Last week we grabbed an hour with the Singapore based co-presidents of the INSEAD Technology, Innovation & Media club, Adrian Lai and Yvan Castilloux.
We skyped at 9pm Singapore time, just before Adrian rushed off for a Chinese lesson (starting at 10pm…such is the life of an INSEAD MBA!).
Adrian and Yvan are on the full-time INSEAD MBA, based on the Singapore campus. They’ll graduate in June 2012 and have been running the Technology, Innovation & Media club for the last year.
Both Adrian and Yvan can comfortably be considered technical: Adrian studied mechanical engineering and Yvan studied computer engineering at undergrad.
Adrian, who is from Boston, worked at Cogolabs, an incubator for start-up web companies. He used “quantitative methods to propel [start-ups] into profitability” and he helped start-ups substantially increase revenue, resulting in the sales of fast-growing firms for millions of dollars.
Yvan is a serial entrepreneur and ran two high-tech start-ups before embarking on his MBA. The first company he co-founded in Canada, Newtrax, specialized in battery-powered wireless networks for underground mining. As he describes it he was earning “underground money” while improving safety of miners, and reducing energy consumption.
The second, People Power, is an energy efficiency company, providing a cloud platform to give the consumer information about how to save energy.
So, what have the pair achieved so far with the club, and what’s still left for them to do?!
What are your big initiatives this year?
Yvan: The goal was to create a structure around the club this year. We merged the Tech and the Media clubs [Yvan was the President of the Tech Club and Adrian the President of the Media Club].
We changed the way it was run, more of an organisational structure with Vice Presidents and an executive team, each with defined functions. We set up the structure, and created more formal links with INSEAD and companies in Singapore. We ran small events to complement INSEAD’s bigger events, as well as some more formal events. There are also two more club presidents on the INSEAD campus in France.
Adrian: We ran two types of event: internal and external. An example of an external company event would be dinner with two INSEAD alumni from PayPal!
The two INSEAD alums came to one of the big INSEAD recruitment events and we persuaded them to come to dinner with us and some of our club members…we had to pick out 10 members to attend. The event was a great success, everyone got to know each other and learn where MBA skills contribute to the running of the company.
An example of an internal event, the first event we ran, was a resume review for members who want to get a job in tech, also attended by career services.
Which companies do you work with?
Adrian: Ubisoft. It’s the third biggest electronic games publisher in the world, the creator of games like Call of Duty and Prince of Persia. Their office is right next to the INSEAD campus in Singapore and their top-level team are close to the INSEAD community – both students and professors.
We met up with them to set up projects and to meet with Ubisoft employees. We wanted to get projects and credits towards our course. By taking the lead we hope to convince the central team at INSEAD to run a more formal projects scheme.
We’ve had a casual meeting with an executive at HP, we’ve set up a roundtable discussion with a senior manager at Microsoft which involved 30 students and bento boxes! We’ve visited MTV’s headquarters in Singapore to talk about MTV advertising and content. One interesting fact…did you know that SpongeBob can only appear in Malaysia in one place at a given time? We’ve also had Google come in and given a talk to 10 students!
How do you set up the meetings?
Yvan: We try to find INSEAD-friendly contacts, using the INSEAD alumni portal and personal networks.
Adrian: Setting up events is an arduous process, execs and students have super busy schedules. Finding a one-hour block that works can take a huge amount of time! There are many emails back and forth to set up these events!
What is the long-term goal of the club?
Adrian: To link students with interest in tech and as a second goal, to link up with companies we are interested in working for or knowing more about…to help career transitions to tech, and increase awareness of INSEAD as a place that companies can recruit.
How many members do you have?
Adrian: Over 100 in Fontainebleau and 70 to 80 in Singapore which is about a quarter of the class.
What's the most interesting trend in the world of Tech/Media/Innovation?
Adrian: The rise of information technology has made vast amounts of information readily available to everyone. More companies are investing in data analysis, a lot of different activities are becoming data driven. Companies know more about us than at any time.
Yvan: Technology will become more and more important. Both new types of devices, and data that help us gain intelligent control of our lives. I’m not sure the finance industry is going to keep growing in the same way that it has.
Is there anything else you'd like to share with the global b-school community?
Yvan: Tech people, especially in Silicon Valley, may snub doing an MBA, but if you do it for the right reasons it can create value and give you a great understanding how the business world works.
What's your career goal after INSEAD?!
Adrian: I would like to stay in tech, and explore the Asian market.
Yvan: I want to leverage my start-up experience in a larger organization. I believe that large organizations can benefit from entrepreneurs in order to keep innovating and beat competition.
Some photos of the Clubs events and socials!
More about students, alumni and programmes at INSEAD here