Executive MBA goes to Silicon Valley – The Start-Up Competition

The expedition’s master-mind and leader, Professor Jim Pulcrano, filters each year through over 120 aspiring entrepreneurs who apply to the IMD Startup competition. With inputs from CTI/KTI, VentureKick and investiere, 25 fortunate ventures are selected to work with IMD’s MBA and Executive MBA participants.Jim introduced the startups to the Executive MBA participants – a group of highly talented and experienced international executives, who together analyze and challenge business plans, teams and company strategies for several months. The pinnacle of the experience is six days in Silicon Valley, as the Swiss entrepreneurs and participants travel to meet venture capitalists and angels awaiting to hear fundraising pitches – and hoping to invest.
“Some people have said that what we ask our EMBAs to do in Silicon Valley is impossible,” Jim Pulcrano said. “Putting them in the shoes of high-tech entrepreneurs and having them pitch their businesses to Silicon Valley venture Capitalists. It’s real, and it works, and every year I have the privilege of watching our EMBAs rise to that impossible challenge and do a great job.”
Jim and the EMBA faculty seek to explore with the participants the mindset of the entrepreneur – an essential objective for any manager. Through the expedition, the EMBAs meet with the people who create, execute, grow and finance new firms. They seem to speak a different language and move at a different speed. Participants are helped to develop a sense of how to create an environment that enables entrepreneurial behavior, drives new-idea generation and assesses chances of success in the marketplace.

– Mid-2016, Aleva Neurotherapeutics, a Swiss based company that develops the next generations of implantable Deep Brain Stimulation systems, have recently announced the closing of an $18 million Series C Financing.

– January of the same year, MindMaze, a company that combines virtual reality (VR), computer graphics, brain imaging & neuroscience for applications in healthcare, received an investment from the Hinduja Group and others for a valuation in excess of $1 billion.

– A few month prior to that, Faceshift AG, a company that offers unique facial tracking technology for animation content creation and human computer interaction used in Star Wars, was acquired by Apple

So what do Aleva, Mindmaze and Faceshift have in common? All were chosen through the annual IMD Startup Competition and worked with the IMD EMBA.
In 2009, the IMD EMBA class worked with Aleva Neurotherapeutics, pitching the company to a panel of Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley. In 2012, IMD EMBAs helped drive the success of neurotechnology unicorn MindMaze. A diverse team of Executive MBA participants, including a Russian Asset Management executive, a French corporate business leader, a Brazilian commercial manager and a Danish health minister, partnered with Mindmaze to assess the the start-up opportunities and also do the Silicon Valley pitch. Also in 2012, the EMBAs partnered with Faceshift to do the same.

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