Alexis Ngahane is a first-year student on the Paris campus. He launched his first entrepreneurial venture even before he finished high school and he does not intend to stop there. Interview.
Can you tell us more about the entrepreneurial venture you set up in your last year of high school?
I got an idea thanks to a summer job. I was working next to a company that rented premises to private hire-care drivers. Chatting with them, I realised that they were wasting a lot of time stopping for supplies of water, snacks, and so on. I set up a subscription system with pick-up points. That year, I put my marketing and management classes directly into practice for my venture! It worked really well. After a few months, I gave it all up because other people had taken up the idea... And also because I had to study for my finals and getting into Sciences Po!
How did you hear about Sciences Po? And what made you want to apply?
In my second-to-last year of high school, my economics teacher told me about the Equal Opportunity programme and said “you should try and get into Sciences Po!” “Stop dreaming!” I told him. I wasn’t buying it; when you weren’t born in France and you live in a neighbourhood like mine, Sciences Po is for other people. In the end they explained how the Equal Opportunity programme worked and I thought “why not?” I got help from a few teachers, but also from my friend Yacine, who had passed the entrance exam the year before. I loved doing the eligibility test, a press kit on universal income. And I found myself through to the oral exam! I still didn’t believe it. Even on the day I was admitted, I had trouble believing it. I hadn’t told my family I was taking the exam, it was a huge surprise for them.
How did you convince the examination panel?
I had no idea what to expect. We started talking entrepreneurship, digital innovation. I love those subjects! The discussion just flowed naturally. And then the panel also asked me about my “human side”; I’m not only a capitalist (laughs). I belong to an NGO that helps families of children with disabilities in Africa. It’s a commitment that has made me grow up a lot.
How are the first few weeks at Sciences Po going?
I still keep being surprised every day! It’s crazy to meet so many different people. There are students who’ve come from the other side of the world, from Dubai or New Caledonia, and others straight out of Val d’Oise, near where I live. And we clearly have the best lecturers. I have the feeling that I can think and imagine what I want here. It’s a place where you don’t put up barriers for yourself, where everything is geared towards us being creative.
How do you see the next few years?
I want to go to Latin America or Africa during my third year; these days, that’s where it’s all still to be invented. And then of course I have a new business project. This time I want to do things big. I’m going to look for students who are keen to go into it with me, preferably people whose ideas are different from mine. In any case, I’m setting myself no limits. That’s the advice I have for anyone in high school: start by believing in yourself. And even if you don’t believe, give it all you’ve got!
Find out more