In this interview, Sebastian Daus, alumnus of the Executive Master in Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership programme (EMDIEL) (class of 2020), speaks about his entrepreneurial adventure at ESCP Business School.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR BACKGROUND? WHERE ARE YOU FROM, WHAT DID YOU STUDY AND WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE YOU STARTED THE EMDIEL AT ESCP BUSINESS SCHOOL?
I live and work in Berlin, but grew up in a small German village. Before EMDIEL, I was working as a freelance digital consultant and already working on a couple of my own startup ideas. My study background is industrial engineering and technology management which was very much focused on improving larger systems incrementally and very strict technical development processes e.g. in the automotive industry. There I had the opportunity to do a lot of internships from process & lean management to digital transformation and venture development in startups.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO JOIN THE EMDIEL PROGRAMME?
I was always fascinated by how an idea that could solve a specific problem can evolve into a major company with real impact. Looking back, I realised I was always involved in a small part of that process and was missing out on the full entrepreneurial process: from validating an idea, to scaling a company and consequently evolving as a leader. The programme takes you through exactly those stages that are helpful for entrepreneurs and goes above and beyond, by including different angles such as corporate innovation and introducing you to entrepreneurial ecosystems in Silicon Valley, China and major Europe. A factor that also makes this programme unique is that you can focus on your own entrepreneurial project while studying or working full-time. Combining that with the European footprint and international network provided by the top ranked ESCP Business School, it wasn’t hard for me to choose.
COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE MOST DIFFICULT CHALLENGE THAT YOU FACED DURING THE PROGRAMME? HOW DID YOU OVERCOME IT?
The programme constantly takes you out of your comfort zone - talking to people in Shanghai as part of a design challenge and presenting the results to a local CEO in five days or pitching your idea to larger crowds while a TED speaker coach constantly challenges you, are some that come to mind and were challenging for me personally. I believe it’s a better approach to seek out challenges like that rather than stay in your comfort zone - otherwise you’re probably not training your “growth muscles” enough… and growth is the only constant that matters, personally and in terms of startup traction.
COULD YOU SHARE WITH US A MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE DURING YOUR EMDIEL THAT HAD A SIGNIFICANT AND LASTING IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE, PROFESSIONAL OR PERSONAL?
Two things come to mind: First, telling someone about an idea that you're working on is cool and probably most of your friends will clap their hands... but pitching it in front of a VC in San Francisco who is also a Stanford professor that coaches entrepreneurs around the world and tears apart every single one of your assumptions is definitely something very refreshing and memorable. This helped me improve my idea and seek out better feedback. Funnily, he is now an advisor to my startup. And second, seeing all the different entrepreneurial ecosystems helped me reflect on what I value here in Europe and demystified most of the buzz around Silicon Valley.
WHAT WERE THE MAIN HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PROGRAMME FOR YOU AS AN EMDIEL PARTICIPANT?
Listening to founder stories and asking questions first hand in all different startup ecosystems and from ESCP Alumni were always highlights for me. Additionally, there are a couple of memorable moments like writing a few lines of code in Python that we learned from Oxford PhDs, the waitress in Shanghai using the voice translation in WeChat from Chinese to English that worked amazingly well in real-time, our very own first vernissage or the leadership training in virtual reality.
DID THE EMDIEL PROGRAMME HELP YOU TO IMPROVE YOUR PROFESSIONAL SUCCESS? IF YES, HOW?
Absolutely! The programme definitely helped me gain the skills, mindset and network that helped me evolve my idea into an actual venture funded startup with a small team and first clients. Personally, it also helped me enjoy and reflect on my entrepreneurial journey and learn more about myself.
WHAT KNOWLEDGE GAINED THROUGH THE EMDIEL PROGRAMME DO YOU APPLY IN YOUR CAREER OR DAILY LIFE?
The programme builds on fundamental blocks like idea validation, hiring people, branding, sales, fundraising, product development and technology trends (and more) but focuses on the practical applications not only in the classrooms but also when it comes to your entrepreneurial project. This is great - instead of only studying something on paper, it actually helps you to apply it in practice. Personally, all topics around the leadership component and storytelling modules helped me inspire people, win startup pitch events and convince clients & investors.
WHO DO YOU THINK SHOULD APPLY TO THIS PROGRAMME AND WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE TO FUTURE APPLICANTS?
I think this programme is ideal for anyone who wants to start an entrepreneurial journey, help others or enable an organization from within either directly as a part of it or indirectly, e.g. as an external consultant. I believe participants should take this as a really unique opportunity and bring a lot of their own ideas they want to take action on. It doesn’t matter if you’re an executive in a corporation, a freelance marketer, an employee in a startup or an investment professional - as long as you bring curiosity and a hands-on mindset.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE EMDIEL IN ONE SENTENCE?
An entrepreneurial adventure.
If you wish to learn more about the Executive Master in Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (EMDIEL) at ESCP Business School, please contact Olga Perfilyeva.