How the 40under40 awards are inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs at IESE

The 40under40 awards at IESE Business School aim to shine a light on the school’s successful alumni entrepreneurs. We take a look at why entrepreneurship is part of the IESE mentality, and how they use it to produce so many successful entrepreneurs.

In short

Why entrepreneurship is part of the IESE mentality

How does a business school make entrepreneurship part of its DNA?

It’s not by including a couple of cursory lines on the school website. It’s not through slogans or taglines. And it’s certainly not achieved quickly.

At IESE Business School in Spain, making entrepreneurship part of their DNA has been a long-term process that has only been possible over a number of years. So, how have they managed it?

“The mentality of the school has been always thinking about our participants as people that have a CEO perspective,” explains Julia Prats, a Professor at IESE and Academic Director of their Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center. “[That] they have something that they need to run, and they need to run it through the future. Not only being effective today, but also building an institution that will last.” (00:59)

“When you have that mentality, entrepreneurship becomes absolutely natural.” (01:19)

When it comes to entrepreneurship, IESE also practices what they preach. They’ve helped to establish more than 20 business schools around the world, creating a global network of IESE-associated schools. This experience of starting new businesses also trickles down to IESE students. 

According to Julia, IESE puts entrepreneurial content “in every single program – not only the MBA or the Executive MBA, but also in our executive programs. So every executive that goes through IESE has models where we discuss entrepreneurial issues. That’s probably why it (entrepreneurship) is present all over [IESE].” (03:05)

The 40under40 awards at IESE

The entrepreneurial mentality that runs through IESE has led to continued success for its alumni entrepreneurs. To recognize this, the school recently celebrated the inaugural 40under40 awards. These awards highlighted 40 IESE alumni under the age of 40 who have gone on to found successful businesses. Julia says they are about celebrating alumni achievements, but also about establishing role models for the next generation of IESE entrepreneurs.

“[When] having an award, what helps is to visualize good projects, and of course, I would say better people than the projects and that could be role models for others. I think that’s probably one way to put it, and this is why making it visible may help others to do the same,” she says. (05:59)

The awards are not intended as a ranking or competition between IESE alumni. The companies are separated into different categories, one of which is women entrepreneurs. Julia explains that “having role models in women, in entrepreneurship, is nowadays more and more common, but it has not been easy to get there. So we want to contribute also to highlight this.” (08:10)

How does IESE produce so many successful entrepreneurs?

IESE’s 40under40 alumni are not isolated examples. IESE alumni have a track record of success in entrepreneurship. School statistics show that around 30% of graduates start a company within five years of graduating. And, according to Julia, these IESE-founded businesses outperform other startups across Spain.

“The IESE business network is the most productive network in Spain in terms of investment,” Julia reveals. “Last year we did more than 30 investments, and every year, you know, [it] keeps growing.” (13:57)

This success is in no small part down to the school’s Department of Entrepreneurship, which is home to more than 20 full-time and part-time professors. Meanwhile, IESE’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, which Julia is the Director of, aims to foster the school’s sense of entrepreneurship and turn it into something more tangible.

Ultimately, perhaps the key to IESE’s entrepreneurial mentality is the way they approach it. Julia says they see entrepreneurship as a capability that can be taught, rather than a gene. “This is not something that you do when you are young; this is something that is part of your management tools that you need to master if you really want to become a CEO,” she explains. (11:46)

What’s clear is that IESE and entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand. For them, it is not just a hot topic or a buzzword, but an essential part of their DNA. What’s more, the school can point to its track record of entrepreneurial success to demonstrate how important it is to them. 

With more than 72,000 new jobs created across five continents, IESE’s alumni entrepreneurs have already made a huge impact around the globe. Here’s to the next 40under40!

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