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I Did An MBA After My BA—Now I’m Launching A Startup In India To Tackle Big Data

Nicholas Boehnlein says doing an MBA right after his BA at EU Business School gave him the tools to become an entrepreneur and launch his new startup in India


Wed Sep 2 2020


You don’t need to have an MBA to be a successful entrepreneur, but it helps. Companies started by MBAs from top schools are 20% more likely to be valued at $100 million.

Entrepreneur Nicholas Boehnlein believes his Bachelor's degree and MBA in International Business from EU Business school, have been central to his success.

Originally from Switzerland, Nicholas’s career has already spanned the globe. In Dubai, he launched INT. Records, one of the first independent record labels in the United Arab Emirates. Two of the four major record labels in the world soon came knocking.

Now, he’s working in India on a new data marketplace business called Aiisma. His plan is to disrupt the technology industry, by giving revenues raised from data collection back to the consumer.

MBA after BA

Nicholas dove straight into an MBA after his bachelor's degree, also at EU Business School. 

“The faculty on my bachelors were amazing in terms of their international approach, and real-life business experience," he says. "Staying on for the MBA was a no-brainer."

“As a young entrepreneur,” Nicholas adds, “if you want to compete with seasoned business people, having one foot in professional life and one foot in education is a must.”

Working alongside experienced professionals on the MBA gave him insight into new industries and a network of executive-level contacts, he says.

“The most important thing I learned was patience. Without that, you risk rushing into decisions.” This is the trap he feels most young entrepreneurs risk falling into.

Having said that, the MBA also developed Nicholas' ambition to start his own business, as he saw his peers were in positions where they could start applying their MBA knowledge right away.

Disrupting big tech

After the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal and more recently the big tech US congress hearing, Nicholas says there is an emerging need for disruption in the tech industry, particularly in terms of big data. 

“All the data you create by using social media is taken by big tech and sold on. We have to start acting; big tech is soaking us dry!"

Driven by his entrepreneurial streak and desire to innovate, Nicholas started an online movement called #mydatamyasset. He then created Aiisma, an app that acts as a data marketplace, rewarding users for sharing their data with credits that can be exchanged for cash.

Now, he's adding a social aspect to the app, where credit can be gifted between creators on the app who can share their original content, such as videos and music.

The need for disruption in the industry has only been bolstered by spats between governments over where citizens’ data is stored, and who has access to it.

In India, where Nicholas and his business are currently based, concerns around data have escalated to the point that the government has now banned around 50 Chinese apps, including TikTok. “Indian apps are coming out of the ground like mushrooms to try and plug the gap,” he says.

Launching a startup in India

Nicholas was able to spot that India was a great place to launch Aiisma long before this rush, meaning he is now in a strong position to compete. When identifying the right market to target, three main factors came into play.

Firstly, he knew that advertising in India needed shaking up. “About 20 to 30% of every marketing budget for small or medium businesses in India is wasted due to leakage, meaning you spend it for nothing,” Nicholas explains.

This meant there’d be a demand for Indian user data that Aiisma would pay users to access, from companies looking to make the move into targeted advertising.

Secondly, his business partner, Ankit Chaudhari, is an Indian native. “He’s had previous tech ventures here,” Nicholas explains, “so he knows the entire ecosystem.”

Working within a cohort of diverse professionals at EU Business School, Nicholas goes on, taught him to create teams containing a range of skills and expertise, which he could then leverage as his venture grew.

Finally, he’d done his research to compare different nations’ economies, and looked into the potential earnings from sharing your data on the app. This stands at around $15 to $30 per month for a family of four, depending on the variety of the data you share. 

This estimate would constitute a big boost to the average take home pay for an Indian household, making customer interest in this country highly likely. 

The versatility of skills learned on an MBA is particularly useful for entrepreneurs. “In the startup environment I’m in now, one day you can afford an accountant; one day you can’t,” Nicholas explains. 

"So I’m always going back to what I learned on my MBA. It definitely prepares you for that next level in your career.”