There's a lot of talk about whether MBAs have what it takes to be entrepreneurs. Skeptics think they're too straitjacketed by classroom theory and spoilt by cushy corporate life to get out there and make stuff happen.
Over the year we've covered plenty of MBA entrepreneurs, but there are a few who have truly impressed us. They're not selling the sexiest products, and many are below the radar serving B2B clients, but these seven MBA start-ups are innovating in highly competitive markets. Some of them are even making money!
Super cool, in-demand app Bump - Chicago Booth
is an app created by Bump Technologies for the Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems. It allows two smartphone users to bump their phones together and transfer contact information, photos and other media to each other over the Internet. You can also uae Bump to transfer information from your phone to your laptop!
Bump is the eighth most popular free app of all time and was conceived by David Lieb, a former employee of Texas Instruments, while he was doing an MBA at the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business
. He felt that the process of sharing information between phones could be improved.
Early funding for the project was provided by startup incubator Y Combinator, Sequoia Capital and angel investors. The company gained attention at the CTIA international wireless conference because of its accessibility and novelty factor. In January 2011, Bump secured US$16M in a series B financing round led by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.
The company is based in Mountain View, Silicon Valley. They had over 112 million downloads on 12/12/12 and are working to change the way people interact through their phones.
Digital trackers for the aerospace industry, powered by Oridao - EMLYON
develops digital trackers and secured traceability solutions for industrial airspace and defense applications. It was founded by EMLYON Business School
MBA Nicholas Reffe who also has an engineering degree. Oridao has developed long-term academic partnerships in each of its fields of expertise: low-resources, hardware oriented cryptography and secured traceability protocols.
The company partnered with the French National Institute for Scientific Research (CNRS) after receiving a European patent for its digital security algorithms. In 2008, it won a French government award as a tech innovator in business.
The pharma company fighting diabetes, Poxel - EMLYON
is developing promising compounds to fight Type 2 Diabetes and also researching cardiovascular pathologies and infectiology. Co-founder and CEO Thomas Kuhn earned his MBA at EMLYON Business School
, and the company joined the EMLYON Incubator in 2009. Poxel put clinical studies into place for the Imeglimin product, a standalone treatment for type 2 diabetes. They were awarded a €436,000 grant from the European Regional Development Fund and Greater Lyon council in 2010 and also raised €16 million of Series A funding to finance the development pipeline. A few days ago Poxel raised €17million in a Series B round to develop and confirm the efficacy data of Imeglimin.
A sustainable alternative to leather made with pineapple leaves, Ananas Anam - Imperial College Business School
is developing a new alternative to leather using natural fibres extracted from the waste leaves of pineapple plants. The firm claims it's the first sustainable, attractive alternative to leather and that can be used for fashion bags, footwear and furnishings and other products. The venture was founded by social entrepreneur and designer Carmen Hijosa, who has a strong track record in design and manufacture of luxury leather goods. Retailers stocking her leather goods include Harrods and Liberty of London!
Hijosa is developing the new material at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in London, with a team of five MBA students from Imperial College Business School.
Samples of the leather alternative, which is at the pre-manufacture stage, can be produced in a range of colours, thicknesses and finishes.
The team from Imperial was formed during the school's four-month long Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Design (IE&D) module, which is run in collaboration with the RCA. After winning the social entrepreneurship award in Imperial's Business Plan Competition in June 2012, the business is currently shortlisted for the upcoming RCA incubator.
Healthy fruit drink Koji, Future Drinks - Bath School of Management
makes tasty but low calorie sparkling drinks. It was inspired by the idea of Japanese infusions and its recipes are blend of fine fruits, herbs, spices and spring water. The drinks don’t contain any artificial sweeteners or additives. They are currently available in two flavours- Mandarin & Cranberry, and Lemon and Ginger. Each bottle contains just 49 calories!
The company was founded by Tim Chater who is a University of Bath School of Management Executive MBA
. It has already raised £360,000 of investment funding and even had to turn down some investors. The company has collaborated with well-known cider brand Brothers Drinks, to produce and bottle the drink locally in Shepton Mallet. Tim has worked for multinationals such as Nestle and Premier foods so we’re looking forward to seeing Koji take off.
CANDDi, a smart tool that analyses who is visiting your website - Manchester Business School
CANDDi’s analytics tells you who is on your website. It tracks your visitors across time and multiple devices. It combines this data with social profile information to provide insights that you can turn into tactics to grow your business.
provides detailed data on every page your propects visit, when, and for how long, videos viewed, documents downloaded and search terms. It also provides contact information, maps IP addresses and postcodes and tells you your users' Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Finally it tells you about the companies that have checked out your site!
CANDDi was founded by Tim Langley, a serial entrepreneur and the main technology brain behind CANDDi. He holds an MA in Mathematics from Cambridge University and an MBA from Manchester Business School
. CANDDi is Tim's fifth venture since 2002. The company announced a new investment round of £370,000 in September 2012.
The new funding round was led by Northstar Ventures, which has put in a £250,000 mixed debt and equity investment. The remaining £100,000 comes from an elite group of angels including former TravelSupermarket.com and Kelkoo MD Chris Nixon, and Clément Schvartz, EMEA Large Customer Sales Director at Google.
Sizzling hot swimwear designed by Maaji - IE Business School
was created by sisters Manuela and Amalia Sierra. The Colombian duo are graduates of IE Business School
in Spain and design the boho chic pieces themselves. Maaji’s designs are colourful and playful, and are made sustainably in Colombia. The company was founded in 2002 but Maaji's pieces have take the fashion world by storm. The pieces can be bought in over 45 countries and dozens of online stores. The company reportedly makes annual sales of over US$5 million. They also make cover ups, accessories, and swimwear for kids!
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