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Spotlight On: Philippe Mauchard, who fosters beneficial disruption at B-Hive
April 24, 2017
Philippe, the quicksilver mind behind McKinsey Solutions, is co-founder and Chief Bridge Officer at B-Hive, a platform that fosters the collaboration between startups and large companies – particularly those in the financial services industry. In this feature, Philippe discusses his quirky title, his unquenchable curiosity, and why he doesn’t understand the word ‘impossible.’

This is the twentieth in our "Spotlight On" series of articles, which feature prominent alumni sharing their thoughts about their careers at the Firm and beyond.

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In 2014, former Partner Philippe Mauchard (BRU 95-16), co-founder and Chief Bridge Officer at Brussels-based fintech platform B-Hive, was attending his 20-year reunion with about 150 fellow graduates of INSEAD. The opening workshop of the event featured a panel discussing career reorientation. 

Philippe’s initial response to this was irritation: “I was thinking, ‘This is more like the end of the road. The average person here is looking at retirement,’” he recalls, given that the age of attendees ranged from 45 to 65. “I thought, ‘career reorientation’? Come on.” (“I was feeling a bit grumpy,” he adds.)

As he was walking out of the event, though, he had an epiphany: “I realized, no. I’m 45 – I’m exactly halfway through both my career and my life. I’m good to go another round, and I can do more, because I’ve learned so many things. And I still have so much more to learn. I came out of the workshop super energized.”

This is demonstrative of many aspects of Philippe’s extraordinary personality: his flexibility, his willingness to change his mind, his appetite to innovate and create.

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Core aims: innovation and disruption

In our conversations with Philippe, two words kept coming up: “disruption” and “innovation.” These are core to Philippe’s philosophy of work, and are the key objectives that he pursued when he was at the Firm, and to which he still aspires in his post-McKinsey life.

Philippe is an entrepreneur in enterprise tech. While at the Firm, he was based in the Brussels office, which he joined in 1995. After being elected Partner in 2000, he created, designed, and launched McKinsey Solutions – the “innovative and disruptive” initiative that is now a part of New Ventures – which he led from late 2006 to early 2015 (“I had to build the plane while flying it,” he says of his early years with the initiative). During those years, he grew it to include 850 professionals, 20 of whom were new breeds of Partners focused exclusively on Solutions. He then led McKinsey Scale Up, the Firm's efforts to help fast-growing tech companies in Europe and Israel to achieve higher performance, especially in working with large companies more effectively. 

His current company, B-Hive (formerly Eggsplore), works together with its sister company, The Bridge, to act as a bridge between corporates and startups, markets and innovation ecosystems, and selected service providers and those who need support. (“In Firm terms, The Bridge is like a CST, and B-Hive is like a Practice,” Philippe explains.)

In addition, Philippe teaches a marketing course at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, and is a founder of the Teach for Belgium initiative. He also serves on the boards of entrepreneurial industry associations and startups. 

“Fostering the digital transformation of an industry”

Philippe is at pains to point out that fintech startups have a role that is complementary to established players as opposed to a role that will put them out of business: in other words, “disruption” doesn’t necessarily equal “destruction.” 

“Are startups helpers or disrupters of an industry? My answer is ‘yes’ – they can and should be both,” Philippe says. “And it’s not specific just to financial services. We take the best of both worlds from the startups and the incumbents – that’s really at the core of what we do at B-Hive and The Bridge. We want to play on the strength of both parties.”

Philippe explains how startups and corporations can benefit each other: “The startups are the furnace of innovation, for financial services in particular. They’re agile. They’re faster. They have an ability to attract talent. But they lack the critical mass, the robustness and longevity to go through cycles. The incumbents have a reputation, and the trust from consumers and customers.” 

He goes on, “What we believe is that the technology that we look for, and that we want to foster – even if it’s disruptive at face value – is to ultimately help transform financial services. We’re looking more for collaboration opportunities than the destruction of incumbents.”

Among the services that B-Hive offers to startups are curating the different sources of support that they need over the different stages of their development – ranging from market access, skill development, talent acquisition, funding, and infrastructure, which can include finding co-working spaces. 

Philippe gives an example of a current project, one which is matching startups with a major financial services player. “We’re currently hosting, for the second year, an accelerator program with ING in Belgium. They are spending four or five months with their startups in our building at B-Hive.” He adds that this solves one major difficulty: “If you think of a bank interacting with startups, there’s a very practical, physical challenge: how do you let them in every day? With all the security filters, it’s not efficient. So we host them under one roof, and collaborate with the bank’s staff and other partners to provide support to the startups.” 

Q: What am I? 
A: Chief Bridge Officer

Philippe describes his realization that it was time for him to leave the Firm and take on a new challenge. "It was very natural,” he says. “I didn't actually think a lot about it in advance, or do a lot of research. I just woke up one morning like I often do when I have an idea, and knew it was time to leave. And once I left, I said, ‘Now I need to be something else. Okay. What am I?’”

He goes on, “What I’m passionate about, what energizes me, is to connect people: corporates with startups, ecosystems with each other, people in need of something with those who have the means to help.”

Philippe and Valentine Mauchard
Philippe and his wife Valentine at his departure party from McKinsey, which he says was called his "Bridging Party" 

After joining two other Belgian entrepreneurs in founding B-Hive, he then had to come up with his title. “I like to create bridges with people, so I'm a bridge officer,” he says simply. “That's really what comes from my gut." The unusual title turns out to be a conversation-starter, too: “Every time I give my card to someone, I get a comment about it. People are amused, but it allows me to talk about what it is that we do. It’s an important role, because in a complex world, you need people who help you understand how you can make sense and find your way by connecting different things together.”

B-Hive now has a team of 15 people. Philippe is often in Israel, working with startups there (he’s learning to speak Hebrew, a language he’ll add to the four he already speaks).

A typical day, he says, sees him meeting with people from both startups, corporates, and venture capital companies. “My biggest satisfaction is when I start to see these worlds starting to connect and get closer together,” Philippe says, adding a detail that many of us can relate to: “My day is a lot of meetings, and a lot of e-mails piling up.”

“Helping McKinsey disrupt itself”: from PK to McKinsey Solutions to McKinsey Scale Up

This idea of beneficial disruption was also core to Philippe’s 21-year career at the Firm, and is what led him to lead the “Proprietary Knowledge” initiative – known as “PK” – which eventually became McKinsey Solutions. (The new name came to him out of the blue one day. “I was having a shower and suddenly said to myself, ‘I have the solution. It's called Solutions.’”)

“When I wrote the business plan for PK for the Shareholder Council members, I said, ‘Let’s take an ‘attacker’s mindset,’” he says. “Then we will be able to see whether we need to adapt anything.”

Philippe says that it was a natural evolution for him to go from being a traditional Partner to one who was not afraid of rocking the boat: “I went into helping McKinsey disrupt itself and innovate.”

His idea was to build something lasting for clients that would remain with them after McKinsey teams packed up and left – tools that would allow the client to scale the strategic possibilities raised by the Firm’s work, and make it sustainable. “If six or twelve months down the line the data has evolved from when the McKinsey team was there, the Firm won’t necessarily be there to work on it. We need to leave something behind.”

He suspected, he says, that the initiative wouldn’t ‘cannibalize’ or attack the Firm; rather, the new services would complement the traditional McKinsey engagements – a hunch that turned out to be correct.

But Philippe wasn’t quite through innovating yet. In 2015, following a break to recover from an arm surgery, he had the idea to create another new McKinsey service – one that would help startups work better with big companies, and also coach and consult them on how to scale their business. It was called McKinsey Scale Up.

“I thought I would use my experience of having served big companies in the first part of my career, and having built startups for the second part – and bring those two together. That was an inspiration.”

These innovations live on; McKinsey Solutions is now known simply as “Solutions”, and McKinsey Scale Up is now known at the Firm as the Fast Growth Tech Practice, and both are part of the Firm's New Ventures. Today, the Firm offers many new forms of expertise and insight, and has acquired or partnered with a number of firms with advanced capabilities such as analytics and product design (with a number of these acquisitions and partnerships complementing the home-grown Solutions portfolio). Firm colleagues with expertise in digital transformation, machine learning, and corporate restructuring now account for nearly a third of the total professional staff. (Click here to read more.)

One can easily draw a line from all of this directly back to Philippe.

He says that Ian Davis, who was the Firm’s Global Managing Partner when Philippe was launching PK, asked him how it was going about two months in to the venture. “He asked me what my vision was for PK in five to ten years. And I said that in five or ten years, we wouldn’t be talking about it anymore – either because it was a massive failure, or because it worked pretty well, so we wouldn’t need to talk about it all the time because it would just be a part of the way we work every day. And so now – more than ten years later – when I see people talking about a very different McKinsey, I’m very happy to have at least been a part of that adventure.”

Advice for entrepreneurs: “Do it yourself . . . but don’t do it alone!”

It’s always interesting to ask entrepreneurial alumni what advice they have for fellow alumni who are keen to launch their own ventures; there has been a wide range of responses covering many aspects of entrepreneurship. Philippe’s take is predictably direct and action-oriented: “Do it yourself.” He expands on this theme: “Don’t expect to sketch out a few things that a team will then pick up. Be ready to spend time seeing how the plan is progressing. At the Firm, consultants have a lot of support in a lot of ways. When you launch your own venture, you’re much more on your own. You have to come up with everything about it – so you can also be your own worst enemy, if you try to do too much at once.”

He continues, “It’s about the ability to have a permanent bifocal approach: on the one hand being a visionary and creating a plan for the next three to five years, but then also getting brutally down to earth and seeing what to do in the next three months or even just the next three weeks. That ability to go back and forth is the muscle you need to exercise the most.” Finally, one thing that is of “paramount” importance: “Work with a bunch of people who are sufficiently as crazy as you, but also complementarily crazy, with enough overlap.”

“I don’t understand the word impossible”

Philippe says that “a combination of curiosity and persistence” is what defines him, and has driven him both in his career and his personal life. “I don’t like to turn back,” he says. “The word ‘impossible’ doesn’t exist for me in French, Dutch, Hebrew, English, or Spanish. I don’t understand the word ‘impossible’. If something doesn’t work one way, I’ll find another way.”

He says this is evident even when he’s riding his motorcycle, and it’s clear he may be heading for a fall: “I will go into the roll. But you learn by going into rolls. The notion of not trying is foreign to me. I try because I’m curious – I want to see what’s different, what the possibilities are.”

Also paramount to him are close relationships with people. “I just love being with people, and connecting with people,” he says. “If I put curiosity and persistence together with loving to be with and connect with people, then I end up going places that maybe haven’t been explored.”

Unsurprisingly for a person with a deep-seated curiosity and passion for life, Philippe has a number of other interests as well. He’s a drummer who has played at numerous McKinsey parties, including Partner Conferences (“I do a lot of covers of rock and pop, from the 1980s to current music. The stuff that can make people dance,” he says). Previously a keen tennis player, he gave it up following his arm surgery, replacing that activity with running marathons.

And he credits his family, particularly his wife Valentine and children (he has a son, Terence, and two daughters, Ysée and Sixtine), with providing him with inspiration. “Inspiration is the fuel of my life, and my family gives me continuous energy. I always have a very grounded opportunity to look at what’s important through their eyes. I’m also inspired and fascinated by how my children evolve and grow.”

What the future holds

“Five years from now, I see myself having built bridges in three areas: having made it possible for more startups to work well with large incumbents; having connected ecosystems that aren’t necessarily working together now – for example, connecting people in Europe and Israel; and having made it possible to invest in some of these companies with a fund I’m raising now. All these things have strong alignment between my professional and personal passions.”

And Philippe seems to expect additional reinventions of himself somewhere down the line. “I think a good rule for life is to find the opportunities, and be open to seeing things differently,” he says. “I’m very proud of having done that. And it’s not finished yet. I’m just halfway.”

Philippe and family
Philippe and family

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Alumni wanted

Philippe highly values alums’ experience at the Firm. “There will be about six job offers coming up soon on the alumni site,” he says, so be on the lookout. Click here to search for current job opportunities. 


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