About one and a half years ago, on a Sunday night, I was planning my 2 week Vietnam trip. After a serious planning and googling exercise I asked myself: “Why the heck is there no travel agency providing me with a customizable online itinerary that I can easily personalize to my needs and then book it with one click?”

That was one of these moments in which I am glad to be an entrepreneur. Soon I learned that I wasn’t the only one with this wish and that a good friend had already thought of this exact same problem many times. We sketched a basic business idea. My partners at Acrea agreed to support us and here we had our first team of passionate travelers and information technology experts.

In only 3 months, we developed an Alpha release. Very soon we created an Acrea spin-off and one year later the new company was online. Furthermore, we had succeeded in getting the first substantial external funding and acquired first customers. Nothing at such a startup is straight-forward and, by definition, will never be. In this one year, about 50% of the initial business hypotheses have changed into new ideas and we had to adjust our business model several times. At the moment, Nezasa deploys a new productive release about every 2 weeks. Priorities of each new release are defined in sprint meetings and are heavily influenced by direct input from real customers. Nezasa still consists of a small and very heterogeneous team of generalists. Are we going to succeed in the rather “red ocean” (1) of the travel industry? No one knows – we just believe.

Context switch: I am sitting at a lunch with a high-up (close to the sky) manager of a large Swiss Bank. He tells me about a new innovation idea in the digital space that the bank is currently implementing. They started a huge multi-million program with about 30 project members that are organized in a multi-dimensional matrix. Many of the project team members have several roles, work only part-time on the project and report to several managers. My lunch partner mentioned the 10 major stakeholders that have more than 30 concrete expectations as customers of this digital innovation program. As failure was never an option and would be career-damaging, he told me that before starting the project, they worked hard on a business case and a forecast of the relevant P&L figures for the next 5 years. After 6 months and several review loops with various management committees, the sophisticated business case was finally approved and the project started.

A culture clash. Do you agree? I am proud and excited that I am given the opportunity to live in both worlds at the same time, every day. As a management consultant who advises senior managers of large enterprises on how to better leverage information technology and as a co-founder of a small online travel startup.

I am fascinated by both worlds and I see the pros and cons of both environments. Nevertheless, I am absolutely convinced that large enterprises must benefit much more from information technology than they do today. They must combine their unique strengths, rooted in those myriads of experts they employ, with the agility of a digital startup. We call this school of thought "Digital Entrepreneurship", and in future blog posts we will introduce some basic principles to help enterprises exploit the full potential of information technology. Teaching “Digital Entrepreneurship” and seeing how information technology becomes a competitive advantage, that’s my passion.