Grant Gudgel knows how the entrepreneurial game works. After an EMLYON MBA, start-ups are his field of play.
What do MBAs want for Christmas? A successful start-up, of course. Grant Gudgel got his present early, two years ago in November, when he took away the Lean Start-Up award at Startup Weekend Lyon.
He entered the competition while running his business development start-up at the time, The Auctus Group, but with a different project.
The start-up competition focused on the emergence of innovative technologies derived from scientific research, and Grant’s previous clients with The Auctus Group included a US medical device firm as well as solar and wind projects in the States. With that background it is easy to see how he won.
“We were working with several different start-ups with The Auctus Group in the US that we thought had unique business opportunities,” recalls Grant. “And instead of working with one start-up, we wanted to consult for a whole portfolio.”
The co-founders took part of their pay in equity. Their plan was to build up a portfolio of clients and start a fund. “We thought it was going to be huge,” Grant continues.
“But we were right in the midst of the European credit crunch, so we had a couple of deals go really bad. We decided to convert to pure consulting and worked with a bunch of different start-ups.”
That is until Grant seized on the opportunity to join a new enterprise. He is a fully-fledged entrepreneur; hungry to seek out new opportunities.
The EMLYON MBA
graduate, now the COO of another start-up, vidCoin, has enjoyed a wide range of roles in different industries. As we speak he is only too quick to praise the benefit of adding an MBA to the ammunition on his CV. Yet there is more to Grant’s background than one might expect.
An American citizen who studied a BA in Oklahoma, his first passion was international law – although it is a challenge pin-pointing his current interests. Back in 2005 it was law, a year later politics, and a year from now? Who knows.
But is that not the nature of an MBA entrepreneur? If the demographic had a philosophy, I imagine it would be to seek out the most challenging business opportunities – whether you were a specialist in the industry or not.
Fresh out of undergraduate studies, Grant first worked for a political campaign. He helped coordinate the recruitment and organization for a US Congressional campaign in Oklahoma. He even went door-to-door to secure votes.
He then worked as a project manager for a tech company specializing in security. He got his “feet wet” with wireless network tech. “But I just got into tech by chance,” he insists. “I haven’t always had a passion for it. I was just taken aback by how advanced the technology the company used was.”
But he left after a couple of years and began an MBA at EMLYON – one of the highest MBA Ranking
b-schools in Europe. The European debt crisis may have made his start-up road rocky, but entrepreneurship was what brought him to the French university.
“EMLYON’s entrepreneurship focus was 100 per cent of the reason why I chose their MBA,” he says. “I had lived in France for almost ten years at the time and knew I wanted to stay in Europe.
“I also knew I wanted to focus on entrepreneurship and, already trying to launch one of my business ideas, I was a quick fit with EMLYON.”
There are many entrepreneurs that don’t go to b-school. Why did he feel an MBA was the right route?
“There were a lot of different reasons,” he says, “but at the time I lacked the business knowledge to be legitimate. I wanted to be in start-ups and, with a high probability of failure; I knew I could always fall back on an MBA.
“It also makes me more legitimate to raise capital with investors – but with the added bonus that if the deal goes south, I can also look at a corporate position.”
His business didn’t necessarily go south, though. After The Auctus Group won the lean start-up award at Lyon’s Startup Weekend, Grant was consulting for vidCoin, an exciting tech SME that displays branded video campaigns to players of high-quality social and mobile games, in exchange for virtual currency.
When The Auctus Group began to break up last year, he joined vidCoin on a permanent basis.
They launched their first product in June and have experienced a 50 per cent growth month-on-month. “We’re becoming a serious business now,” Grant adds.
But his path is slightly more muddled than that. For all the entrepreneurship focus of EMLYON’s International MBA program, a constant provider to graduates hungry to take a bite out of start-ups, Grant took up a corporate gig fresh out of his MBA.
He was an account and programs manager at a subsidiary of EMLYON Business School which provides training for executives and managers.
“After spending a really intense 12-18 months on an MBA, you realize that there are other things out there besides start-ups,” he explains. “I didn’t necessarily want to work for the company long-term, but I learned a lot.”
That too, was a tech-platform. I can see a theme developing here. “During the MBA I actually consulted for a start-up bio-tech firm that was developing imaging technology for cancer treatment. Tech is now definitely a passion and I’ve continued to pursue it,” Grant says.
So what’s the plan now for vidCoin? Grant sees the US and Western Europe as a big market to expand into and they are “pushing hard” in the mobile technology industry in the States.
An MBA from EMLYON has given him the hard-nosed business acumen needed to survive as an entrepreneur. “When building your business from scratch you have to know everything; marketing, finance, partnerships, everything,” he says.
“And that’s the biggest benefit of the MBA. You see all the different components of a business come together. It has given me exposure to the start-up world in an accelerated way.
“I know how the game works now.”
It’s a game Grant seems to be winning.