Venture Network in Segovia


Segovia is set to become the latest hotspot for IE entrepreneurial activity as the Venture Network (VN) made its highly anticipated debut back in April. This event, tailored to entrepreneurs, investors, and IE students, aims to foster learning, collaboration, and invaluable networking opportunities for all.

The debut featured two serial entrepreneurs: Leon Niederberger and Simon Böhm. Niederberger is the Founder and CEO of AI Ace. Based at IE, AI Ace is an educational AI startup with an IE University course-tailored chatbot dedicated to enhancing student learning experiences, which has already achieved an impressive valuation of $1.2 million. Joining him is Böhm, the innovative Founder of Tutorie, a social platform designed to easily connect students and tutors, and monetize the university tutoring experience.

Furthermore, the event marks the first venture networking initiative hosted by the IE Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center, the most prestigious fellowship at IE, in Segovia. Spearheading this milestone are first-year Segovian students Jean-François Manigo Gilardoni and Miguel Eugène del Olmo, whose leadership and organizational skills have brought this exciting opportunity to life for Segovian students.

Here, the IEU Stork had the pleasure of interviewing Jean-François and Miguel about the success of the event and how it came to be.

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Pictured here are first-year Segovia BIE (Economics)  students, Jean-François Manigo Gilardoni (right) and Miguel Eugène del Olmo (left).
  1. What is the Venture Network?

Miguel Eugène (M.E.): Venture Network is designed for all students to foster a courageous and adaptive community. It offers exposure to innovative initiatives and helps shape participants by reinventing and reshaping their approaches to entrepreneurship. I would describe it as a very friendly and unique community environment. In Segovia we are proud of our close-knit community and how this will further expand the connections for growing venture networking opportunities here.

Jean-François (J.F.): Venture Network embodies critical thinking, startup building, and efficient capital allocation, merging these with clear goals. It allows anyone to join, and grow from the ground up, providing a comprehensive framework for aspiring entrepreneurs. To join our society, it isn’t necessary to be an entrepreneurship, business or networking aficionado; when you join, it will become a journey of discovery.

  1. Can you provide an overview of what venture networking entails and its importance in the startup ecosystem?

J.F.: Venture networking places a strong emphasis on diverse experiences or stories. This allows entrepreneurs to benefit and learn from both successes and failures. By learning from others, students can learn what it takes to make a distinct mark on the world and gain recognition. This will allow them to prepare for the nature of entrepreneurial life.  My mother always tells me that the “world is your oyster,” and it’s true. The Venture Network does not adhere to limitations; its goal is to allow all members to think meticulously but to expand and open their thinking to the world.

  1. How does venture networking differ from traditional networking, and what specific benefits does it offer to entrepreneurs and startups?

M.E.: Unlike traditional networking, venture networking provides net returns… [students will benefit from] more experiences and stories that can help anyone as all are welcome. Learning is one of the biggest goals here. If you can learn to stand out, you will be noticed. Venture networking is meant to be highly adaptive and courageous, so it will help shape a lot of people in unexpected ways. I find that incredibly exciting.

  1. What tips do you have for giving a venture opportunity pitch?

M.E.: Personally, it’s about maintaining authenticity and expressing yourself in a direct, yet captivating way. I like to keep it funky. I always say to keep it funky. It shows more of yourself. For me, it began as a passion project, so stay true to that. 

J.F.: As an entrepreneur and economist, I’m really interested in understanding how people think. It’s to understand further the why behind the story, [what’s] most valuable there. It’s to understand the underlying purpose behind your story and to help show others how they can relate to it when you pitch. I want to push people to think critically. The best pitches connect deeply with these aspects. As Miguel said, the more authentic, the better.

  1. How did you get into venture networking? What led you to create the Venture Network branch in Segovia?

J.F.: So we both frequently traveled to Madrid for both business, networking, and venture opportunities.  Though the Madrid Venture Network was only once a week, we attended other finance and entrepreneurship-related events [as well]. After a few weeks of going to Madrid, we figured we also wanted one in Segovia. Over time, we realized how transformative those events were, and we really wanted to bring that dynamic to Segovia.

M.E.: Yeah, I agree. Our friendship basically started going from Segovia to Madrid and its networking events. We noticed there were both Venture Networks in [the Tower] and Maria de Molina Campus, but not one in Segovia. We then thought there should also be a chapter in Segovia, and that there should be equal opportunities for Segovian students.

J.F.: Miguel got in touch with the head of the IE Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center and pitched the idea. We went to a bunch of meetings to implement the idea into Segovia. We traveled a lot back and forth to Madrid to start it with the Center’s administrators, had many late nights, and negotiations to settle it.

  1. What was an important or exciting experience for you while you were setting up the organization, and how did it influence you?

M.E.: For me, it was when we met Paul Murphy (Investor at Lightspeed Venture Partners, who currently holds around $25 billion AUM). We were able to go on stage to meet him. It was incredible. I got the opportunity to pitch an idea to him that he politely declined, but he remembered me later. That for me was a fruitful experience. 

J.F.: I asked Paul Murphy a question regarding the biggest risk he took during his career thus far, and that made Murphy think. It was a very special moment for me because it surprised him and you could see he really appreciated the question. I also was able to speak with him for a few minutes after his talk.

  1. Could you provide an overview of what took place at your first event last month?

J.F.: The event showcased two IE students having a conversation with the host about their businesses. Leon Niederberger had recently won the IE Venture Lab Competition, showcasing his startup AI Ace and Simon Böhm had just officially launched the Tutorie service for students. With Miguel acting as the emcee moderator, Böhm and Niederberger discussed their passion for startup building, pitching, and entrepreneurship, and elaborated on their long-term visions. 

M.E.: The event was for the students, by the students. Böhm is an experienced entrepreneur with 5 startups prior to Tutorie. Alternatively, Niederberger has already developed a chatbot, which is more accurate and specialized than the Chat-GPT in IE coursework is specifically designed for IE students by using IE course data. It’s still in development, but it’s already valued at $1.2 million. Meanwhile, Böhm’s project just launched and he also has an emerging startup focused on solar energy called SOLFORALL.

  1. What are your goals for venture networking next year?

J.F.: We have clear goals already. Our goals include establishing a robust network in Segovia for pitches and networking, hosting more frequent events, and implementing a structured recruitment process in September [for more people] to join our team. We plan to offer unique opportunities personalized to Segovia’s entrepreneurial spirit that varies from Madrid. We have a different kind of student base here so we want to tailor to the students and their entrepreneurial desires in that way. We are also working towards having accredited investors frequently attend our events. We do have some challenges since Segovia’s student base is smaller, but that challenge is our greatest strength.

M.E.: People with these entrepreneurial ideals don’t know where to look; hence, it is up to us and this community to provide a haven to look for said opportunities. Here, participants can explore and seize these opportunities confidently. Madrid is also growing to become a major venture networking capital, I can see it becoming a sort of mini-Silicon Valley. Here in Segovia, this town is a perfect place to further accelerate that vision so that students are prepared to land the jump when they make it to Madrid and beyond.

However, though the marking debut of the first Venture Network initiative hosted by the IE Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center in Segovia did occur near the end of the year, the Venture Network will start again in September, and they will announce the opening of the application process to join their team. If you are interested in joining the Segovia Venture Network and taking your entrepreneurial skills to the next level, here are the IE Connects link and Whatsapp memberships to join the fellowship. 

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