Entrepreneurship is booming at HEC Paris

25 March 2015

HEC Paris have published the results of a new survey, conducted among 8500 graduates across all programs, to take stock of our entrepreneurship activity. The entrepreneurial spirit has indeed won over the campus in recent years, with now nearly 25% of our graduates embarking on the journey of startup creation.

Entrepreneurship is booming at HEC Paris - 2015

After 30 years of initiatives promoting entrepreneurship (teaching, research, mentoring and coaching, on-campus awareness, and support structures such as the HEC Incubator), has the number of HEC graduates engaged in entrepreneurship increased? How have HEC entrepreneurs fared? What are their motivations to start a business?

The first HEC Entrepreneurship Barometer answers these questions. To devise this barometer we have interviewed a representative panel of 8,500 alumni from the various HEC programs, including young graduates as well as seasoned professionals who left the school 10 years ago.

The results are very encouraging and reveal three main trends: the desire to start a business is rapidly growing, HEC entrepreneurs are value creators in France, the businesses started by HEC graduates from very diverse sectors have sound, sustainable business models, often benefiting from the support of Business Angels or venture capitalists.

Entrepreneurship is booming

Today 1 out of 4 HEC graduates  is an entrepreneur, a proportion that has been increasing constantly and rapidly over the last 10 years. Back then only 10% of students opted for entrepreneurship.

Among the youngest graduates (“pre-experience” Master programs), the survey reveals wide-ranging interest in entrepreneurship, with almost 20% of entrepreneurs among graduates of the last Class; three times more than the national average. This growing enthusiasm has been even more tangible with each year: in 2004 there were only 2% of entrepreneurs. Stimulated by the diverse activities offered on campus (educational programs, entrepreneur talks, Creativity Talks, business incubator, etc.), students now feel freer to express their creativity and no longer hesitate to bring their projects to fruition, whether as students or as young graduates.
But the appeal of entrepreneurship is not restricted to youth! The percentage of entrepreneurs is particularly high (44%) amongst participants in the Executive MBA program, designed for senior executives wishing to give a new direction to their career. The professional experience of these students, combined with the academic input of the program, brings out the entrepreneurial potential of these executives.
The major drivers of entrepreneurship are a desire for independence, and innovation. The desire to be one’s own boss is the main motive, but in much lower proportions than the national average (47% vs. 77% according to the 2013 Envie d’Entreprendre Barometer). The desire to innovate and create new business models is the other main factor in starting a business, for one out of four entrepreneurs. Conversely, and against expectations, the lack of attractiveness of large corporations is mentioned by only 15% of the interviewees.

HEC entrepreneurs are value creators

The study shows no increase in the number of business startups abroad, with 84% of businesses incorporated in France. The percentage of companies started up abroad has risen for the MBA program, which has 85% of foreign students. Close to one-third of MBA alumni start up a business abroad. This figure is partly ascribable to the fact that some of these students go back to their country of origin after graduating.

Another noteworthy finding is that entrepreneurs are less and less isolated. Only 36% of HEC graduates founded their business on their own, vs. 71% nationwide (ministerial data 2013) and the percentage has fallen steadily year after year. This is explained in particular by the desire of entrepreneurs to work in teams, extending the relationships they have formed on campus, but also by the sharp increase in projects requiring dual skills (e.g. engineer/manager); such projects are encouraged at HEC by the system of dual degrees and by the extensive partnerships developed, particularly in Saclay. More than ever before, entrepreneurship is a collective experience!

Businesses started up by HEC graduates are of benefit to a vast array of sectors: business services, digital economy, sports, tourism, civil engineering or agriculture. This diversity is fostered by the numerous multidisciplinary partnerships developed between HEC and such institutions as the Ecole Polytechnique, AgroParisTech, IOGS, Mines ParisTech, Sup’Aéro, etc.

"Robust" businesses

The companies started up display great growth potential. Indeed, about a quarter of HEC entrepreneurs use fundraising, more than twice the national ratio (2013 Envie d’Entreprendre Barometer). This fundraising is done very early in the life of their project. This reflects not only the high expectations of entrepreneurs but also the trust of investors in projects perceived as serious and attractive.

The new businesses are sustainable. After three years of activity, the survival rate of these businesses is 80% vs. 66% nationwide (data from the 2013 Observatoire APCE). Finally, each Class since 2011 has had a constant share of 30% of “serial entrepreneurs” among those who started a business. This figure illustrates the dynamism and thirst for innovation of these entrepreneurs.

The growing enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is tangible at HEC. Also good news is the solidarity of HEC entrepreneurs: 81% of them stated that they are willing to support projects by current students, whether in the form of mentoring, investment or networking.


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