“I don’t believe in self-made millionaire entrepreneurs,” says Romanian innovator Mihai Ivascu. For Mihai, to be a successful entrepreneur you need a business school education.
In 2015, Mihai started MoneyMailMe, a financial technology - fintech - platform revolutionizing money transfers, during an MBA. Now, it’s worth over $30 million.
A serial entrepreneur, Mihai started at just 16, setting up an internet café in his hometown of Bucharest. At 18, he created his first media company. At 23, he launched Hotel Deals, the Groupon for the travel industry.
Aged 28, he chose the International University of Monaco (IUM) over the prestigious Harvard Business School (HBS) for his MBA.
Why? The intimate class size, an entrepreneurship and innovation management specialization, and unrivalled access to business partners, mentors and investors. At IUM, a quarter of MBA grads go on to start their own businesses.
How did the idea to start MoneyMailMe come about?
I wanted to create a project with a global footprint in a so-called sexy domain, like fintech. I also wanted to solve a very simple problem. Living in an international place like Monaco, everybody has their own currency in their wallet. It’s quite hard to exchange money between us and to pay back friends.
I asked myself: why is it so hard to transfer money internationally? In Monaco, it costs $50 per transaction. In some countries as high as $90. Why can’t I have the power in my phone to send $5 to my friend in the US right now?
I decided to create a system like WhatsApp but with the possibility to make micro-transactions. At the moment, we’re the cheapest way to send money internationally; cheaper than PayPal, TransferWise and Western Union.
What do you hope to achieve?
I want to create a new normality of consumption for the Y and Z generations. We send messages, pictures and videos all day long. Why don’t we send money?
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA?
I don’t believe in self-made millionaires or self-made entrepreneurs with no education. It just doesn’t work nowadays. Jack Dorsey, the guys from Airbnb, even Travis Kalanick from Uber is trying to do an MBA right now.
Successful entrepreneurs realize that a strong business can only be grown with executive training from business schools. You cannot develop a strong company by being a college dropout. You need to know how to do the basics and you can get that in an MBA.
Why did you choose IUM over Harvard?
It’s not about the brand of the school, it’s about what you get out of it. I was accepted at HBS but I had all these projects in Europe; I couldn’t afford to go over there. I decided to come to Monaco and it was the best decision of my life.
At IUM, we were in a class of 20; everybody knew each other by name. At Harvard, there were supposed to be 920 of us in 10 classes. With 920 students, it’s hard to stand out to investors.
While I was doing my MBA, I was also working with my media team in Bucharest. With the projects that I got from clients around Monaco, I covered the full cost of my MBA plus living costs in the first two months.
How much do you credit the MBA at IUM for where you are now?
The MBA in Monaco was fantastic. I started MoneyMailMe, found new investors, business partners, and scaled the business 100 times over. Now, it has a valuation of over €30 million ($33 million).
IUM gave us access to a lot of business events and leading executives in Monaco. One of the guys who assessed my MBA corporate project is now chairman of my company and an investor.
I have a lot of friends doing MBAs, and their mentor is just another professor. At IUM, we were matched with world-class entrepreneurs; guys who build big businesses from zero. My mentor sold his company for €460 million ($516 million) during my MBA. It was the perfect match. Now, we’re very good friends.
It’s definitely a good investment. You come to Monaco to network and do things you cannot do anywhere else in the world.