Seedstars CEO Alisée de Tonnac Talks to Les Roches about Entrepreneurship and Education

13 Feb 2017 | by Les Roches


How do you generate new business ideas? Pitch to potential investors? Develop an entrepreneurial mindset? At Les Roches Switzerland, students tackled these questions during an intensive three-day “bootcamp” led by Geneva-based startup accelerator Seedstars. We caught up with Seedstars CEO and co-founder Alisée de Tonnac (who is named on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list for social entrepreneurs in Europe) to learn more about the organization and the future of entrepreneurship.

Harnessing the Power of Technology and Entrepreneurship

“Seedstars began four years ago with the objective of having an impact in emerging markets through two tools we believe in: technology and entrepreneurship,” Alisée explained, “In 2013, we ran our global startup competition in 20 countries. Today, we are present in 65 emerging markets.”

From its bootstrapped beginnings, Seedstars has evolved to connect a global network of investors, competitions, entrepreneurial academies and co-living/co-working hubs. In Alisée’s view, education is crucial to developing entrepreneurial talent: “Education needs to be disrupted. In most of the world, the system is archaic, following an industrial format that is no longer relevant today. We need to teach students how to learn for themselves, think for themselves, do things themselves. They need coaches, not teachers, who can guide them to develop empathy, creativity and agility.”

Experiential Learning

The Seedstars Academy program consists of six-month training sessions based on learning by doing. “We work with graduates in emerging markets to build a company together. It’s very pragmatic. There’s always some theory, but most of the learning comes from actually building a company. We pay the participants a salary so they can fully commit to the experience.”

Alisée and the Seedstars team prepared a packed agenda of hands-on learning for students at Les Roches Switzerland, and many were more than eager to take on the challenge. “Hospitality management schools like Les Roches are very pragmatic, as opposed to theoretical,” noted Alisée, “And that’s very useful. If you want to become a hotel manager, for example, you learn all the aspects of the business by experiencing them.”

Seedstar competition

Creating a Positive Impact

For Alisée, it’s also important to pursue entrepreneurship for the right reasons. “A lot of people think they want to become entrepreneurs because it’s trendy, or because they think they’ll make a quick fortune — and that’s simply not true. It’s a lot of work.” But the entrepreneurial path can also deliver purpose and a sense of satisfaction, and startups can bring much-needed solutions to urgent problems. “Water is becoming more expensive, resources are being consumed, and we have no choice but to rethink urbanization and consumer habits,” Alisée pointed out.

So how can hospitality graduates create value and benefit society? Alisée sees plenty of opportunity for travel and tourism to have a positive impact on the world stage. “Tourism is untapped in Africa, as well as in so many other parts of the world — Southeast Asia has experienced great growth, for example, but there is still so much room for potential.”

Volunteering at the Seedstars Summit

Want to know more about Seedstars and social entrepreneurship? The annual Seedstars Summit, in which over 70 startups will compete to win up to $1 million in funding, takes place in Lausanne, Switzerland on 6 April, 2017. Anyone can register to join the Summit, and Seedstars is also looking for volunteers. Don’t miss out on the chance to get involved!

Alisee Seedstar

Les Roches


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