On 24th January 2023, ESCP London Campus hosted a panel discussion moderated by Luca Cartechini, ESCP alumnus (2015), visiting professor at ESCP and CEO and Co-Founder of Shop Circle.

Five remarkable tech founders joined him to share their invaluable experience and the challenges of funding modern-day start-ups.

Guest panellists:

The panellists shared the lessons learnt from their entrepreneurial journey and the hurdles start-up founders face.

This event was run as part of the MSc in Digital Transformation Management and Leadership (MDT) programme.

Panel discussion

During the event, Luca Cartechini shared with the audience some important data to showcase the differences in entrepreneurial thinking between Europe and the USA. Less than 0.6% of recent graduates in Europe start their own business, having a negative impact on the overall economy and wealth creation of the “old” continent. Some of the main reasons include:

  • Lack or limited access to entrepreneurial education
  • Different approach to higher education: European universities tend to focus more on academic research and less on practical applications, which can make it harder for students to develop the skills they need to start a business.
  • Limited access to funding: Start-up funding remains more readily available in the United States than in Europe.
  • Difference in cultural attitudes towards failure: Failure is not stigmatised in the United States in the same way as in Europe. This could make it more difficult for European entrepreneurs to bounce back from failed ventures.

Luca Cartechini has been on a mission to democratise access to resources and inspire more students to start a company after post-secondary studies.

You can read Luca’s recent article about three trends shaping the future of e-commerce here.

Other subjects discussed during the panel were:

  • The inspirational process of creating a company
  • Finding the courage to leave a stable job
  • The kind of people who should never start a company
  • Choosing the team and hiring early employees
  • Rising capital in the European market
  • Starting or running a company in a recessionary environment
  • Creating your own work culture
  • Exiting your company


Aurelie Cnop, MSc in Digital Transformation Management and Leadership programme director, said: ‘The insights, perspectives, and experiences shared by each panellist at the “chasing unicorns” event were truly invaluable and provided a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to everyone in attendance.

'It also showed how the mastery of digital transformation technologies helps individuals to stay ahead of the curve and make a significant impact in their careers and companies, but also other people’s lives.

'The depth of expertise and passion for technology was evident in every presentation, and the students and I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to hear from such incredible CEO-founders. It was truly a memorable experience.’

MDT (2024) student Nicole Pamouktchieve commented: ‘I loved the event. It was really interesting to have a perspective from direct entrepreneurs that are already in the field, and to have a very hands–on approach.’

‘I want to go to my room right now and brainstorm ideas, and just start something,’ said student Evie Gotsia Karavali, MDT (2024). ‘I think the biggest learning from this event is that you don’t need to have the biggest idea in the world. You don’t need to invent the wheel. You just need to start and execute.’

Luca Cartechini shared: ‘Throughout my experience as a VC investor and entrepreneur, I have come to see that Europe’s current post-secondary educational system has a gap. Embarking on the entrepreneurial journey is often discouraged by academics who tend to favour and recommend more conventional jobs. In fact, today, less than 0.6% of recent graduates in Europe and the UK actually start their own business.

'But training and education in entrepreneurship will be necessary for Europe to continue to create amazing companies, foster talent, and compete in a global marketplace. As a point of entry, entrepreneurship education will work to demystify the process and encourage a more diverse and innovative pool of founders.

'My mission as a lecturer is to democratise access to resources and inspire more students to start a company after their studies or at some point later in their career. As part of that commitment, I decided to invite some of the tech entrepreneurs I most admire in Europe.

'I believe it was an eye-opening panel, especially for students who often hear experiences from corporate executives, consultants and bankers, but rarely directly from the entrepreneurs who found the courage to create their business and challenge the status quo. ESCP Business School once again confirmed itself to be extremely receptive and supportive when it comes to the topic, which should be on top of the agenda of every European business school.’

Watch Highlights from the event here: https://youtu.be/6LQSGjQ-P_0
Watch the the full panel recording here: https://youtu.be/wSE4yR7HXvM