INSEADAlum Ventures is giving alumni entrepreneurs a springboard to success
Ten years ago, Tigris Capital Founder William (Will) Klippgen MBA’03D observed a pattern among INSEAD graduates who were trying to launch a business: Many entrepreneurs were struggling to raise an initial round of funding for their start-ups, even if they demonstrated strong business plans or great potential for growth.
He wasn’t the only INSEAD alumnus thinking about the problem. Deepak Shahdadpuri MBA‘98D, founder and managing director of DSG Consumer Partners, had it on his mind after serving as an angel investor to entrepreneurs who had graduated from INSEAD for years. Deepak believed that many INSEAD graduates weren’t fully leveraging the school’s alumni network to find seed funding for their ventures.
Deepak began talking with Claudia Zeisberger, senior affiliate professor of decision sciences and entrepreneurship and family enterprise at INSEAD, about the issue. Claudia explained that INSEAD students had discussed the idea of creating a seed fund in the past but hadn’t seen it through. She introduced Deepak to Will in the hopes that they would become the team to take the concept across the finish line.
That’s when “the thought of a dedicated fund for alumni started to form,” Will remembers. “As an early-stage founder, you basically need good advice and a little bit of money. Our vision was [to create a fund] which would provide both.”
In 2015, that vision officially became reality: Will and Deepak launched INSEADAlum Ventures (IAV), a Singapore-registered investment company focused on providing seed funding, value-added resources and mentorship to ventures run by INSEAD alumni entrepreneurs. It is, as Deepak explains, a “formal, thought-out way of harnessing the energy behind INSEAD alumni.”
For alumni, by alumni
IAV is the first global venture fund dedicated to INSEAD alumni and funded by alumni. To date, it has raised SGD$1 million from 17 alumni who have agreed to serve as mentors to the start-ups selected by the fund.
As a seed fund, IAV intends to invest only in early-stage start-ups. “The way we define ‘start-up’ is pre-profit, pre-revenue and most of the time, even pre-product,” explains Claudia, who serves as an IAV investor-mentor. “Sometimes they are just at the idea stage.”
While the investment committee has not yet selected any start-ups for the funding, it has reviewed approximately 100 applications to date. The committee evaluates each start-up based on a number of variables, including the quality of the company’s product or service and potential market opportunity.
“We try to meet with most of the qualifying start-ups that apply, either online or in person, and we use our network extensively in the evaluation process,” Will says. “In the end, I believe it comes down to this magical feeling when you meet a really high-potential start-up.”
Deepak adds, “Our mandate is to invest only in businesses that we feel we or one of the mentors can add something to give back.”
Chosen ventures will receive up to SGD$200,000 and mentorship to help them raise additional funding after six to 12 months. IAV will also provide the ventures with access to global senior venture professionals who have built similar businesses, serve as leaders in a relevant sector and can help take the product or service to market. Because all mentors and advisors are investors in IAV, they have a strong, vested interest in making the portfolio of companies succeed.
All alumni ventures can benefit from applying to IAV, says Claudia. “Even if your enterprise is not funded, you will get professional feedback, and that is worth more than the money you may or may not receive.”
Investing in INSEAD’s future
Aside from supporting fellow alumni, Will and Deepak founded IAV in order to give back to INSEAD — an institution that they credit for their own professional success.
“I don’t think I would be where I am without INSEAD,” Deepak shares. “A large reason why I started IAV was … to find a mechanism where I could use what I do to give back to INSEAD on an ongoing basis — something that builds a legacy.”
Approximately 25 percent of IAV’s carried interest will be donated to the INSEAD endowment fund. None of the managers will take a fixed salary, notes Will. “We want to help develop the school through letting it profit from future alumni success stories,” he says.
Although IAV operates as a fully independent entity, it is formally recognised by Dean Ilian Mihov, INSEAD’s Private Equity Centre and INSEAD Entrepreneurship faculty. As such, it intends to extend the efforts of these groups to shape the next generation of entrepreneurs that are coming out of INSEAD.
“Entrepreneurship today is about regional and global ideas that can span multiple countries, languages and professions,” explains WIll. “A lot of entrepreneurs coming out of INSEAD reflect this and impress me by being extremely knowledgeable, forward-thinking and focused.”
With IAV, those entrepreneurs have a support system to take their talents further.
In fact, Will says, having the support of a fund like IAV would have given him an enormous boost of confidence when he was launching his venture years ago.
“Starting a new business is an incredibly tough journey, and being backed by a fund associated with my business school might have made me even bolder and let me move forward even faster,” he explains. “When I did my start-up I had very few mentors around me. Having access to the INSEAD faculty and alumni base would have been incredibly powerful.”
- For more information on IAV, visit https://inseadalumventures.com
- To apply for funding, visit https://inseadalumventures.venture360.co/apply
- To register as an investor, visit https://inseadalumventures.venture360.co/apply/investor/register
- To contact the IAV team, email email@example.com
- For information on INSEAD’s PE center and its research, visit insead.edu/gpei