- Programme: Corporate Finance Programme
- Nationality: Italian
- Job Post-programme: Founder at ThinkYoung – Kefren, Entrepreneurship School, Tunnel15 and Board member at Rentxpress
The man with a box of ideas
Andrea Gerosa has built a company, a career and a life in an area outside the corporate world, but he stands out in his sphere for always emphasising best business practices, learned from the best companies.
And as “Chief Thinker” and founder of ThinkYoung, a think tank dedicated to providing high-quality research on millennials and support and innovation for young people, he believes his ideas really started taking off after he studied the Corporate Finance Programme at London Business School in 2011.
“The evolution of a company is hard to describe,” he says of the venture he started at the age of 25 after an internship in Brussels for an international student organisation, JADE, made him think that young people’s voices weren’t represented in political decisions. “But while from 2007 to 2011 there was some growth, things really started to pick up from 2012 with the skills learned at LBS and they helped me shape things in a certain way.”
Now aged 34, Gerosa has an ability to produce extraordinary things from what appears to be small resources. ThinkYoung has 18 employees in three offices – Brussels, Geneva and Hong Kong – which are soon to be four with a new base opening in Madrid, and plans for another office in a different city in 2017.
But that model of small offices in multiple locations keeps ThinkYoung dynamic and agile and helps it to punch above its weight – whether it’s promoting the Maker Movement campaign at the European Parliament, evaluating an education project in Niger for Oxfam, or offering entrepreneurship courses for young people.
It all lives up to Gerosa’s concept of creating a think tank that is like a “box of ideas”. And the rewards of opening this box are obvious to all those who come into contact with ThinkYoung. One recent example was the company’s Coding Summer School for 13- to-19-year-olds held in Brussels with teenagers from Belgium but also the UK, Spain and other countries. After a week that involved more than 70 young people, an executive from scheme partner Boeing told Gerosa: “This is one of the best projects I’ve done in my life.”
It’s this kind of reward that motivates ThinkYoung’s employees and contributors. “We can offer personal satisfaction and personal development that big companies can’t,” says Gerosa who knows there is a trade off in terms of the money he has available to attract the best people. To help with some of the bigger projects that have come their way he’s pulled in his brother who has a PhD in anthropology and his director Luca Selva who has several years’ experience with Deloitte. “The more it grows the easier it is to get good people and our ambition is to have the budget to employ an MBA.”
But ThinkYoung’s philosophy of being open and receptive to new ideas attracts talented people who are eager to contribute to the think tank’s goals. When someone joined with an interest in Africa, for example, it led to research projects in the region for Oxfam and Google.
It’s all about listening to the young generation and analysing new trends. “Take something like Pokémon Go, our job is to take it seriously enough to understand what’s going on; to ask why young people are into it?” adds Gerosa.
And that’s the essence of how Gerosa sees his role. To listen to different things, read different things, talk to different people, as he brings in new clients, finds new projects and makes things happen. It’s about building networks and connections and it’s these qualities that have helped him turn something that started as a blog, into an international think tank advising governments and major companies.
Gerosa is now on the advisory board of the New York-based International Trademark Association to advise it and its members on youth related topics. He also advises other organisations in luxury travel and sport that are keen to tap into ThinkYoung’s knowledge of what millennials are thinking.
Gerosa believes his passion for developing new projects comes from the place where he grew up – the Brianza region of Italy, between Milan and Lake Como, which is known for its entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a region where people prefer to have a small-scale shop or company with two or three employees than work in a multinational. His parents own a shoe shop and his neighbours have owned butchers, hairdressers and carpet shops.
But Gerosa also credits the role of his “short, intense and specific” immersion in corporate finance at LBS, a topic that he says he didn’t pay enough attention to during his bachelor degree in Milan. “You understand much more about the world around you when you understand production and finance and the course helped me grow an interest I didn’t have before,” he says of the four one-week modules. “Now I know how to understand the decisions corporations make and how to read the FT, which sounds stupid but I need it for my job.”
Gerosa praises his teachers, including Associate Professor Chris Higson on accounting and Professor Ian Cooper on valuation, for the way they managed to bring their subjects to life. “We did a business case on Arsenal Football Club and the professor chose it because he’d looked at the biographies of people on the course and seen there was a guy who worked for Arsenal’s bank. That’s when you learn the most, when you can link things said in class to your own life, or to the guy sitting next to you.”
Gerosa is still in contact with classmates from the course. He calls in to meet people at the School whenever he can and uses the School library as a base sometimes when he’s visiting London. He also finds the Alumni Forum and email alerts useful for generating new ideas.
And he says he will always remember the business lessons he learned at the School. “The Mediterranean style of teaching gives you 200 concepts and says they are all important, but the Anglo Saxon approach, and the LBS approach, tells you three or four important concepts at the start, goes deep into those concepts, and always links back to them,” he explains. “So that there are three or four things you need to remember for accounting, for corporate valuation, and it gives you things you remember forever.”