Around 85% of MBA students are interested in entrepreneurship. That’s according to a 2021 white paper by seed capital firm, Illuminate Ventures.
Being an entrepreneur has plenty of advantages for ambitious grads. You can work in a fast-paced world where no two days are alike, working on a product or service on your own terms.
However, entrepreneurship isn’t always easy, and startup life can be unpredictable. But with the right set of skills, MBAs can learn how to become an entrepreneur—and find success.
That’s exactly what Siddhant Shrestha and Ofer Assor managed to do while studying the Full-time MBA at Melbourne Business School (MBS).
Here, they joined forces with James Baker—who was studying the Executive MBA at MBS—to create Varicon, a SaaS (software as a service) business for the construction industry.
BusinessBeucause caught up with the pair to find out what successful entrepreneurship takes.
Successful entrepreneurs find a gap in the market
Both Siddhant and Ofer had entrepreneurial ambitions from the get-go. Siddhant grew up working with his family’s cinema chain business in Nepal, while Ofer launched an education social enterprise back in his home country of Israel.
After graduating from the MBA, Ofer was approached by an Executive MBA student, James Baker, with an exciting opportunity. While working on a consulting project for a local construction firm, James hit upon a problem in the industry: keeping track of site work and spending.
The company told him getting visibility was difficult, and the data they worked with was often out of date.
In response, he decided to launch a SaaS company—Varicon—that could solve the issue through a cloud-based budget and work tracking solution. Searching for co-founders, he decided that Ofer’s construction engineering experience would make him a great addition to the team. Later, Ofer brought Siddhant on board for his product development expertise.
In this early stage, Siddhant says, market research is crucial.
“The more research we did, the more we realized there’s a gap in the market and a market in the gap, too,” explains Siddhant. “The problem was much bigger than we anticipated.”
This due diligence ensured the Varicon team could take a step back and evaluate the opportunity objectively, using the business insights gained in an MBA.
Building your network helps you be a better entrepreneur
When it comes to launching a startup, Ofer says that having a valuable network is key. MBS excelled in this respect. Siddhant and Ofer even met Varicon’s very first customer—an MBS alum—through school networks.
Additionally, MBS has helped them foster long-lasting relationships with their professors, which has been crucial to Varicon’s success.
“I can’t really express how amazing some of the professors are there,” says Ofer. “We reach out to them from time to time asking for an hour to two to help us brainstorm and they’re just more than happy to give us that time.”
The school has also supported Siddhant and Ofer by offering them temporary office space on campus to use for client meetings.
Siddhant and Ofer are happy to give back to the community by networking with current students. “There’s a lasting relationship with the school, and it goes both ways,” Ofer says.
Understanding your local landscape is essential for entrepreneurship success
Another crucial part of entrepreneurial success is a deep understanding of your local business landscape. And for Siddhant and Ofer, attending a business school in the country where they'd soon help launch a business proved a great way to gain this insight.
“It’s a really challenging environment in Australia from a venture capital standpoint,” Ofer points out. “If you want to start a business, make sure you have a really solid business case behind it and you’ve spoken to enough potential clients or customers.”
But despite fundraising challenges, Ofer says that doing business in Australia does have its perks.
The stereotypically friendly nature of Australians also applies to business, he notes, making it easier to forge relationships and make connections.
“It’s such a relationship-based society,” Siddhant explains. “At least in the startup space, it almost feels like everyone knows everyone.”
Though the startup ecosystem may not be as developed as in other countries, it’s on the rise. According to the Startup Ecosystem Report 2021, VC funding in Australia is increasing, while the startup ecosystem in Victoria (Melbourne’s state) has tripled in value in just three years.
Good entrepreneurs keep an eye on their startup's future
In the early days of a venture, setting both long and short-term goals and milestones is another crucial step.
Varicon is currently completing its seed round of funding, so it’s still early days. However, Siddhant, Ofer and James have so far raised $1.95 million in seed funding, and are working with clients across Australia.
Siddhant says that in the short-term, the goal is to expand in Australia before setting their sights on other markets like New Zealand and the US.
Ofer adds that the rigorous MBA program at MBS helped him and his co-founders prepare for life as entrepreneurs.
“It gave me that experience in knowing that it’s going to be full-on and it’s going to be intensive,” he says. “It’s very similar to the program.”
Thanks to the global network, comprehensive skill-set, and entrepreneurial spirit they developed during their time at MBS, Ofer and Siddhant are on track for a startup success story.
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Melbourne Business School (MBS)
Carlton - Australia