During his time at Portugal Telecom, the nation’s number-one telecoms provider, Filipe Castro co-founded NeoStep, a start-up which made a transportation scheduling app.
Like many brave entrepreneurs, Filipe was forced to abandon his dreams as the business failed to take off. Yet the lessons learnt stayed with the tech wizard and only strengthened his desire for success.
Now, Filipe is taking an MBA at China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai to take his career to the international stage.
Previously, the Portuguese business protégé spent 12 months in Sweden working at digital service provider Millicom. That followed more than five years as a technical consultant for Portugal Telecom. He first graduated with a computer engineering degree from the University of Porto.
How do you explain your passion for technology and innovation?
Since I can remember I’ve always been very curious about how things worked and why.
I knew that I wanted to follow an engineering track very early on and I’ve always followed my passion to discover new, unexplored things. This exploratory mind-set soon became intertwined with technology development — the most dynamic area, which has been affecting all of our lives.
What did you learn from your early experience in entrepreneurship?
A lot! As young engineers with no experience in the professional world and a limited understanding of market dynamics, we had a hard time pushing the product [NeoStep]. Technologically-speaking it was a great solution, but a lack of proper marketing meant it didn’t take off.
We learnt the key importance of marketing in building a community, the need to engage with your customers, generate feedback, and buy advertisement space online.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own app?
A critical aspect early on is to find a co-founder whom you can work well with; you are going to spend many days and nights together!
Since the focus nowadays is on building a platform rather than a front-facing app, I would stress the importance of having a working business plan, or at least a basic understanding of how the system will generate value for your customers and profit for the company.
Over-engineered solutions are never a good way to start. Be lean, iterate and move fast instead!
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
The MBA was last chance I had to be able to study full-time and enjoy the pure challenge of learning something new.
I wanted exposure to a broader international context, to connect with people outside [of] my main area of expertise, and to strengthen my understanding of [the] world’s dynamics and the current economic trends.
Having worked in technical roles throughout my professional life, an MBA was the best platform to provide me with a new set of complementary management and finance skills.
Why did you choose to study at CEIBS in particular?
Initially I focused on more familiar European and US institutions and I received two acceptance letters. But I realized that an Asian experience could bring me much more.
CEIBS stood out as a unique choice, due to its geographical location and potential emerging market opportunities. The possibility to study at a top Asian school, in English, while improving my Chinese and learning more about the local business culture, [was attractive].
Why is China a top destination for MBAs looking to pursue a career in technology?
China offers a lot of opportunities, due to its untapped potential in many key areas of business.
From new ventures sponsored by big local players to start-ups tackling a new product or concept, China is a very fast-paced environment where lots of exciting things are happening every day.
How have you profited from your experience studying for an MBA so far?
It’s been amazing! The people I now know and the perspective I have acquired are the most important things I’ve gained. As a foreign student in China you are faced with extra challenges but also extra opportunities. In many ways we get the most out of the MBA.
What are your plans for the future?
My ambition is to work in a managerial position at a high-tech company.
Although the overwhelming majority of my colleagues have expectations of salary increases after graduation, my main aim is to join a company with a vision that aligns with my personal values. Even going pro-bono for equity alone is not out of question!