Arriving at Gare de Lyon in Paris to take the Eurostar to London, I met a couple of INSEAD MBA students and started to realize why the UK is the most popular destination after graduation. It was our P4/P5 Break, and while the school and students and have organized many field trips or treks to different places across the globe from Japan to Silicon Valley, nothing seemed to compare to the 5 treks there were about to take place in London. One of my colleagues was going to join the PE Trek, the other would be joining the Asset Management Trek, one more group of students was going to join the TMT Trek, another the INDEVOR Trek, and the last one the VCs Trek – which was the one I joined.
In P4, one of the electives I had enrolled in was Private Equity. Vikas Aggarwal, our professor for this course, not only managed to cover important principles about the VC industry, but also to bring relevant guests working in the industry both to share their experience and run dynamic exercises in class. I knew that the interaction with the guests from the VC industry was just a hint of what I could find in London. Therefore, eager for more knowledge, I followed all the necessary steps to make sure I would be able to join the group in the trek. The trek was organized in order to allow us to visit 9 firms in two days. Given the profile of the firms and the people we were going to see I had no doubt about how much I could learn from the interaction with them. That would be an amazing opportunity to learn about their processes, ask relevant questions, and construct bridges with relevant firms. What I had not thought, however, was how much I was going to learn from my peers in the group.
INSEAD MBA Candidates at the VC Trek
During the trip, the small team of eight people were revealed to have impressive achievements in the start-up area. Just to cite a few examples, one of the participants was responsible for the setup of the USA operation of a French patisserie start-up and had run the business for three years. Another one was a co-founder of a start-up which had raised a few millions dollars in London. Interacting with my peers, learning about how they struggled in their endeavours, how they managed to overcome their challenges, and so on, was remarkable. Furthermore, the experience of bonding during those two intensive days is priceless. The group of students was accompanied by Ivy Kwan, a member of the INSEAD Career centre, who also had the opportunity to create the right connections with the firms. Doing so, the school might be able to place more students in the industry, which seems to be a growing target among MBA candidates.
On the first day, we were set to visit a few prominent funds, including Balderton and Index Ventures, and after the meetings with the VCs we were going to participate in an INSEAD UK Alumni event. Once we arrived for the last scheduled meeting, we discovered that Accel Partners was in the same building. Between this last meeting and the UK Alumni event, there was roughly two hours break. This was an excellent opportunity to try a meeting with Accel as well. But, how on earth could someone just show up and politely require a meeting with such an outstanding VC firm? I have no answer. Yet, to make a long story short, after calling her contacts, our colleague Virginie was able to secure a meeting with Accel Partners for that very afternoon. On the second day, we visited five more funds, almost all of them in the East of London, and with no happy surprises we finished up the trek at the iconic Second Home London in Shoreditch, where the last two meetings were scheduled to happen.
Interior of Second Home London in Shoreditch
P.s. A very special thanks to Ivy Kwan for taking the photos and Szabi Baranyi for having lead the efforts to organize the VCs Trek.