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MBA Entrepreneur Launches Airbnb-Style Co-Working Start-Up, Explores Virtual Reality

Emlyon graduate also works with French biotech venture

Wed Feb 17 2016

BusinessBecause
“It’s like an Airbnb for office space,” says Kerranna Williamson, an MBA graduate from EMLYON Business School, who started up her own workspace sharing business in 2014.

Kerranna’s business venture is yet another example of the sharing economy taking off, disrupting traditional ownership patterns and, in this case, the property sector itself.

Operating in seven cities across three continents, Vaga is a co-working platform helping companies and freelancers to find office space for short-term rentals of 18 months or less.

Yet the ambitious American aims to take her business to the next level. As early as April this year, Kerranna plans to move into the virtual reality space and announce a new immersive web-based product to replicate the entire office experience online.

Alongside Vaga, Kerranna works as a transatlantic consultant, helping to launch Lyon-based biotech start-up Neolys Diagnostics, which aims to reduce the side effects of radiation treatment for cancer patients, into the US.

The technologically-minded entrepreneur has a strong professional background in healthcare, having worked in cancer prevention research and patient advocacy. She thinks that a digital skill-set, including data analytics, is crucial for MBA students looking to pursue a career in the industry.

How did the idea for Vaga come about?

I was travelling a bunch and working all over the US. I needed short-term space and I started negotiating and collaborating with companies to use space within their offices. I saw a huge capacity within companies [and] a way for them to make and save money.

What challenges do you face?

We’re in a bit of a rat race because the idea has really [taken off]. Even a year and a half ago when we started, people didn’t understand what co-working meant. Now, it’s a highly competitive market. We’re having to be really creative about how we scale.

What are your plans for the business?

We’re figuring out how to build a virtual reality office so people can interact and have a social connection from wherever they are.

Sure, there’s tools like Skype that help people who are in distributed teams. But there’s still the missing piece of that social presence in the workplace.

Why is the trend of sharing office space taking off now?

It’s a mix of a generation that demands flexibility, and technology making it possible. People want to choose how, when and where they work. There’s so many start-ups that don’t fit into the traditional real estate model and that don’t know how long they’re going to be around.

Collaboration across different companies and different ideas creates business opportunities as well as a more enjoyable workspace.

What do you see as the future for the sharing economy?

I see a lot of opportunity. The great advantage of people being able to convert idle assets into revenue streams is changing the way people are able to work.

I think it will keep growing and move into areas people haven’t even thought about.

What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?

Find a mentorship network. My early success came from having people near me who knew more than me. Starting a business is a huge learning curve. Understand that it’s going to be a rollercoaster, and hang in there for the ride!

Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at EMLYON?

In the US, “international” MBA programs tend to consist of Americans studying international topics and maybe having some experience abroad. Doing an MBA internationally meant that all of my classmates were from around the world and all of my exchanges were in an international context.

I was really impressed with EMLYON’s focus on entrepreneurship and its relationship with companies in the local area.

Why do you think biotech firms are attracting big investment?

If an investor finds a product after due diligence has already been carried out, their return is pretty much guaranteed in a big way.

The benefit of something like Neolys, which is a technology-based service, is that the process to take it to market is much faster than something like pharma or drug development.

How important is it for MBAs looking to work in healthcare sector to have a digital skill set?

Healthcare is only going to become more embedded with technology, and tech literacy is critical if you want to be in a space of innovation.

Technology is changing the amount of patient data we are able to collect, analyze and organize. MBA students with analytical skills are at a huge advantage.

Student Reviews

emlyon business school

Student

Verified

4/12/2023

On Campus

Intense courses, helpful professors

I am an international student in my 3rd year and I love going to this school and do not regret chosing it for my BBA. The classes are helpful, professors are always there to help as well and we have a very understanding administration.

Student

Verified

18/03/2023

On Campus

Leadership in an amazing city

I decided to do my exchange in Emlyon because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, and I found a space with very capable People.. participatory, empathetic and full of leadership. I will never forget Lyon, apart from giving me an unforgettable experience, he gave me great friends

Student

Verified

23/11/2021

On Campus

A lot of opportunities professionally and socially. A unique program in France.

You can choose your courses and do your internship, exchange whenever you want. It's flexible and adapted to the needs of each student. A great program and a great city! Professionally, it opens a lot of doors for you to find internships or jobs in France or abroad thanks to the network and career events.

Fabian

Verified

7/06/2020

MSc in Digital Marketing

Combining both worlds into one, this course gave me all the on-demand technical skills in data science while maintaining a business-oriented approach. Thanks to the strong academic profile of this university I was able to secure an internship and full-time job at Amazon.

Student

Verified

14/10/2018

Top Business School fostering innovative entrepreneurs

EMLyon is one of the best business schools. The campuses, associations and courses offered provide the students with the best options to build the future they have chosen. The various opportunities to study and work abroad also offer a deeper understanding of the world, not only economy-wise but social, which helps the student become as well a better individual and not only a pre-formated business school student.

Student

Verified

9/06/2020

Emlyon campus in Paris

It has a great international community and you have access to many international tools, courses and professors. I had many networking events and workshops for students. Campus and some details of the program could have been improved or need to be bigger in order to have a better student life.

Student

Verified

21/11/2022

On Campus

Entrepreneurship

Overall good content and good activities. Lack of administration but still ok. Good flexibility and liberty offered to the students. Finally, the amount of internship is also a good way to improve qualifications.

Student

Verified

25/05/2020

Good Reputation and International Business School

The course was not well adapted but it was up to the mark. The professors are very well experienced and their experience comes in handy while working on assignments. The facilities on the campus are top class. Truly professional. I really like spending time in the learning hub and using all the available resources. Lyon is an amazing city. You will never get bored.

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