Business Leaders Mentor Startup Entrepreneurs

New program weGrow: dream big to grow

28/04/2016 Barcelona

Mª Júlia Prats

Júlia Prats: “Its not enough to be smart and have the right skill set. You need to learn from the grown-ups how to get things done.” / Photo: Edu Ferrer

“We might start off small, but we need to dream big.” So said IESE Dean Jordi Canals at the presentation of the new mentoring program for startups, weGrow in Barcelona campus recently.

weGrow is a new initiative from the IESE Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center ecosystem. Its aim is to pass the experience and talent of successful businesses leaders linked to the school with young entrepreneurs in the process of developing their own startups.

Canals defined the new program as “a startup inside IESE” and with a reach that could go much further than “just helping the businesses grow,” he says. It also has the potential to become “a reference for other institutions in Spain and Europe.”

While the program will not serve as an accelerator – nor does it finance the startups – it is connected to the IESE Business Angels Network and Finaves, which is geared towards helping to find initial funding for entrepreneurial initiatives.

Director of the Department of Entrepreneurship at IESE, Júlia Prats, highlights the “drive and ambition to grow” of the startups involved, as well as their international focus. A recipe for success, she believes, when coupled with “the priceless experience that the mentors bring to the program.”

The program will serve the startups as a tool to further their development – and even more so, says Prats, when it comes to growth. “But growth processes are not linear,” she warns, “and we mustn’t forget that one of the most important lessons we have to pass on is how to get out of tight spots.”

Learn From the “Grown-ups”

Through the use of real examples, studied for cases, Prats sheds light on the key elements that entrepreneurs need to get back up and keep going when they hit hard hard times.

“Those with business acumen get out of the mud, but it’s not enough. They need interpersonal skills: knowing how to communicate effectively, negotiate, motivate your team. And they need charisma to get them through the other side.”

What’s also crucial is knowing when to ask for help – and who to ask. Which is where the weGrow program steps in. “That’s exactly what we’re here for,” says Prats. “In the end, it’s the ability to keep going and identifying when and who to ask for help that makes the difference. It's not enough to be smart and have the right skill set. You need to learn from the grown-ups how to get things done.”

The first edition of the program runs from this May to December. There will be 16 mentors with proven track records including: Enric Crous (MBA ‘73), director of the Grupo Damm, Kim Faura (MBA ‘78), CEO of Telefónica, Catalonia, Aurora Catá (MBA ‘89 y PADE ‘03), advisor for Banco Sabadell, and Núria Cabutí (MBA ‘92), CEO of the editorial group Penguin Random House.

Their role will be to guide the development of the 10 startups funded by the IESE Alumni Association.

The projects are in a different phases of development and have a total income of around 14 million euros.

The mentors will hold what Prats terms “advisory board” meetings with their startups regularly. “This is a serious job and mentors expect the entrepreneurs to play their part professionally.”

“weGrow,” adds Prats, “is designed to help with growth and realizing the full potential of these companies.”

Sustainable Growth

The concept of entrepreneurship, says Canals, has always been core to IESE from the beginning. Key to getting your idea off the ground is understanding how to make it grow; “not just quickly,” says Canals, “but in a sustainable way that will stand the test of time. So that in 20 years your business will still be going from strength to strength.”

“This vision,” he says, “is important for IESE as it is intertwined with the roots of the institution. There is more to it than just launching something fast and selling it to make money.”