New Business Ventures

Transforming Ideas into Businesses




Course Overview

How do you transform an idea into a business? While penicillin might be one of the greatest ideas of the last century, its journey from a petri dish to a blockbuster product—and a drug that has saved millions of lives—was long. To successfully transform an idea into a business, you need to take the right steps, approach them in the right order, and execute each one in a savvy manner. In “New Business Ventures” (NBV) you will learn how to do all of the above.

This course is introductory, as you will learn about the actions required to build a new business venture: for example, generating and selecting ideas, forming and developing a team, raising and spending capital, hiring and managing employees, identifying and managing partnerships, and acquiring and keeping customers. In addition to teaching you about these steps, this class will give you the opportunity and require you to conduct some of these activities yourself. You will go out of the classroom, explore the actions it takes to implement your new business venture, and interact with decision makers relevant to your domain. The need/opportunity to go out of your comfort zone and reach out to people outside of your network is one of the key learning experiences.

This course is also foundational, as you will learn how to think as an entrepreneur. Successfully building a new business venture requires a particular mindset. You must be able to see constraints as a source of creativity. You must learn how to embrace risk and make bold decisions when faced with it. You must recognize ways to position your venture in markets that do not yet exist. Only as you learn how to think as an entrepreneur can you read the hidden patterns that explain the success or failure of new business ventures (think Neo in The Matrix). We will draw on insights from entrepreneurs, cutting-edge research, and ideas from very distant fields.

New businesses ventures are challenging, and failure is common. Despite these challenges—or, perhaps, because of them—most INSEAD MBA graduates still choose to engage in a new business venture at some point in their careers. You may for example become involved with a new business venture by founding one, joining one as an early employee, or investing in one as a venture capitalist. In each of these cases, you have a lot of skin in the game. Successfully transforming an idea into a business can help you satisfy your personal goals and change the world. However, a failure may set you back both personally and professionally. Learning how to think about new business ventures and the actions you can take to build them will shift the odds in your favour. 


Career Focus

This course is designed to prepare you for several different career paths:

  • Venture Founders. This course is well suited to you if you want to found a new business. You might have an idea right now, or you may plan to found a business at some later point in your career.
  • Early Employees in new Ventures. Early employees often play a key role in building new businesses. For example, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and Eric Schmitt at Google have played crucial roles in transforming these companies’ ideas into successful enterprises. This course will prepare you for such roles.
  • Venture Capitalists. You will find this course helpful if you wish to become involved in new business ventures as an investor. While there is plenty of money available when it comes to financing new ventures, not all money is “smart”. To be successful when investing in new business ventures, you need to first understand how new business ventures succeed.
  • Business Development. Established companies have learnt from new business ventures and try to imitate their success in conquering new markets when entering new markets. If you (plan to) work in business development or consult established companies on business development, this class can help you to understand how to transform ideas into new businesses. Please note that if your core interest lies on entrepreneurship within corporations, you should take the elective focussed on corporate entrepreneurship.


For this class, you need to have your sh*t together. Taking this class will be like building a new business venture. You will need to deliver. If you are wondering whether this class can be half-assed, the answer is no. Even students who liked the class a lot, always point out how much work it is. It really is. The three types of assignments serve distinct learning purposes.

1. New Business Ventures Lab (40% - team)

In the New Business Ventures Lab (NBV Lab), you will take your first steps in transforming an idea into a business. As part of a team, you will need to accomplish various milestones on the road to building a new business ventures. The milestones you will need to achieve are listed in the class outline.

2. Class (40% - individual)

  • Surveys (20%): You will need to complete surveys for almost every class. In most cases these surveys concern the case we discuss in the next class. Sometimes questions may refer back to previous classes. These surveys may sometimes feel a bit like “school”, but you will learn a lot. If you miss more than three surveys you fail the class.
  • Class Participation (20%): Attending class is mandatory. Because this course relies on case discussions that build on one another, attendance is critical. You have to be there. Your class participation will be graded based on the quality (not just the quantity) of your comments. Quality comments are rigorous, insightful, and delivered succinctly at appropriate times. Delivering quality comments requires carefully preparing the case and thoroughly reading the conceptual material for the day—in other words, you must work hard for every session! 

3. Entrepreneurial Decision Making (20% - individual)

You need to reflect on one entrepreneurial decision. You will get a list of decisions to choose from. In your reflection you create an evidence-based list of bullet points of issues one needs to take into account when making that discussion. You will need to read scientific articles, interview various people etc. 

Course Outline

SESSION 1: Launch

We discuss what NBV is all about: The steps it takes to transform an idea into a successful business. We discuss the content of the class and the logistics. We examine what you will learn (hopefully) and what you need to deliver (definitely).

SESSION 2: Lean Entrepreneurship

Not every idea is an epiphany. While people have many ideas, most of them turn to out to be not very good. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs discover, after substantial effort, that their business models have fatal flaws. Today, we introduce the concepts of lean entrepreneurship to learn how to test a business model quickly and inexpensively

SESSION 3: Business Model

Once entrepreneurs identify a promising opportunity, they must envision and create a business model of capturing that opportunity. It may also be the other way around. Entrepreneurs might find a business model that is novel – and implementing it might constitute a business opportunity. In today’s session we learn what a business model is and how to refine it

SESSION 4: Venture Evaluation

Beyond coming up with a new venture idea and outlining it, at some point you need to make a decision of whether or not to engage on it. In today’s session we discuss how to evaluate ventures.

SESSION 5: NBV Lab - Time For Your Venture

In today’s session some of you present your ideas for new business ideas that you explore over the rest of your course. Be prepared to pitch your idea. 

SESSION 6: Investors

Investors play a key role in the success (and the failure) of new business ventures.  While they provide funding, their impact goes far beyond that. In today’s class we examine how your venture might successfully engage investors

SESSION 7: Competitors

New business ventures often face fierce competition. This competition shapes emerging ventures in numerous ways. We discuss how new business ventures can identify and manage their competition.

SESSION 8: Partnerships

Entrepreneurs often pursue opportunities that require resources beyond their control. Such resources are often provided by key partners (e.g., large corporation that provide complementary assets to help on distribution or manufacturing). We study how new businesses can identify, assess, and interact with partners

SESSION 9: Ecosystems

New business ventures operate in complex ecosystems. Ecosystems are shaped by complex interdependencies, network effects, technology standards, and lock-ins. We study how firms can create and capture value in ecosystems.

SESSION 10: Team

Even when start-ups have the capital to grow, they may have trouble attracting and selecting the right employees. We examine how to build a great venture team.

SESSION 11: Boards

While boards can be a great resource for ventures, they often end up being a source of conflict. Board and executives are supposed to help each other but often end up fighting. Such fights have the potential to derail a venture. We examine how ventures can build and engage a board effectively.

SESSION 12: Organization

New business ventures are subject to particular organizational demands. They often grow quickly and need to navigate highly dynamic markets. You must build an organization that is efficient and flexible enough to master this journey. We examine how to organize your new business venture.

SESSION 13: Scaling

Once you have established your venture it will be crucial to manage its growth. You may need to discover new kinds of markets, new types of customers, and new types of products to foster the growth of your venture. We examine how to manage the growth of your venture.

SESSIONS 14 & 15: Pitch

In these two sessions, you will present your project that is the business you have developed in the New Business Ventures Lab. Students in the past have often found the pitches of their classmates interesting and have also attended the other session. You are welcome to do so. Please ask the course assistant about the time. 

SESSION 16: Your Entrepreneurial Career

Getting involved in a new business venture is a decision with numerous personal and professional consequences. Making such decisions is very challenging. We explore some of the challenges that new entrepreneurs face and discuss how to make entrepreneurial career decisions

About the Instructor

Henning Piezunka is an Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at INSEAD. Before joining INSEAD, he attended the University of Mannheim (Germany), the Institute d'études politiques de Paris (France), the London School of Economics (UK), and Stanford University. He also co-founded a web company that serves clients in more than 60 countries (including the German Chambers of Commerce and the Federal Ministry for the Environment) and employs more than 25 people full time ( The company has continued to do well since Henning left in 2008, and it recently celebrated its 17th birthday.

Henning’s teaching focuses on the formation of new business ventures. Prior to teaching the course “New Business Ventures” at INSEAD, Henning taught undergraduates, master students, and executive education students how to build new business ventures. In his teaching, he draws on established best practices, his own entrepreneurial experience, and cutting-edge research, but also interesting insight from other domains that help us to better understand the entrepreneurial process. In addition to being an experienced teacher and entrepreneur, Henning is an accomplished researcher in the areas of innovation, competition, and networks.