The latest in the series of Entrepreneurs Breakfast Meetings organized by London alumni was held this morning at a venue just off the Strand in London. The monthly meetings, which bring together IESE, LBS and other business school graduates were established in 2010 with the aim of creating a forum for an exchange of ideas between entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, often around a particular theme.
Around 50 people gathered for the morning’s meeting which involved a discussion with three entrepreneurs, moderated by Rob Johnson, professor of entrepreneurship at IESE. The first speaker was Brandon Stephens, a London Business School and Princeton graduate and founder of Tortilla, a chain of nine outlets in London selling Californian-Mexican burritos. He said he started the chain because he wanted to eat Mexican food. He drew up the business plan as a second-year MBA project. He started out with 40 small investors and recently closed a £3.5 million (€4.2 million) round of financing with Quilvest. “When the first customers came into the first shop I was in tears,” he said.
He was followed by Ernesto Suarez, an IESE graduate and founder of iCarHire Insurance, an online seller of insurance products covering excess payments on hire car insurance policies. “I saw a niche where no one had really exploited car rental on the Internet,” he said. “We sold two policies the first day. We have been trading for two and a half years and last year we sold 110,000 policies. This is a product with global potential. If you build a good product, with social media, word of mouth goes a long way and people do your marketing for you.”
The last to relate his experiences was Ritz Steytler, an LBS graduate, who led a management buy-in and growth capital investment in Servebase, a global payments processing company, after a sponsored search. “It’s all about a single opportunity, buying it and taking it to the next level. The point of the search, which can take as long as two years, is to find a viable company in a growth industry. Finding the right company is like finding a needle in haystack.” He said he always wanted to buy a technology company because that was his background and his main strength. “In Europe you need to prove your credibility if anyone’s going to lend you money,” he said.