How I went from corporate finance intern to entrepreneur

This is a blogpost my Ioannis Papoutsis, who is currently stepping down from his role as Strategy Assistant at Beta-i to start his own startup called Terminal 3 – a group travel service for remote working professionals

How on earth did I end up building a community of remote working professionals?

From Finance graduate, working in big corporations, to entrepreneur, consultant, beta-i strategist and Terminal 3 Co-founder.

“Master in Finance student”

Looking 3 years back: I had finished my bachelor studies and military obligations. I was almost done with my studies at a business school, aiming to graduate with Distinctions (proud to say I did) from one of the top 10 Finance Masters in Europe. I was working hard on my way to big multinational companies, applying to some of the best companies in France to gain international working experience, with the promise of having a great salary upon graduation, “9 to 5” timetable, and get a good return on investment of time, money and effort.

What happened to me?  

“Corporate finance Intern”

Within a few months, the entrepreneurial bug hit me. I wasn’t happy enough with my work. I loved the people, the culture, the food (have you seen the restaurants they have in the big companies?), the working hours, the promise for growth and all. But I would go back home, close the door and think “Now what?” .  

I wasn’t feeling productive enough, being 1 out of 50,000 people, working on a part of a process, of another process, of a department, of a business unit, of an area of business; it didn’t sound sexy to me. I would go back home, and apart from studying to evolve my understanding of what I can do better I could easily sit back and “enjoy life”.  

That’s not my idea of work. I needed to create, to be a big part of something, to have my brain juices flowing 24/7 no matter if it was vacations, summer or my birthday, I needed to be challenged, be thrown out of my comfort zone on a daily basis.

“Co-founder”

I decided to join 3 of my classmates to launch a consulting business, Aleri Consulting Group, be the middle ground between the “junior enterprises” (student associations’ run consulting business’ in France) and the expensive consulting firms that would charge an intern’s monthly salary as a fixed daily fee to big businesses. I worked on projects remotely while working on my internships and my thesis.  

“Incubated start-up”

As we had been accepted to be incubated, once finished with studies, I headed back to my business school to learn more about entrepreneurship. The incubator would support us with free consultation of experienced professionals. What I enjoyed though, was the people’s attitude. I felt it was a “healthy” industry. Experts share their time for free to help young people? That’s not something they taught me at university or on finance courses.

“Exploring Brazil, building communities”

As my partners became less active due to personal obligations, I decided to find a new challenge that would teach me more about this new field of incubation and entrepreneurial support. I was incredibly lucky to be one of the 60 European Entrepreneurs to be sent to Brazil, through the EU Brazil CONNECT program. There I worked with the Brasilia University Incubator, helped start-ups redesign their business model to achieve scalability as well as present the advantages of taking part in a call for proposal for EU funding. The experience was incredible, I received only positive feedback and I totally loved it.

At the same time I got to meet many interesting European entrepreneurs. I built real connections with people that wanted to have an impact, like Mevish, with who we started gathering the group to share time together, travel, help each other and even start new businesses. We all shared our experience and agreed it is something we’d love to do again. (Keep that thought)  

Being surrounded by a group of like-minded people, that love to travel and jump in a challenge without knowing what’s ahead, was extremely inspirational and helped me realise I was doing the right thing.

“Looking for the next step”

Heading back home, it soon dawned my life demanded the presence of a stimulating environment. Meet more entrepreneurs, learn more on how I can grow my business or start a new one. I figured there couldn’t be any better place than an organisation that supports innovation and entrepreneurship. Beta-i won my interest, a Lisbon based organisation, in a country with similar financial problems as Greece, had grown to offer one of Europe’s most successful acceleration programs, and had just moved to a massive 9 storeys building which could hold so much potential.  

“Challenge accepted Beta-i”

I arrive in Beta-i, my position? Well, I had no idea. We agreed I’d work on whatever my skills allow me to. I worked on scouting startups, reviewing thousands of business models to identify potential participants for Deloitte Digital Disruptors, a vertical accelerator by Deloitte, to disrupt the insurance industry. I was intuitive enough to look into some fintech companies and suggest that their technology could be applied to disrupt the insurance industry, they ended up being one of the successful teams.

I moved on to assisting on operations of The Lisbon Challenge, a 10 week acceleration program, the “flagship” of accelerators in Lisbon, 19 start-ups filled with international minds. I can’t describe the value of engagement and interacting with them, their mentors, watching the same presentations as them, this developed my thought process of how much a team of entrepreneurs can achieve.

Soon after that I moved over to work on strategy. An area I am extremely proud of as a contributor of Beta-i’s successful long-term growth course, without pivoting from its values and ensuring startup founders are first.

“Connecting again with the entrepreneurs community from Brazil”

Going back a bit, we had our reunion with EU Brazil CONNECT, to present the results to the European Commission, and I had the chance to meet the other entrepreneurs. We gathered one last time and discussed how much we missed Brazil and the experience we had there. I got to meet again my Mevish,who later became my co-founder, and we agreed we needed to do something to offer the same experience to others.  

“Co-founder of a community for remote working professionals”

Our will to build a program that offers what we experienced is materialised, Terminal 3 was born at the reunion but manifested this month.  A group travel service for remote working professionals, one of the only three in the world.(As seen on Forbes online magazine) We gather up to 30 people and travel with them to six countries in six months. In every location we interact with the local community, immerse in the culture and give back by having impact days, volunteering to support a cause that we all care about. We cover all time consuming logistics such as accommodation, workspace wi-fi so participants focus on work and experience the most out of each location.

  • Fast forward today I have co-founded two companies, lived in 7 cities in 5 countries, and travelled to a dozen more.  
  • I went from thinking I’d be a successful corporate employee to an entrepreneur, traveling, building remote working professionals’ communities while traveling to new countries where I don’t speak the local language and helping others succeed.
  • Working with an ecosystem initiator, community building, entrepreneurial support organisation such as Beta-i, was a vital catalyst for my choice of action.
  • The future can bring to you as much as your imagination and motivation allow you. Take on the next challenge and don’t be afraid to travel and work on new stuff.

Read also:

Why we built a digital nomads community Terminal 3 By Mevish Aslam

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