Teenage Sports Entrepreneur Looks To Energy Sector After IESE MBA

Lucas Mendes launched his own sports start-up as a teenager, had a job at top investment banks in Brazil and got onto one of the best b-schools in Europe. But he's not stopping there.

 
When Lucas Mendes first became an entrepreneur, it was at the ripe old age of 19. His first foray into business was eleven years ago, teaming up with two mates to attack the action sports industry. 
 
It was a fitting sector for three adolescents to learn their craft. And like like many teenagers do, Lucas got help from the Bank of Mom And Dad. 
 
"I knew I had what it took to start the company," he says. "At 19 years of age, I didn't have much to loose - so opportunity costs were negligible. My father helped me with the initial equity and that kept the investment very low." 
 
Yet it was a wise investment on his fathers' part. Most teenagers in Brazil, his home, are more interested in the beach than they are in business. And there is something inspirational behind young entrepreneurs who, unlike MBAs who have years of industry experience, go it fresh out of high school.
 
You may call it naive. Lucas prefers passionate. 
 
"At that time my partners and I were very involved with action sports, so we decided to explore opportunities in that area," he says. "Because I had been involved with sports my whole life, I had a good knowledge of the products we planned to develop.
 
"I did not have a clear plan to pursue an entrepreneurial career. Rather, I wanted to work with something that I was passionate about." 
 
Lucas, now an MBA at IESE Business School, realized that most sports gear was imported to Brazil at the time - meaning retail costs were much higher than abroad. He saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. 
 
His company, Concave Sports, then grew across the country for four years. But after Lucas got a BA at Ibmec Business School in 2007, the start-up shut-up operations. 
 
Any b-school grad would think it mad to close down profitable business. Yet Lucas is unique. His entrepreneurial drive is reserved for the ideas he has a genuine interest for. Concave Sports simply lost his backing after they took a different direction.
 
As a marketing tool, they began producing sports clothing (including wetsuits and life-jackets). Demand was high and clothing quickly became their main product, much to his Lucas's annoyance.
 
"It was like we were working in the fashion industry, rather than the sports business - and none of us had any interest in the fashion industry," he says.
 
"Studying a BA at the time, my interest for more sophisticated business was increasing, and I wanted to be involved with bigger challenges. Our minds were just elsewhere and we had to close it down."
 
That challenge came in the form of a finance career and Lucas moved to Banco Fator, a prominent investment bank in São Paulo, Brazil's finance capital. He stayed there for three years before moving on to an analysts' role in Belo Horizonte (his home city), managing a portfolio of early-stage innovative firms.
 
At the time, capital markets were booming. It was an enticing industry for a fresh graduate.
 
"I wanted to work in a defying environment, and what better place than an investment bank? It was one of the most challenging sectors I could imagine at the time," he says.
 
"The competitive environment just motivated me even more."
 
But for Lucas, routine is undesirable. He had soon moved back to his home city to work in private equity - his "comfort zone".  While it was an extremely attractive function to work in, he craves new mountains to climb. He needs to be pushed. Challenged. Scared, even. 
 
"I wanted to change that," he says of his job in Belo Horizonte. "I had always been exposed to the MBA culture and it was something that played on my mind. 
 
"I felt like I needed more international exposure, and an international MBA in Europe gives you a lot of that."
 
Lucas joined the IESE program two years ago - one of the highest MBA Ranking b-schools in the region. And if he wanted diversity, he couldn't have picked a much better university. 
 
80 per cent of IESE's MBA cohort is international and the two-year program, allowing for a long internship, coupled with the opportunity to learn Spanish, was a perfect fit. 
 
"I tried not to care too much about the rankings, but in the end, you cannot deny their importance," he says. "Everyone wants to know how your university is ranked before hiring you, and the academic excellence at IESE set them apart from other schools."
 
MBA Jobs are, after all, central to most b-school students. 90 per cent of IESE's cohort may be employed within three months of graduation, but landing a job may be more tricky for those wanting to switch industries. 
 
Lucas has plans to change functions again, and a new-found interest in the energy sector is his latest passion. It is an industry hot on the lips of many countries, and its' operations are continually debated by politicians across the globe. 
 
Profits are important, but for Lucas, so too is sustainability.
 
"I am not a romantic about this," he jokes, "but I strongly believe that we should change the way we generate and use energy today.
 
"The only way to make this change is if new businesses are economically attractive, so I see good business opportunities in the field."
 
The summer internship opportunity at IESE, when Lucas worked for a leading Energy Efficiency consultancy in Barcelona, reaffirmed his commitment to the the cause. 
 
The entrepreneur inside him sees business opportunity in the sector, and an MBA program is his route to making that career a reality.
 
"IESE gives you the chance to develop a lot of in-depth knowledge about the industries you are interested in, and to network with the senior management of top-tier companies," he says.
 
"While I am very interested in the energy sector, I'm also still very attracted to venture capital and private equity. I hope that I will be able to find a job opportunity in business development; something related to the energy sector."
 
It has been a great many years since that sports start-up in Brazil. And the career changes since then have been significant, pitching Lucas on course to attend one of the best b-schools in Europe.
 
He may have worked for top investment banks, but Lucas has one moment of teenage daring to thank for his progression. 
 
Entrepreneurship was always the catalyst. 

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