The Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Essay, 2013

14 Seiten



I Introduction to the Companies and its Entrepreneurs

II The Entrepreneurial Formula

III Conclusions

IV References

List of Abbreviations

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List of Figures

FIG1 The Founders of Alti SA

FIG2 The Founders of Bagel Corner

I. Introduction to the Companies and its Entrepreneurs

Alti SA (in the following referred to as “Alti”), headquartered in Levallois-Perret, France, has been founded in 1995 and is operating as an IT consulting and engineering firm in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Algeria. Currently employing approximately 1,200 employees, the company designs, develops, implements and optimizes software solutions for project management, training and change management programs, as well as for logistics, finance, accounting and real estate management.4 Alti’s clients are located across a variety of industries, from banking and insurance to manufacturing and retail, healthcare, utility and even the public sector.

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FIGURE 1: The Founders of Alti SA


Alti’s vision is to establish long-term partnerships with its customers based on listening and trust. Emphasizing on values such as proximity, agility, innovation, commitment, team spirit, and corporate social responsibility, the company has been very successful since its creation by the engineers and current Managing Directors Michel Hamou and André Bensimon (see fig. 1). The two entrepreneurs got to know each other in university and started the business already before their graduation. Whereas Michel at a first glance appears to be a very empathic and down-to-earth person, which is by his own account mostly engaging in the internal i.e. employee or human resources (HR) side of the business, André is said to be a charismatic and authoritative leader responsible for external stakeholder commu-nication as well as client interaction.

In 2012, the company’s total revenues amounted to roughly €126 million, and it has only recently been sold to TCS for the considerable price of €75 million5––isn’t this the dream of every successful entrepreneur? According to Michel Hamou, the most important recommendation for every future one is not to bother one’s head too much about obstacles, and not to wait too long when there is a first opportunity to grasp––in a nutshell: JUST DO IT.

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FIGURE 2: The Founders of Bagel Corner

Bagel Corner is a young start-up company in the Parisian fast food scene, trying to attract French consumers with the relatively unknown Bagel ––the delicious, ring-shaped pastry commonly found in the United States and various Eastern European countries.6 Young are also the founders: Michaël Cohen and Rachid Ez-Zaïdi (see fig. 2) were only 25 and 23 years old when they opened their first store in early 2011 with personal savings, and a bank and a public loan. A clear advantage to be young: starting their business rig ht after their graduation from the same business school, time for concept development and testing was already available during the master program. Beside that, living with their families provided due financial security and psychological support, especially after failing with a first business idea.

A bagel store might appear to be an easy-to-imitate business to some; for Michaël, the main differentiators in comparison with direct and indirect competitors––such as numerous American fast food chains, local supermarkets or traditional French bakeries and bistros––are product quality, specialization and innovation. At the moment, there are only two Bagel Corners in Paris: one in front of a university, and one in a business area; hence marketing strategies, e.g. pricing, vary. From the very beginning however, the two entrepreneurs had a clear long-term vision: “first Paris, then the world”7. Aiming at exploiting the distributional advantages of franchising, such as a low starting capital and the easy entering of markets8, first negotiations with interested parties in Europe have already taken place.

Having been asked what he thinks is the most important attitude of being an entrepreneur, Michaël Cohen countered not to fear failure or stop fighting for one’s dream whatever the circumstances might be: JUST FEEL IT. Now, if you turn a page back you will see two different statements from two different entrepreneurs––or do they actually have something in common? If yes, what are those specific calling signals of an entrepreneur, or the spirit of entrepreneurship? This is what we are going to explore in the next chapter.

II. The Entrepreneurial Formula

In the interviews, we could indeed perceive common denominators of both entrepreneurs. However, in some points they were completely diffe rent. Also, contrary to general expectations, their personalities and self-presentation were nowhere near those of great entrepreneurs that immediately come to your mind such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobbs or Henry Ford; and you could sometimes catch yourself wondering “and this is a million-dollar guy?” Charisma, leadership skills, endurance––which attributes really belong to the entrepreneurial formula, which do not? Based upon a personal, prioritized list, we will consult our small “dictionary of entrepreneurship”:

Partnership [ˈpɑːtnəʃɪp]

“A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal”9

Both interviewees have set up their companies with the help of a partner. However, the fact of technically being a co-entrepreneur does not mean that one cannot carry inside the spirit of a real entrepreneur. For the entrepreneur, the term partnership is ambivalent. As in biology a symbiosis can be mutualistic (both organisms benefit) or commensalistic (only one organisms benefits, but without affecting the other negatively; otherwise it would be parasitic and thus no partnership anymore)10, a person can either work with a partner, for a partner, or use a partner for achieving a specific goal without scaring the same away after some time. This form of hidden opportunism is what makes a real entrepreneur: being able to use others for your own goals, without doing any harm to them; or better giving them the feeling that they work with you, when they actually work for you.

This is not a question of being scrupulous, but simply of balancing the advantages of a business partnership––sharing risk, cost and knowledge––against the sharing of management and profits. An entrepreneur might enter into a partnership because he just does not have the financial resources or technical competences to realize his business idea. In fact, both interviewees stated that their partnerships were highly complementary in terms of competences and responsibilities, which made things a lot easier. I am not saying that business partners cannot be friends; and friendship indeed played a big role in both start-ups. However, in every human interrelationship––a friendship, a marriage, a business, a society––there is somebody who leads, and somebody who follows. A real entrepreneur clearly knows on which side he wants to be; do you?


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The Spirit of Entrepreneurship
Novancia Business School Paris
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ISBN (Buch)
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International Master of Business Administration Nadine Ghanawi (Autor), 2013, The Spirit of Entrepreneurship, München, GRIN Verlag,


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