IE Venture Day showcases student start-ups and entrepreneurship

With 28 teams of students and alumni selected to participate, the most recent edition of IE Venture Day was the largest showcase of start-ups in the history of the event.


IE Venture Day is an international start-up competition hosted by IE Business School and the IE Venture Lab, the startup accelerator program housed at the school. Twice a year, current and former students are challenged to develop their ideas for new companies, apps and products into practical business plans. The event, which took place on July 6 in the Fundación Rafael del Pino auditorium, exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that IE fosters in all of its schools and programs.


This year, the grand prize went to Octavio Coffee, a personalized coffee subscription service created by students from the International MBA program—Andreia Quercia, Jacob Hudson and Dmytro Kulikov.


“The idea was actually born in the first term as a marketing project. I saw potential in it, and I started developing it in term two, and then we took it to the Start-Up Lab, which brought us here,” explained Ms. Quercia, who delivered the team’s pitch. “I think that in our case having the platform that IE provided us for working on the idea was key, because now we’re a step ahead to getting started.”


During the presentation, Ms. Quercia explained her family’s legacy in the coffee industry (Octavio is the name of her grandfather), and how it inspired her to develop this idea. Octavio Coffee aims to customize a traditional product and target coffee lovers in Germany, Europe’s largest coffee market.


Customers take an online “palate quiz” to determine their preferences for flavor, roasting, grinding and packaging. They then receive personalized coffee right to their door, for a cost of 25-29 euros per month. The coffee beans are directly sourced from farmers to the company’s Berlin factory. Moving forward, the team plans to focus on advertising and marketing on social media to develop brand recognition.


Octavio was one of 10 finalists from the 63 teams who applied and 28 finalists. The group of finalists included eight teams from the International MBA (IMBA), one from the Master in Management (MIM), and one from the Master in Business Analytics and Big Data (MBD). Six of them had developed their ideas in the IE Venture Lab and two were part of the Knowledge Incubator. Both programs are located in Area 31, IE’s entrepreneurship space.


RefundMe, a start-up offering instant VAT refunds for Chinese tourists in France, took home the second place prize in the startup competition. By using passive, ultra-high-frequency RFID tags and scanners, the team is streamlining the frustrating and inefficient process that tourists go through in order to claim VAT refunds. They’ve partnered with luxury brands and travel operators to start the process of digitizing the value chain.


In third place was VeRapy, a virtual reality solution for children with cerebral palsy. The team is combining their own innovative software with biofeedback tracking and virtual reality glasses in order to create virtual experiences that will engage children during the demanding physical therapy process. They’ve already been approached by Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures, and plan to begin by implementing their project in private clinics and tech-driven hospitals.


Special awards were also presented for specific categories. The Big Data award went to InVivo, a wearable health tracking device and web platform that provides non-invasive blood analysis. RefundMe was selected as the Best MIM Team and Octavio Coffee took home the honors for Best IMBA Team.


There was also an audience choice award that was based on live poll. Gastro Ventures came out on top with 30% of the vote, with their proposal for a food hall and culinary concept accelerator. They were closely followed by VeRapy and Octavio Coffee.


The other five finalists were Roomieship, an advanced roommate matching platform; InWine, a customized wine subscription service; Gether, an augmented reality dating app; LetMePark, an app for finding and paying for parking; and Mosaic Brewing, a microbrewery that will repurpose leftover bread to make sustainable beer.


Among the 18 runners up, projects ranged from the real estate industry to the world of vintage watches. There were proposals promoting affordable solar energy, fast-casual Italian food, artificial intelligence, gamified apps, virtual reality physical therapy and more.


Besides the start-up pitches, the event also featured speakers and moderators from the IE Business School faculty including Paris de l’Etraz, Juan José Güemes, Joe Haslam, Peter Bryant, Matthias Tietz, Rachida Justo, Narjisse Dubois and Cristina Cruz. Live music was provided by the band Track Dogs.


Marianne Hoayek presented the keynote address, “Disruptive Entrepreneurship & Innovation Policies: How Banque du Liban is Supporting Start-ups.” As Director of the Governor’s Executive Office at Banque du Liban in Beirut, Lebanon, Ms. Hoayek has been at the forefront of policy changes in the area of entrepreneurship.


She explained the effects of Circular 331, a set of regulations that provides equity financing for start-ups through Lebanese banks. By guaranteeing investment and support for entrepreneurs, Banque du Liban has fostered the growth of Lebanon’s knowledge economy and created an environment conducive to innovation. The bank also hosts the BDL Accelerate Conference in Beirut, an annual tech event that celebrates entrepreneurship.


The keynote address was followed by a panel on “The Rise of Search Funds,” moderated by the IE Venture Capital & Private Equity Club. Participants included Joaquin Cepeda, Simon Webster, Marc Bartomeus and León Bartolomé, professionals who have found success as both searchers and investors.


The panel discussed the potential of search funds, which promote entrepreneurship through acquisition. Searchers look for successful small and mid-size companies with established business plans, and then buy them and take over their management. Investors provide support and guidance throughout the process.


The panelists agreed that search funds can be incredibly lucrative and rewarding, but searchers must be committed, capable, tenacious and open-minded in order to succeed. In Cepeda’s opinion, “Nothing prepares you for it—I think anyone can do it,” and according to Bartolomé, “Now is the time to be an entrepreneur.”


Attendees also heard about the launch of IE Rockets from guest speaker Jolanta Golanowska, Director of Learning and Innovation at IE. The initiative is a residency program designed for late-stage tech start-ups that want to work with IE to reinvent higher education. It combines the benefits of a late-stage accelerator, an initial client and an angel investor, giving projects the extra boost they need to make their concepts reality. Applications for the 2017 program are closed, but Ms. Golanowska encouraged students to apply in future years.


The evening ended with celebration and mingling among the teams and spectators, and plenty of congratulations for the winners. The latest edition of IE Venture Day was a resounding success, and an impressive showcase of the entrepreneurial spirit that sets IE Business School and its students apart.