAD social entrepreneurs joined us over video calls. Talking to them live in Africa and India helped us realize that what they are doing today was once a flowchart of a business idea in this very bootcamp. We called upon our one month of MBA knowledge to develop budgets, NPVs and modelled pilot programs. Adrenaline was at a record high when we started rehearsing our pitches. By Sunday afternoon we were to pitch our ideas to REAL Impact Investors!
Grace Sai, Co-founder of “The Hub, Singapore” mentored and calmed us throughout the process, sharing her personal experiences, funding avenues and impact measurement options.
The judges, Jayesh Parekh and Raya Papp, renowned Impact investors, gave the 6 groups 90 seconds each to pitch. After a tense round, 3 finalists were asked to present again, this time detailing the business model. By now, all of us were in pure awe of what we had accomplished in 2 days; we had found a road ahead – and many of us would embark on that road irrespective of the results.
The judges provided detailed feedback and demonstrated interest in personally nurturing and mentoring the participants. After the nail biting suspense, my team Agro-Vision was declared the winner based on innovation, Prodigy Plus tied for having a solid- tested and detailed business model.
It’s events like these at INSEAD that often take you by surprise, unlocking your hidden potential or helping you get over your creative block. I strongly encourage participating in at least one Bootcamp oraganized by the INSEAD Center for Entrepreneurship (Acquistions / Social /Start-up/ Sci tech) – you might find a new you.