03 May 2012

“It was a dark evening when I received the first email from the Net Impact Club. The communication informed all the members of the incoming elections to appoint the next Sustainable Business Conference (SBC) organizing team and included the invitation to an introductory meeting.

Although I didn’t know I was a member of the Club, I decided to attend the meeting anyway: sustainable business was one of my main fields of interest, and after all, in the worst case I would have gotten a free pizza!

Well, the pizza was not super (I’m Italian, I need ultra quality pizza!!) but SBC was really exciting! I had worked for almost seven years for a managing consulting company focused on energy markets and in particular on renewable energies. I thought that SBC could represent the natural evolution of my experience in that “sustainable” sector.

Moreover, my friend Vincent was at the meeting as well: we soon decided to set up a team to participate in the SBC elections. To present a team, we had to find other three members, so we decided to involve the right people to raise the quality of the team (and also its beauty!!): Elena and Charlotte were soon on board. However, we would have had just 5 minutes to present our idea and prove our capabilities to organize an efficient fund raising to enhance the next SBC. We thus needed someone with huge analytical skills and a unique Power Point talent: Giulio was the right person. And the “Smart up” team was complete.

The next step was to decide the main idea around which to build our proposal for the next SBC. We started to meet in our rooms at Expansiel, sometimes in front of a cup of coffee, others times in front of a number of beers… and we eventually came up with the idea of “smart cities”: how our cities should change in order to face the issues created by the rising urbanization trend.

This subject is very hot in the industry now and international institutions such as the European Union are starting to support this concept, along with grants and research funds. This meant that there was business around it and so higher chances for our fund raising.

We liked this subject because it was focused enough not to be considered too generalist, but broad enough to leave room to multiple approaches. We thought that this diversity could enhance the appeal of a conference, which targets every year at least 400 students and professionals, with very different interests: from cleantech to finance to social business.

So we started to study this subject in more depth and prepared our 5 slide presentation. Eventually the elections arrived with five teams competing to take the lead of the organization and soon we discovered the first surprise: another team presented the same idea! They decided to be the first team to present, while we opted to be the last.  We were pleased to do so, as we remembered from the “Negosim” feedback that the last presentation has generally a more positive impact on the attendees.

All the teams were well prepared and had very interesting ideas, but I was confident as in these cases motivations make the difference and I had the feeling that nobody was more committed than us…

… and I was right! Well, I don’t know if we won because we produced a convincing presentation or just because we have been the last to talk… but “Smart cities, smart sustainability” was officially the title of the SBC 2012!

For reasons unknown to me, I was appointed general coordinator and our first task was to gather all the other teams around our project.

It was October 25th 2011, with less than five months to go… it seemed a mission impossible: to find 50 speakers from all around the world, some big names from the industry to attract the press and professionals, to set up an effective communication plan in order to bring 600 attendees to Jouy en Josas, to prepare the logistics… and especially to finance it!

But common, we are HEC MBA participants… no matter what, we were going to make it!!”

Sergio Portatadino, SBC President, Class of 2013

Write a comment