Amir Kaplan chose Spain’s IE Business School – ranked the best in Europe for entrepreneurship by the Financial Times – over INSEAD and London Business School for his MBA.
Passionate about entrepreneurship, Amir quit a consulting job at KPMG in his native Israel to pursue the top-ranked MBA program. He graduated in 2016.
Now, he’s CEO and co-founder of ifeel, an AI and big data-powered platform set to disrupt the therapy industry.
ifeel uses artificial intelligence solutions to connect its members with a community of licensed therapists online – opening access to therapy globally. Users can speak to therapists anonymously through their computers, tablets, or mobile phones, and they’re matched to therapists that best suit their particular needs.
ifeel’s most popular package costs just over $30 a week – the company (a healthcare tech startup) claims its online therapy is up to 70% cheaper than more traditional therapy offers.
The idea for ifeel was born out of IE Business School’s startup lab – an intensive, entrepreneurship program where MBA students put together a team, leverage an idea, develop it from nothing to a minimum viable product, and gain new customers, in only five weeks.
Now based in Madrid, Amir is looking to expand ifeel’s market reach. He’s already secured backing from several investors.
How did the idea to start up ifeel come about?
From the very beginning, my business partners and I wanted to create something that could be great from an economic perspective, but that could also make a real social impact on people’s lives.
We understood first-hand the pains of both therapists and people seeking help. We all knew self-employed therapists who had difficulty building a client-base, and we also had relatives and friends who had gone through psychotherapy and understood the value of having access to quality care. As business-minded people, we saw an opportunity and decided to pursue it.
What do you hope to achieve?
Our aim is to grow and gain a substantial market share within the health and well-being industry. To do so, we need to take advantage of the tremendous technological advancements occurring in our day-to-day lives, and provide the best available tools to our customers.
What advice do you have for MBAs looking to start their own business?
Starting your own business, especially if you are doing it for the first time, is an exciting and thrilling experience, but it can be extremely impactful and demanding at a personal level. Make sure you are passionate and highly-motivated before taking such a decision.
Choosing the right business partner is key. You need to make sure you are in great company during both the good times and the bad. Startups so often fail because of misalignments arising between the decision makers.
You should also make sure you sell your product or service properly. If you’re not able to make your customers realize the real value of what you are offering to them, you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even started.
Why did you decide to pursue an MBA at IE Business School?
I wanted to study a top MBA program in Europe and considered IE, INSEAD, and London Business School. After speaking with the school’s alumni, it became clear that IE was the best choice for me.
The alumni all spoke greatly about the school, the MBA experience, living in Madrid, and the focus on entrepreneurship. For me, after several years in the consulting industry, this was the most appealing program in terms of potential job openings and opportunities to explore entrepreneurship. Looking back, I could not have made a better decision.
What should applicants think about when deciding to do an MBA?
You need to look at the MBA as 360-degree learning experience. Don’t assume it’s just about future job opportunities or the academic side of things.
Take into account the people that you’ll meet, the different ideas you’ll come across, and the unforgettable experiences you’ll go through. Because, when you start an MBA, you are essentially embracing a community that will shape the rest of your career.
That’s why I cannot stress enough how important it is to do your homework before taking a decision. For me, reaching out to business school alumni was crucial in understanding which school would be the best for me. I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in an MBA do the same.
Would you be where you are today without the IE MBA?
I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. But, if it was not for IE, I would probably not have pursued this dream straight after the MBA.
The MBA program at IE has a unique structure that helps you get started and grow your business through several stages. Erik Schlie and Sugata Jain, who oversee the Start-up Lab, and Paris de L´Etraz and Allison Rohe Vain, who dedicate most of their time to support the school’s entrepreneurs, connected me with the wider entrepreneurial ecosystem and helped me build the confidence needed to successfully pursue my own venture.
I also met both of my co-founders during the MBA itself. So, I know that the program at IE had a great influence on the decision to start the company. The great thing is that now, as an entrepreneur, I am still able to leverage the extensive alumni network that the school offers.