Starting a Business: “It’s a Roller Coaster Ride”
Joatham Grange, CEO of Enerside Energy (EMBA 2011), talks about surfing the entrepreneurial wave / Photo: IESE Business School
The renewable energy boom in 2007 and 2008 was a breath of fresh air in the business world. But it also caused some scares. No one knows this better than Joatham Grange (EMBA 2011). In 2007 he and two partners founded Enerside Energy, a renewable energy startup with a clear objective: to leverage sector know-how to build more responsible, efficient and sustainable communities.
For the first two years the company enjoyed a strong tailwind and relatively smooth sailing. However things were to take a sudden change for the worse.
The Lone Entrepreneur
In late 2008 the Spanish government pushed through a number far-reaching regulatory changes, with significant consequences for the burgeoning renewable energy sector. After various legislative battles, Joatham’s two partners decided to withdraw from Enerside.
Not Joatham, however. With a drive and stubbornness characteristic of entrepreneurs who believe in their projects, he was determined to see the plan through. In 2010 he bought his partners out, becoming sole owner of the company.
Friends, family and colleagues tried to convince him to give up, pointing out rather bluntly that "in Spain we’re not allowed to develop renewable energy." They urged Joatham to shut his company down to avoid losing everything.
"To be honest, this was one of the most difficult moments for me, both personally and professionally," he says, "I ended up literally alone at the helm of the company."
A Change of Course
Joatham resisted the urge to throw in the towel, and embarked on his new solo adventure with a quiet determination. However he soon came to the conclusion that something was missing.
"Here I am, 26 years old, riding the renewable energy wave, negotiating with American investment groups, with complex financial structures. I realized that I needed something more if I wanted a seat at the table."
Joatham concluded that his best option was to do an Executive MBA (EMBA). The EMBA solution was ideal, he says, "because it lets you continue to build your company while getting executive training." It was clear from the start that his school of choice would be IESE, because he wanted an education that would afford him a "life-changing experience," both personally and professionally.
International or Bust
While Joatham was pursuing his Executive MBA, he and his team sensed a new opportunity for the company. "When the market fell and renewables stopped being a viable option here in Spain, a door opened for us in Brazil. When we got started, we realized that it made a lot of sense, and we counted on IESE for help."
The transition from local to global, he says, was facilitated by the "total support" he received from IESE professors and staff. "They open IESE’s Alumni Network to you. Now I understand the full potential of the network, four years after completing the EMBA."
Today Enerside is a multicultural and multidisciplinary team, made up of ten people of different ages and diverse trajectories: "Diversity is one of our main assets, because it helps us understand our markets better."
Although the company’ is officially based in Sant Cugat del Vallès (Barcelona), Joatham says that they "hardly know where our headquarters are, because a lot of our operations are in Brazil, part of our engineering team is in Santiago de Chile, and we’re also opening up in Uruguay."
The EMBA has helped Joatham to know himself better, and has significantly boosted his leadership competencies. Above all, he adds, "today I can say that I am applying the vast majority of the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the masters: leadership, internationalization, and handling the cultural impact of internationalization."
He is quick to stress the professional and personal challenges that come with launching a startup. "I don’t know a single entrepreneur who hasn’t spent hundreds of weekends on his or her business. You don’t punch a time card; it’s a job that never ends." It is almost like having a child, he jokes; an apt comparison, as he himself is about to become a father.
And for prospective entrepreneurs, he has a couple of pieces of advice. "First, just do it," he says. Don’t wait to have everything you think you need 100% lined up, because that won’t happen. And second: "be patient because it’s a veritable roller coaster, especially at the beginning. You’re in heaven and hell, day after day." This is the hardest part to endure, he says. "You have to have a certain amount of inner balance to be able to handle it." But it’s worth it. More than worth it.