Do you want to become an entrepreneur? Discover in this article how ESSEC can help you make your project a reality. Learn from Arnaud Mignucci who shares his experience as a 2016 Executive MBA graduate and active member of the ESSEC Ventures incubator.
Can you introduce yourself?
A telecom engineer by training, I started as an IT consultant on international projects at Capgemini. In 2000, I contributed to the development of a startup, Scoot, a professional directory solution that competed with the market leader Pages Jaunes. After an acquisition by Vivendi and a restructuring of the group, I went back to IT consulting to work on security and CRM issues.
In early 2005, I joined two former Scoot employees to launch 118 218, my first entrepreneurial venture. Supported by American investors, we created, in a few months, a telephone information service that received, from the start more than 300 000 calls per day. This adventure lasted for more than 6 years, time where we developed new services in a very competitive universe. It was a first in the telecom industry to see an alternative operator take over the market from its historical operator, Orange.
In 2007, the arrival of the iPhone changed data usage and people could easily find online information directly on their phones. The initial voice market and therefore the market for the 118 218 service was in steep decline and the shift we wanted to make on the product could not be done. In 2011, I left 118 218, mainly for strategic reasons, and also because I was the last one from the founding team in place.
I then joined the Lagardère group and its Media division as CTO to manage technology and operations with a team of 130 people. Faced with the decline of the traditional media market, the challenge was to negotiate the digital shift as quickly as possible for press, radio and TV. Business models had to be reinvented. After this 9-year tenure, I decided to launch my own consulting company, Livange, through which I help SMEs and startups with their digital transformation and operational optimization issues.
Today, you coach entrepreneurs at ESSEC. What are your motivations and what does it involve?
I indeed joined the incubator as an “ESSEC Alumnus in Residence”, and I am currently supporting seven startups in their launch phases. The objective is to prove their concept, to understand their business issues, to help them penetrate a market, to tackle operational or technical problems or to raise funds.
I work with highly motivated students who want to do things. They bring me a lot of energy and new perspectives. It was important for me to ”send the elevator back down” and share the fruits of my professional and academic experiences.
Can you give us an example of a project from the ESSEC Ventures incubator?
One of the projects is called WINE Rendez-vous. It's a home wine delivery service. Once signed up, the customer receives two bottles per month selected by a renowned sommelier. The company targets the Singapore market for the time being. We recently had an exchange, with the help of my network, with the general manager of Chais d'Œuvre (€3 million in sales), which offers an equivalent service in France and who gave us all the best practices and recommendations to carry out this project. This allowed us to adjust the company's model. Recently, the first customers have been delivered to and we are now facing some logistic issues.
Let's now come back to your background. In 2014 you joined the ESSEC & Mannheim Executive MBA program. Why did you make this choice?
My background is in telecom engineering, which is very technical. I wanted to broaden my field of expertise, to go into more business and operational subjects, to have a better knowledge of company management. It was very complementary to my initial training. It was something I wanted to do for a long time. I couldn’t do it earlier due to professional and personal projects. At the age of 40, I was able to realize this ambition and choose to go back to school.
Finally, what do you take away from this experience?
It was a very rich human experience that took me out of my comfort zone and challenged me. I met great people, both students and teachers. It's like a new, close-knit family that has formed. We faced many challenges, we were put under tension for two years. The fact that we shared strong moments allowed us to create strong relationships.
This experience also taught me how to manage my workload. During my Executive MBA, I had a management position at Lagardère in a very operational job, where I could be called upon 24/7. At the same time, I was managing my life as a father of two daughters, plus classes at ESSEC, homework and the entrepreneurial project, which in itself became a real challenge with the creation of a company after an initial fundraising during our EMBA. Such a workload required a very solid organization in order to progress properly. All these constraints allowed me to get highly organized and more efficient.
Finally, it also allowed me to know how far I was willing to go and to know my limits in general.
To conclude, what are your 3 tips for entrepreneurs?
First is to choose your partners well, with whom to start your venture. This is a key element. The team is the number one success factor of the project.
Second is to never give up. We go through turbulences every day. As obvious as it may seem, it is essential to never give up.
Third: love what you do. If you do not love what you do, it gets complicated. You have to be passionate about what you do.
As a bonus, a last piece of advice: don't be afraid of thinking big at the beginning. As one of my professors at ESSEC used to tell me: "Go big or go home".