Last month, students on our MSc Management programme traded their classes on campus in South Kensington for a two-day European Immersion in Lisbon, Portugal, to learn about business in this innovative city.
This trip is just one of the ways that MSc Management students gain practical experience to build on the theory they learn in class. The immersion builds on class learnings from the Innovation Management module, which equips students with an understanding of the main issues in the management of innovation and the skills to manage it at a strategic and operational level.
It also builds on their Entrepreneurship module which is an introduction to new venture formation and entrepreneurship, with an emphasis on high-tech business. The companies they visited in Lisbon demonstrate how innovation management operates in real-time, in addition to learning entrepreneurship lessons from successful startups.
The European Immersion is also a fantastic way for students to gain international experience on their CV to future employers. Some of the benefits include:
- Improved communication skills from interacting with people from different backgrounds – an understanding of cultural business norms means students will be more effective in developing solutions to global problems.
- An enhanced CV – a global perspective is a highly regarded skill by employers. Having an international university trip will give students an edge in the competitive job application process.
- Better problem solving and analytical skills – the British Council 2015 A World of Experience report found that survey respondents who had international experience described themselves as having strong analytical and critical thinking skills (73%) and strong problem-solving skills (83%), believing that their experience abroad helped them gain those skills.
See what companies we visited on the trip including Invest Lisboa, Farfetch, Zalando and Com0n, and hear what the students learned about innovation.
Lisbon: a booming startup city
Out of all the countries in Europe, you might be wondering why we sent our MSc Management students to Lisbon? It had nothing to do with the fact that we were travelling to a beautiful historic city that enjoys sunshine for 290 days of the year.
Innovation in Lisbon is flourishing. It is home to a booming startup and tech scene and many global companies are establishing hubs in the city. Some are even calling it the next Silicone Valley.
This is in perfect harmony with our strong focus on technology and innovation at Imperial College Business School strong focus on technology and innovation. Our students had the chance to see the startup and business ecosystem in Lisbon first-hand and visit tech-driven companies for their European Immersion.
Kick-starting the two-day trip, all students visited the head offices of Invest Lisboa to get a background of business in the city. Invest Lisboa is an investment promotion agency, which is in partnership with the Lisbon City Council and the Portuguese Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
Invest Lisboa helps companies, investors and entrepreneurs who are looking to invest or set-up their business in Lisbon. Rui Ramos Pinto Coelho, Executive Director of the company, gave an insight into Lisbon’s rapidly growing tech and startup scene.
He talked in detail about Portugal’s Golden Visa and Non-Habitual Residence schemes, which garnered a lot of interest from students. Through this visa scheme, Lisbon has driven foreign investment in residential property in the city, which in turn has boosted their economy. MSc Management student Chiara Derecque said:
I thought it was interesting hearing and finding out how Lisbon is a prominent area for investment and that a lot of people are interested in the city. I also found out a lot about business in Lisbon in general, I did not know that it had so many opportunities for startups and growth.
In his presentation, Rui also highlighted some of the activities and programmes happening in the innovation space in Lisbon. The arrival of the annual Web Summit conference, previously held in tech stronghold Dublin was a catalyst in this sector of business. This Summit not only cements Lisbon’s place in the tech world but is also helping to facilitate further growth for startups and entrepreneurship.
He also discussed the development of the Hub Criativo do Beato in Lisbon, a 35,000 square metre re-development of a former army factory that will soon be the world’s largest incubator. Invest Lisboa set the scene perfectly for the rest of the trip where students had the opportunity to visit some of the successful startups and company hubs throughout the city.
Farfetch is a luxury e-commerce platform founded in 2007 by Portuguese entrepreneur, José Neves. In 2015, the company became Portugal’s first unicorn – meaning they were the first privately held startup in the country to be valued at over $1 billion.
Flash forward to today, Farfetch is a global e-commerce giant that connects shoppers with more than 4,000 luxury brands from over 35 countries through a single online store.
Farfetch touts itself as both a technology and fashion company that advances the user experience through technological innovations. Their Lisbon office is home to many members of the technology team, including Luis Trindade, Principal Product Owner – Experimentation, and Carlos Oliveira, Principal Product Manager, who presented to the students.
In their talk they focused on how they use experimentation, segmentation and split testing, to improve the user experience and increase revenue. This is a perfect example to put the theory students learned on their Marketing Decisions module into practice, where they were introduced to the different marketing concepts businesses can use to serve its customers better than its competitors.
MSc Management student, Wenyi Zhang, said, “The flexible and creative working environment of Farfetch is really impressive. This is a fresh and promising team with unlimited potential.”
The offices are structured to be an agile and enjoyable place to work. Alongside hearing about their tech innovations, students were also excited by an office tour, which included the opportunity to dive into their giant ball pit!
On the second day of the trip, students headed to Zalando, another e-commerce giant that is disrupting the retail and fashion industry. RocketInternet founded the company in 2008 as an online footwear store. Today, they are Europe’s leading online fashion platform, stocking over 2,000 brands and delivering to customers in 17 countries.
Zalando have recognised the online business talent in Lisbon and chose to open their third technology hub outside of their HQ in Germany, despite not having a retail market in the country.
At their offices, Marc Lamik, Managing Director, Sergio Laranjeira, Engineer Lead, and Jose Rodrigues, Site Operations Lead presented to the MSc Management students. They discussed how they continue to improve on providing an enhanced digital experience for their Zalando customers.
MSc Management student, Anthony O’Rourke, said:
It was really interesting how they were using experimentation across the whole organisational structure and how there wasn’t really a defined structure where people had one job and they worked in one place. The roles seemed to blend into each other and I thought that was really interesting how it’s changing the way the company performs.
For their final company visit, students visited Com0n, a young marketing agency/startup incubator split into three main divisions. First, there’s Com0n user marketing agency which provides full-service marketing services with an emphasis on empathy in all of its advertising campaigns. Filipe Macedo, Chief Marketing Officer at Com0n, presented to students.
He explained why empathy is so important to the brand, and how brands and organisations gain more meaning when they make their user’s experience more humane and emotionally connected. He also showcased some of the advertising campaigns they produced for brands like Mercedes-Benz and mytaxi.
Next, they heard about Build Up Labs. This is their in-house startup studio that ideates, builds and grows several startup apps in parallel. The Co-Founder and CEO, Rui Gouveria, spoke to students about their ideation process and how they grow startups using a lean process.
Their ideation process and timeline impressed MSc Management student Di Zhang. She said:
At Com0n, I found it fascinating that they are doing a lot of experimenting with new ideas. The length of each step in their startup build process is really short – there are only three to six weeks from when they come up with an app idea to launching a beta version to early adopters. I thought that was really interesting.
They showed several examples of apps they created, some that had failed and others that triumphed, and Rui imparted some of the lessons they have learned along the way with students. These lessons are invaluable for the students’ who will be developing a plan for their own business in the MSc Management Entrepreneurship module.
The final division is HOOD, which pertains to the company’s physical offices. As well as housing the Com0n and Build Up Labs offices, the HOOD space also hosts a collaborative workspace and event venue for creatives.
MSc Management student, Paul Ladwig, comments on the working culture he observed at Com0n and the other companies they visited:
Most of the companies we have visited in Lisbon are not startups anymore, they’ve been established for a while. But the entire working environment is very young, agile and flexible, which I found fascinating.
As well as getting a thorough insight into the startup culture and business innovation in Lisbon, students also had the opportunity to explore Lisbon. Throughout the trip, we had local guides with us who shared an insight into the picturesque city as we travelled around on company visits.
And let’s not forget the food. Students sampled Lisbon’s delicacies including many pastel de natas– Portugal’s famous custard tarts. Paul Ladwig said:
I really like Lisbon as a city, there’s a bunch of things to do and you can explore the city by foot quite easily because it’s small. The food is great and I really liked it.
On the second night of the trip, all the students came together for a special dinner at Lisbon’s LX Factory in the creative quarter. This was a lovely chance for students to bond outside of the Imperial setting with their classmates, friends and Programme Director, Jolande Bot-Vos.
After the trip, the students returned to London inspired and ready to continue their spring term at the Business School.
Students on next year’s MSc Management cohort, September 2019 intake, will be able to undertake an optional Global Immersion Week as an international elective. This year’s students can choose Dubai, Hong Kong or New York. Note this these trips incur an additional cost price.
Students on MSc International Management, September 2019 intake, have a two-day European Immersion to experience first-hand the social and cultural dynamics of business in another country. They also have an optional Global Immersion elective that is shared with other programmes. In addition, on the Leadership in Action module that runs throughout the year, students go on an international trip to present their consulting project directly to the client in the country where they are based.