Forex trader Ranjan Roy quit Wall Street for the media industry with the help of an INSEAD MBA, and now he’s joined the ranks of dotcom entrepreneurs as co-founder of New York-based start-up entrepreneurhip.com
Roy, 31, graduated from INSEAD in 2010. He says the school’s alumni network was “instrumental” in landing him his first job in media, as Business Director of FT Tilt, an emerging markets-focused digital news service.
Just 18 months on, he’s keeping up the pace in his career, and has co-founded entrepreneurhip.com, a networking site for entrepreneurs in emerging markets, with two fellow INSEAD MBAs.
Straight out of college, Roy headed to Bank of America where he stayed for seven years. His last role was Vice President for Emerging Markets Foreign Exchange Trading.
But Roy was always fascinated by digital media and the news business. As the news business transformed through the noughties with sites like Huffington Post and Twitter he became interested in “how the hell anyone makes money off news”. Roy has some ideas about how it could be done, some of which you can read on his blog!
Roy was attracted to the idea of going to business school to explore some of the challenges within the media industry with experts, but INSEAD wasn’t always an obvious choice.
He first heard of the school when a good friend and BCG consultant accepted an offer from INSEAD over an offer from Harvard Business School. “I had only heard of INSEAD in passing and thought she was crazy” laughs Roy, “but she wanted to work in Europe, so in retrospect it made a lot of sense."
“Afterwards I was so fascinated that I started researching it myself,” says Roy. The clincher was when he discovered that INSEAD had a campus in Singapore, as well as in Fontainebleau, France. “Asia was the draw,” he says. “I’d covered Asian financial markets, and I wanted to put myself in that part of the world.”
Compared to the top US business schools, the student body at INSEAD was much more diverse. “My friends at US business schools talk about going on a trek… [at INSEAD] every single day is a trek… there were five people in my first study group and every person’s Excel was in a different language!
“After a while it all becomes normal… you don’t even associate someone as Italian, Brazilian or Singaporean!”
The life-changing class for Roy was “Managing Media Companies”, taught by Annet Aris. “If there was any one individual who inspired me to have the courage to go for the industry switch, and just get excited in general about the wild west of digital news media, it was her,” says Roy.
Aris’ class featured a succession of high profile speakers from firms like Axel Springer, Google Europe, Microsoft Europe and Bloomberg. “When you’ve had the head of every major European media organisation come to your class and talked with them intimately, [the media industry] becomes muchmore attainable,” says Roy.
Roy says he is “forever indebted” to INSEAD alumni for helping him get in the door with a number of news industry executives, including Paul Murphy, founder of the influential Financial Times finance blog Alphaville.
The connection to Murphy came via Scott Henderson, an INSEAD alumnus who is CFO of the Financial Times. “People are very responsive,” says Roy. “I wanted to do a project with the founders of Alphaville… I found Scott in the alumni database and emailed him completely cold,” he says.
Roy’s project on the “Future of Journalism” and contact with the Alphaville team eventually led to a job offer from the FT, running the business side of the emerging markets online news start-up FT Tilt.
INSEAD was also where Roy took inspiration for his dotcom venture entrepreneurhip.com, which he co-founded in January.
entrepreneurhip.com is a news site and platform for entrepreneurs in emerging markets to connect and share expertise, and to share data about their companies with potential investors.
“I kept seeing classmates starting businesses in Brazil, China, Singapore, Kenya… and even though they’re in ‘emerging markets’ they're focused on technology and innovation; they have the same entrepreneurial drive and know-how as anyone from Silicon Valley or London."
"We want business coverage in Nairobi or Sao Paolo to look no different than how TechCrunch covers more established markets. It's happening at a regional level and we believe these stories have global relevance. Entrepreneurship in emerging markets isn’t just the already widely covered social entrepreneurship,” adds Roy.
Roy is working on the venture full-time in New York, together with fellow INSEAD MBAs Emily Moss and Jay Majithia, who are based in New York and L.A.
The site will include editorial and information submitted by members, and by the entrepreneurhip team, sharing best practice and stories from different parts of the world. For example, an ecommerce start-up in Brazil that is looking to raise funding would benefit from knowing how a similar deal was structured for an ecommerce start-up in Malaysia.
Roy thinks the network could provide a pipeline of deals for US and European investors looking for opportunities in emerging markets. For the first six months, however, he is focused on getting five to ten thousand members onto the network and sharing content and advice.
Starting a business is a major step, and a world away from the tough but structured environment of forex trading. Roy credits his INSEAD MBA with giving him the chutzpah to strike out alone.
Before his MBA, he says he would have been “apprehensive” about running the business side of a media start-up operation. “Now I feel like I have a fighting chance,” he says.
More about students, alumni and programmes at INSEAD here