After 12 years and a string of student entrepreneur success stories, the Sciences Po Incubator is now opening its doors to alumni. Collaboration, networking, mentorship, a variety of business sectors... Bérengère de Drouas, in charge of development, explains what makes Sciences Po’s incubator so successful.
Why open up the incubator to alumni?
Bérengère de Drouas: Because many alumni have asked us to! Until now, we supported current students and alumni within two years of graduation. Now, we are able to welcome an additional category of applicants: novice entrepreneurs who are further along their career paths. We have already successfully assisted older students who have returned to school such as the creators of Fempo. Today, we are able to advise alumni who, after several years in the workforce, have decided to launch their own company.
How exactly is the Sciences Po Incubator going to help them?
BDD: We provide general, early stage advice. We welcome projects in all sectors, a fact which enables us to build an incredibly diverse network. Our speciality lies in providing guidance on executing a project: how to find one’s market, recruit the needed talent, find funding to launch, build one’s brand. We are even equipped with office spaces, legal support, and accounting services. Whatever the project, we know how to make it happen.
Why seek support from the same place where they studied? What are the incubator’s specific strengths?
BDD: The entrepreneurs we have welcomed all tell us that there is something special about our incubator: its collaborative environment. Incubators form close-knit bonds with one another, which contribute both to their high business performance and morale. We support approximately a dozen start-ups at a time: we form somewhat of a family. Also, we are attentive and easily reachable. Due to our expertise, when an incubator comes to us for advice on a business problem, most of the time, it is one we have seen before. Therefore, we know how to and who can solve it, thanks to our expansive alumni network. The participants themselves make up another one of our great strengths since they create their own trusty and high-performing network.
Video on the start-up NomadHer, incubated at Sciences Po.
Now that you are accepting alumni applications, what advice do you give to alumni with a business idea? During which business stage should they apply?
BDD: One should have a project idea and have taken the first steps at developing it: not necessarily a final product but at least a first attempt at a questionnaire or small scale tests. Let’s just say, it doesn’t make sense to apply if someone has already been billing clients for three years! We help start-ups to structure their business idea, to avoid making rookie mistakes, and to find their market. Alumni have until October 22nd to apply (FR): we look forward to learning about their projects!
The Sciences Po Incubator has existed for more than 10 years. Has it already succeeded in helping Sciences Po students become entrepreneurs?
BDD: Without a doubt! By creating the incubator twelve years ago, the previous president of Sciences Po, Richard Descoings, proved to be quite forward-thinking. First, because there were just a handful of incubators in Paris and second, since Sciences Po wasn’t yet associated with entrepreneurship. Today, all of that has changed. Nearly one out of two students says that they are interested in Sciences Po’s entrepreneurial spirit. Many students even come to Sciences Po specifically because of it. Over 500 students each semester take our introduction to entrepreneurship courses. Our students are no longer wary of starting companies, and with good reason! The successes of Sciences Po’s incubated start-ups (FR) proves that the background of Sciences Po students is perfect for starting a business. Studying sociology, for example, could help someone define their market!
Article by the Sciences Po Editorial Team
- About the call for Startup Alumni applications to the incubator (FR)
- The Sciences Po Centre for Entrepreneurship and its incubator
- 10 years, 100 start-ups: Interview of Maxime Marzin, Incubator Director
- Deep Dive into the Heart of the Startup Nation: The 2019 Learning Expedition