Pranjul Shah (University of Luxembourg): The Birth of an Incubator
Pranjul Shah, Responsible of University of Luxembourg Incubator, showcases the entrepreneurial talent and opportunities his faculty is unlocking to transform student in entrepreneurs.
What is the background to the establishment of the incubator and programme?
Luxembourg University’s original missions were to promote education and do exceptional research. That took the university into the top 200 universities worldwide. A new mission emerged with the inauguration of the incubator in 2017. Students were all going to get their core education and, as soon as they began their first job, we wanted to show them how to differentiate themselves with the skill set we developed for them at the university. We wanted students to discover what was going to make them shine and grow in their careers. But we also wanted to give them insights into how they can bring about social change and give back to society. In this way, the university has the opportunity to play a much bigger role in Luxembourg’s corporate ecosystem.
“In this way, the university has the opportunity to play a much bigger role in Luxembourg’s corporate ecosystem.”
How do you identify the entrepreneurs?
We inherited a university building and we filled it with bright minds and planted ideas that, with energy and creativity, can grow into great entrepreneurial projects. More than 2,200 students have come together from different parts of the university to design ideas, identify problems, practice their curiosity and creativity, and shape the future of the companies that are coming out of this program. We have designed a three-pillared unique program. Not everybody should be an entrepreneur but the ones who can need to be woken up. We put students through a 72-hour program that allows them to experience the life of an entrepreneur first-hand. Most of them realize entrepreneurship is not for them. With the remaining 10%, we start with their ideas, turning them into executable business plans.
Can you reveal what you call your “secret sauce?”
When they are ready, we don't want our entrepreneurs to face the world unprepared. We introduce them to a series of different mentors, like the director of MIT’s entrepreneurship center. What we have achieved would not have been possible without this “secret sauce” – the support from the ecosystem of more than 250 mentors who have participated in providing training and coaching. Mentoring takes students beyond the general curriculum: they might be engineers yet be negotiating contracts in their first job; so, they need to know legal stuff. If they’re a project manager, they’ll need to know accounting skills were not taught that at university. With our mentoring programs, we are providing them with a microcosm inside the university where they can learn the skills that will prepare them for when they launch their first venture.