How These Entrepreneurs Used Their EMBA Degrees To Launch New Startups

Harald and Elena used WU Executive Academy’s Global Team Project to develop new startup ideas together with EMBA students in China and the US

Getting your hands dirty with practical experience during an EMBA can be the perfect path to creating your own company, even during the program itself.

The Global Team Project (GTP) —part of the Global Executive MBA (GEMBA) at WU Executive Academy— is a cross-border experience where teams of up to six students work on business projects virtually, across different time zones, continents, and cultures.

Students from Vienna’s WU Executive Academy work alongside colleagues from Lingnan College in Guangzhou, China, and the Carlson School of Management in Minnesota, USA.

In the final week of the project, students meet in-person at Carlson to perfect their projects, ready for presentation. If they take the initiative and make the most out of the experience, a real startup can even be born.

Harald Trautsch, who graduated from WU’s GEMBA in 2012, was already the founder of a multinational insurance tech company, when he started at the school. Out of his GTP experience, he co-founded his second startup, iVoting, an interactive, real-time polling tool still used around the world by businesses and universities today.

When Harald was considering EMBA programs, the GEMBA’s international residencies in the US, Russia, India and China, stood out. Through them, he met with senior executives from firms like Estée Lauder and Thomson Reuters. But perhaps the most international and demanding aspect of the program was the GTP.

Although the project is structured with milestones and regular feedback from faculty, time zones are understandably a big challenge. Harald’s team included two from the US, one from China and another in Poland. This left a very narrow window to communicate, which had to be balanced with busy working lives.

For Harald, the biggest eye-opener was the cultural diversity of the group and the different approach each student took to solving problems. “The US model is very much trial and error whilst the Chinese are far more cautious,” he explains.

Because the team’s goal was to build a real entrepreneurial venture this only added to the pressure. Compromise, patience, diplomacy, and the ability to choose your battles wisely were some of Harald’s major takeaways. “Sometimes being nice is more important than being right,” he smiles.

“I’m a much better manager now because of the Global Executive MBA and the GTP,” Harald continues.

“I’m so grateful for everything that went wrong because it is from this that we learned the most. The GTP was one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences of my life, not least because we created an actual business that is still running today.”

Fellow EMBA alum, Elena Solomatina (pictured below, right), had established a small IT company in Russia before joining WU and the GTP coincided perfectly with her plans to diversify her business. Her team chose to work on the idea and created a startup providing holiday apartments in European cultural capitals.

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“We were a group of top professionals with different backgrounds and strong personalities,” Elena recalls. “It was very exciting for us to choose to work on a real project with instant implementation and immediate results. Our pilot even went live during our final presentation.

“I don’t think I would have been brave enough, skilled enough or well-connected enough to start this new business without the GEMBA at Wu Executive Academy and the support of my teammates during the GTP.”