When serial technology entrepreneur Cristian Tala Sánchez decided to apply to an MBA course, he found that many business schools found his background unappealing.
Then, he came across the one-year program at Maastricht School of Management (MSM) in the Netherlands. The school offered him a place on the MBA partly because of, rather than in spite of, his entrepreneurial ambition.
“I have plenty of technical knowledge, but I needed business-oriented training,” says Cristian. “When I was searching for an MBA, MSM gave me a scholarship based on my entrepreneurial background, which other schools did not always appreciate.”
Not only did the scholarship provide cash to pay the school’s €30,500 tuition fees, but signalled support for entrepreneurs: MSM offers modules in entrepreneurship to students in the MBA.
Cristian began the full-time course in 2016, after studying IT project management at Universidad de Chile and setting up Pandora, an e-commerce company based in the south American country.
The entire MBA curriculum—which covers a broad array of areas such as sales, strategy, and finance—is relevant to an entrepreneur, says Cristian. Students on the MSM program take core modules but can also specialize in areas such as entrepreneurship, the digital economy, and public-sector management.
The entrepreneurship specialization is designed for students who want to implement innovative management solutions to grow enterprises. At the end of the module, students will understand the issues entrepreneurs in diverse markets face, and be able to recognize and take advantage of new business opportunities.
As part of his MBA thesis for that module, Cristian was required to create a business plan. Eager to prove his plan could deliver results, he used it to establish Pago Fácil, a fintech startup that provides a payment gateway system for entrepreneurs to start receiving money through credit cards as soon as possible, during the program in 2016.
“The company was born at the business school,” he says. “Every course that I had, I was applying something I learned to my company. If I was ever in doubt, I invited a professor for a coffee in order to get their advice.”
The mission of Pago Fácil is to support entrepreneurship through payments. “The idea is to make it as easy as possible for entrepreneurs and businesses to start selling their products and services as soon as they can — without worrying about how the money is going to reach them,” says Cristian.
He established the company in Chile whilst still completing the MBA degree in Europe. The entrepreneurial ecosystem there is well-established, Cristian says. For example, the accelerator program Start-Up Chile was established in 2010 and has worked with more than 1,300 startups. The program picks companies and gives the founders equity-free grants of at least £12,000, plus a year-long visa to work in the country.
It has been a challenging balancing act, but Cristian is confident that he will use the knowledge acquired on the Maastricht School of Management MBA to further grow the fintech startup.