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February 27, 2009

G-Lab Recap and the Job Front

G-Lab Recap

Once again, so much has happened since my last post.  Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January was definitely something that I will never get the chance to do again since it is not likely that I will have a month off to do as I please.  My G-Lab team set off on January 4th to South America for a 27 day whirlwind tour.  We were scheduled to start work at ESPN in Sao Paulo, Brazil on January 11th, so we took the week beforehand to travel through Buenos Aires, Argentina and several cities in Chile (Santiago and Vina del Mar).  Needless to say, there was nothing that disappointed us.  The meat in Argentina was fantastic, and the fish and wine in Chile were superb.  So, after a couple days on the beaches of Vina del Mar, we set off to Brazil to get down to business.

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Once on the ground in Sao Paulo, the people from ESPN were incredible hosts.  Upon arrival, one of our hosts, Marcelo, was at the airport with a van to pick us up and take us to our hotel in the Jardins, the nicest part of Sao Paulo with excellent shopping.  After getting settled in, he took us to our first taste of the Brazilian churascarria, the steakhouse where meat is all you can eat.  The first day onsite, we had a few introductory meetings to discuss the work plan along with the deliverables.  This first day included a lunch of what became my favorite meal while in Brazil, feijoada, a stew with beef, pork, and beans.  Mostly, the first week consisted of meetings with the directors in each of the departments at ESPN from marketing, sales, legal, finance, acquisitions, human resources, and new media.  As we were there doing a project focused around new media, some of our most productive times were the lunch brainstorming sessions with our hosts Jose (New Media) and Marcelo (IT).  Throughout the process, they made a very concerted effort to show us the different areas of Sao Paulo and what they had to offer.

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Throughout the interviews, our team discovered that some of the research done before arriving did not reveal many things that we experienced firsthand while actually being there.  We knew that soccer was the #1 sport, but we did not realize the magnitude of its penetration in Brazilian society.  Literally, no other sports matter, which poses significant challenges for ESPN in Brazil because of media licensing rights for specific events.  Globo, the media giant in Brazil, reserves all the rights for Brazilian soccer teams and most major events.  In addition to being ESPN’s largest competitor, Globo is also ESPN’s greatest source of revenue through their affiliate stations (Sky and Net) that carry ESPN broadcasts.  It became very clear that ESPN differentiates itself through the quality of unbiased journalistic integrity and talent personalities.  We also found distinct differences in the mobile market because 80% of all mobile phones in Brazil are prepaid, posing even more challenges in pushing out new media initiatives.  To aid us in our research, the ESPN team set up meetings with the new media groups at Disney, Time Warner, MTV, and Discovery in Sao Paulo to talk about how they are approaching the market hurdles.

Our final recommendations to ESPN, without getting into too much detail, were potential new ways to find new revenue streams via new media, ways to continue partnerships with the MIT ecosystem, new media process innovations to prepare for the multiplatform world, and ways to create a new concept around the ESPN360 brand to serve sports fans everywhere that they consume sports media.  All in all, it was an amazing experience where everyone on our team learned so much, and we feel that we delivered a quality product that our hosts were very happy with.

For our last weekend in Brazil, we decided to take off on a quick jaunt to Rio de Janeiro.  As it turned out, this became a highlight of our trip.  We stayed in Leblon, right near the beaches of Ipanema where we lounged for most of the day before heading out to the samba clubs at night.  On our second day there, we traveled up to Corcovado, where Christ the Redeemer overlooks the city and displays breathtaking views of the beaches and Sugarloaf hill in the distances.  From that high up, it is very easy to see the social inequity among the city as favelas (city slums) back up to some of the richest neighborhoods in the city.  While there, we also discovered an amazing smoothie snack comprised of acai berries and granola, nearly impossible to find in the US.

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On the Job Front

Since my last post, I have decided to take an offer with Emerson Electric in St. Louis to do corporate strategic planning.  I am extremely excited about this position for many reasons, and these reasons were cemented during a trip my wife and I took to St. Louis two weeks ago.  While there, they arranged for a realtor to show us around the city since we had never spent any time there before and St. Louis really had never been on my radar as a place to live.  We found a couple of areas in the city that were very nice and appealed to us, and we were enthralled by how much we could get for the money compared to other places.  As a couple with a dog and plans to start a family in the near future, this was the ideal setting.

My foremost reason for accepting the job is undoubtedly the people and the company culture.  We had the chance to have drinks with my future boss and his boss along with their wives before heading to Valentine’s dinner with three other people I will be working with and their spouses.  My wife and I felt that it was an incredible fit for us and a very nurturing environment in which to work.  In addition to the culture, the opportunities put forth in this position are very attractive to me, especially with the chance to work directly with and learn from the CEO, COO, and CFO of a company with nearly $25 billion in annual revenue.  After two years, I will rotate out of the planning department and into one of the business units somewhere around the world.

With a job now secured, I have much more time to focus on classes this spring, which I am also very excited about.  This past Wednesday night, I had the chance to have dinner with Christie Hefner, former CEO of Playboy Enterprises and also Hugh Hefner’s daughter.  I was amazed at her poise and intelligence, and it was a very unique opportunity to hear from the 20-year CEO of such an iconic brand.  This was organized as part of the CEO Perspectives: Corporations at the Crossroads class where we have a new CEO come to class each week.  The first two CEOs were Dan Vasella from Novartis and Jim Senegal from Costco.

Although there is still some cold weather to go, it is now 50 degrees outside, so I am going to take the dog for a walk and enjoy the weather!

December 23, 2008

Bucking the Trend

In Homer’s “The Iliad and the Odyssey,” the Sirens would sing seductively to lure sailors to the rocky shores of the island where they would perish.  When Odysseus and his men were coming near to the island, he had his men put wax in their ears so they would not hear the Siren’s song, yet he had himself tied to the mast so he could hear the song without being able to act on his impulses.

Odysseus and I might have more in common than I ever thought since I effectively tied myself to the mast back in September….  Amidst the unprecedented turmoil in the financial markets, I managed to secure a full time offer for investment banking from Barclays Capital, one of the few bulge banks left standing.  Despite a lucrative offer that would effectively guarantee my annual compensation to exceed three times my pre-business school level, I turned it down months ago.  Why?  Here is my story….

When I started writing essays for applications to business school, I had a very clear goal to change the way people think about their energy consumption.  I wanted to be entrepreneurial, idealistic, and passionate.  I wanted my performance to have a significant impact on the company, profitability, and the way that business was conducted.  Somehow that took a back seat when I actually got here, despite being involved in so many organizations surrounding entrepreneurship and innovation.  When the recruiting season starts, consulting companies and investment banks come to campus in mass force (although this year i-banking recruitment will suffer, as expected).  Just as with the song of the Sirens, many people (me included) jump in the water and swim to the perceived safe havens of consulting and Wall Street with the lure of high salaries (and long hours).  They bombard you with e-mails and invite you to lavish dinners with current members of their organizations that will sing the beautiful songs of how great it is to be them.  They are the first companies to conduct interviews and extend offers that carry the added incentive of not worrying about a continued job search during another semester packed full of commitments.  When I found myself with an offer before the second semester even started, I swallowed the bait in one gulp.  The economy had already started its slide into oblivion, and I did want to get experience in the field of finance.  I have nobody to blame but myself.

Summer started, and I was eager to begin the internship.  As an MBA Summer Associate, I really did not expect to be more than a glorified analyst, especially with no previous finance working experience.  Then I started to look around me at people in higher positions, and I began to think about a few things.  First of all, why did I really need an MBA to be at an investment bank (my opinions here might be somewhat controversial) other than as a screening mechanism for them?  Several of the analysts I was working with were amazingly bright people, stuck doing data entry and preparing slides with the attention to detail of someone diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.  However, I have to say that Barclays Capital in particular does an excellent job of grooming these analysts to advance to the Associate level and beyond very quickly without the need for an MBA.  Second, how long would it be before I could have a real impact?  By my estimation, that comes somewhere around the time that you are a more senior Vice President, about five years out of an MBA.  At that point, client facing activities dramatically increase and you can really start to build on your business relationships.  Third, the same things get done over and over and over….and over.  CapitalIQ will get you 95% of the way there, but they still insist on reinventing the wheel, but then they want to check it against CapitalIQ.  Somehow the repetition and lack of creativity just did not appeal to me.  Now most people would normally complain about the long hours, yet I did not really think that they were that bad.  Admittedly I was in New York City without my wife and nothing else to do except work, but it is definitely manageable.

So I have really yet to write about my experience searching for more permanent employment, and I have been getting questions from many people about what I have been doing on that front.  The truth is that I am being very patient and very selective at the moment, despite the overall poor economic environment.  I only applied for and interviewed with one company through the Career Development Office, and this was for a job in corporate planning at Emerson Electric.  It is a fantastic opportunity with a $25B annual revenue company, and I would be working with a small group of people directly for C-level execs on company strategy and growth.  Outside of that, I chased down an opportunity to do sales and account management for a startup company that just received funding called Positive Energy.  Positive Energy is a natural fit for me since it is in the business of promoting energy efficiency, which I am very passionate about, and they are still in a relatively early stage since they started in the summer of 2007.  Outside of this, I am searching for new ideas and looking for entrepreneurial ventures of my own through classmates and the MIT Sloan network.  The goal is to do one of three things (in no particular order): 1. start my own company, 2. work for an early stage startup, or 3. corporate entrepreneurship, which I believe is underrated, yet sorely needed at many bigger companies.  No matter what, opportunities for top MBA talent are still plentiful, and there is no need to panic.

After talking to many venture capitalists over the last semester, there are a few things that they have consistently reiterated about the current environment.

  •  Funding is harder to come by as many VCs are conserving capital for later round investments for their existing portfolio companies
  • Term sheets are going to have more unfavorable terms for the entrepreneur and lower valuations on the whole
  • Business plans are going to have to be more resilient now than ever, and VCs can afford to be more selective
  • First time entrepreneurs are going to have to secure friends and family or angel funding before VCs will even touch them - first priority should be getting customers....

That said, I am off to spend the Christmas holiday with my family in Texas before taking off on my adventures through South America in January….

Here are a few good reads concerning cleantech and entrepreneurship, and a couple of these are written by Bill Aulet, one of the senior lecturers in the Entrepreneurship Center and the professor for Energy Ventures, one of the classes I just completed:

http://venturebeat.com/category/cleantech/
http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2007/08/06/whats-wrong-with-energy-investing-part-i/
http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2007/10/15/whats-wrong-with-energy-investing-part-ii/

November 21, 2008

G-Lab and ESPN

When I signed up to take Global Entrepreneurship Lab, I had no idea what the projects would be.  I just knew that it would be somewhere in Latin America (most likely in Brazil).  I was actually a little worried because I was on the wait list for the class, and we had to start forming teams on the first day of class.  The wait list situation thankfully resolved itself by the second class, and my newly formed team began evaluating projects.  Scanning through the list, one name caught our eye that just did not seem to belong.  ESPN do Brasil....Yes, the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" was one of the G-Lab projects.

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For my team of four guys who are also rabid sports fanatics and huge ESPN supporters, this HAD to be our project.  There is a matching process for the teams and projects, and this definitely includes a little strategy (and maybe some coalition building as well).  Each team is required to submit an application for their top three projects, ranked in order, that includes a writeup of the composition of the team and why the team is right for this project.  Lucky for us, our team had  ringer, and his name is Jordan Kogler.  Before business school, Jordan just happened to work for the Boston Red Sox doing sports marketing, and he will be happy to show you his 2004 World Series Ring.

If your reaction was anything like mine, you would say to yourself, "what is a company like ESPN doing in this class?"  Well, the answer has become clear after numerous conference calls with the team in Brazil and a visit to the ESPN headquarters and studios this past week.  First of all, any company looking to grow in an emerging market like Brazil is going to be facing any number of large challenges to begin with.  Our task was to evaluate and prioritize their existing media channels (print, web, tv, mobile, and radio) and leverage connections here in the US, such as the MIT Media Lab, to create a digital media innovation strategy moving forward.  Secondly, the ESPN brand is not nearly the same abroad as it is here in the US.

During our trek to the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, CT, our team was set to meet with all the heads of the different divisions of ESPN International, and our meetings were extremely revealing as we began to define each of the stakeholders and motivations behind decisions that were being made.  I never thought it would happen, but I actually began to recal material from my Organizational Processes class in the core.

In addition to the meetings, we got a complete tour of the facilities and studios.  Needless to say, I think each of us fulfilled a lifelong dream that day.  We ate in the ESPN Cafe, sitting at a table next to Mike and Mike (from Mike and Mike in the morning) in the same place where several of the commercials we have come to know and love have been filmed.  Through a stroke of luck, it also happened to be the day of the ESPN Expo where each of the departments sets up a booth to display what it is they do.  The three of us on the trip got to play Stump the Schwab, with the Schwab himself!  We got to see the newest innovations in 3-D television and how everything else was operated (analytics, research, HR, legal, etc) at ESPN.  And of course, when touring the set of our favorite shows, we snapped a few pictures to remind us of the moment we stepped into our dreams....

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The next step is a three week internship at ESPN do Brasil in Sao Paulo during the month of January.  As part of the class, each of the sponsor companies pays for transportation and lodging over that period, and we have taken it upon ourselves to do an additional week of traveling before the internship begins, partly to acclimate ourselves with the atmosphere in South America and Brazil.  Either way, this has been an amazing experience thus far, and we have not even gotten to the best part.

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September 02, 2008

One Year Ago Today....

One year ago today, I was registering for classes at MIT Sloan as a first year MBA student. Without sounding too dramatic or profound, I can honestly say that my life has undergone a quite a transformation. What I have learned and who I have met over the past year have changed the way I see the world in front of me. The extra inches on my waistline are also a reminder….

A year ago today, I had never been to New York City, believe it or not. Now, I have spent more than 11 weeks there as a Summer Associate at an investment bank during one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s financial history. A year ago today, I had never traveled abroad. Now, I have spent 10 days in Japan with 200 of my classmates and 8 days in Spain traveling with my wife. This is just talking about the places I have traveled.

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Looking back at my first year and all of the people I had the chance to meet and listen to, two people had the largest impact on me. The first is Bob Metcalf, who continues to be a very involved supporter of MIT and the entrepreneurial culture. Not only is he one if the founding members of 3Com (and hence Ethernet) and a general partner at Polaris Venture Partners, but he is also one of the most influential supporters of the entrepreneurial spirit at MIT. He was a keynote at the MIT 100K final awards, a hosting member of a salon for MIT entrepreneurs gathered by the MIT Sloan VCPE Club, and he even held a dinner at his Back Bay home for the finalists of the MIT 100K Business Plan Competition. The second person I refer to is Paul English, CTO of Kayak.com. I think I was immediately drawn to Paul English because I have been such a fan of Kayak.com since it was started in 2004. To hear him talk about his philosophy on hiring and firing, building teams, and his obsession with customer satisfaction are all kernels of wisdom to any aspiring entrepreneur.

Going back to travel and the original update I promised from the Japan Trek over Spring Break. Simply put, the trip was unbelievable, and our Japanese classmates pulled off an amazing feat by organizing the logistics to get 200+ people to the right places at the right times. The race to cram into the bullet train was interesting…. We visited Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Hakone, Nagoya, Tokyo, and Himeji. High points of the trip were the Sumo Championships, the Red Sox season opener in Tokyo, the hot springs and enkai party in Hakone near Mount Fuji, the evening booze cruise on Tokyo Bay, the Toyota plant tour, the cherry blossoms in Ueno Park, Akihabara (the Electric City), and all of the other traditional dinners our hosts put together for us.

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My summer internship was interesting to say the least. Considering the economic downturn, there was not the panic that one would expect to see on Wall Street. While the workflow was much slower in some groups, generally it was the business as usual attitude thinking that this is just another downturn that happens every 5-7 years. Needless to say, the 10 week internship was just enough time to dip a foot in the water. Just when I figured out where to find everything I needed, the summer was over. While Excel and Powerpoint skills are crucial, I found it surprising that data mining was the most necessary skill needed. Knowing where to find quality, up to date data at a moment’s notice proved to be a very important talent.  The good news at the end of the summer was that I received an offer to return full time as part of the Energy industry group in investment banking.

As a married student leaving for a summer internship, I think that my wife and I coped with the distance better than we thought we would. Due to the hours I was working, she made it down to New York City 5 times, and I was able to make it back to Boston for the 4th of July weekend. I was rather daring with my lodging choice in New York City, but it actually worked out very well for me since it was a great location only 5 blocks from my work. I moved all of my stuff to New York on a Friday afternoon, searched for apartments on Saturday, moved in on Sunday, and started work on Monday. Although I normally consider it to be a bit sketchy, Craigslist was an invaluable tool in finding a furnished place. I also found New York to be an amazing place full of so much to do and see. I went to Yankees vs. Mets at Shea Stadium and Yankees vs. A’s at Yankee Stadium, saw a Bon Jovi concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park, went to the Belmont Stakes (and saw Big Brown flop in his Triple Crown attempt), went to the Metropolitan Museum, and took a bus tour just to name a few of the activities. All in all, it was an unforgettable summer, especially with so many of my fellow classmates interning in New York also.

March 18, 2008

New Semester, A Whole New Feeling

So the core is over, so that means that the toughest part is over right?  That depends on how you set up your schedule….  After the core, you have the option to take some classes as H1 or H2, meaning that they will only last half the semester, but they will meet 3 times a week and have a more intense workload.  So I was thinking that when Spring Break is over, the weather should be getting warmer, the Red Sox will be playing again, and maybe I could squeeze in some golf on Fridays or start getting to the gym again on a regular basis.  This was my rationale for taking 3 H1 classes in addition to my 4 full semester classes.  This way, I go from 24 hours of class each week to only 12 hours each week, and I will be done by 10AM on Thursdays which effectively gives me 4 day weekends.  BUT….  I have since filled those new empty schedule slots with outside projects that will probably make me more productive anyway, mostly working with several startup companies (one being my team for the MIT100K).

Now that the first half of the semester is over, I can breathe again.  Taking all those classes was a stretch, but I made it work with a little dedication.  There really is a whole new feeling about this semester.  Classes are integrated with people from both years of the MBA classes as well as mixing across cohorts, so you see new faces in each class.  Everyone is definitely much more relaxed, and the education is now customized so that I am learning what I want to learn.  Personally, I wanted to round out my skill set, so I took a few classes that gave me a little more breadth outside my concentration on entrepreneurship and finance.  By doing this, I also found that my favorite classes were Intro to Operations Management and Applied Macro & International Economics.  The workload and reading in these classes was very intense, but I found that I learned a ton and was easily able to relate my experience to the subject matter.  Now at least I can talk somewhat intelligently about exchange rates, monetary and fiscal policy, and free trade….

St. Patty’s Day was this past weekend, and there could not possibly be a better place to spend it than in Boston (not including Ireland itself).  The annual parade in Southie drew more than 850,000 people and was a spectacle to behold.  Minutemen marching, muskets booming, clowns, Jedi warriors, Shriners, and pretty much anything else you can imagine were included in the parade.  I am pretty sure the party went all weekend and well into Monday.  I had a meeting at a venture capital company near Faneuil Hall on Monday morning at 9AM, and people were starting to come out in their green gear to enjoy the festivities as I was leaving around 10:30AM.  Yet another excuse to enjoy some Guiness…. Ah, Cheers!

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This week is also my second experience in Sloan Innovation Period.  My seminar this morning on Leadership & Entrepreneurship absolutely blew me away.  Paul English, CTO and Co-founder of Kayak.com, was one of the speakers, and he is undoubtedly one of the most focused and passionate people I have met yet. His system for hiring and firing is like nothing I have ever heard before, and he is 100% committed to building a company of 100 people that will compete with companies of 10,000 people.  The key for him is finding people with a track record of success, who are aggressive, and who are brilliant.  You will have to sit through an entire session to find out how he goes about it, but it kept everyone completely enthralled for 75 minutes.  Last week, I saw Lou Gerstner, chairman of Carlyle and former IBM CEO, speak as part of the Dean’s Innovative Leader Series, and I have yet to see someone match his clarity and resolve of what it takes to lead and how to identify those who surround you.

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My next post should be in a couple of weeks, and it will undoubtedly be centered on my trip to Japan (I leave in less than 48 hours).  It is 10 days long and more than 200 of us are going on the trip!  A few things I am looking forward to are visiting with the Tokyo Giants baseball team management, Red Sox versus A’s in the Tokyo Dome, the Grand Sumo Championship, Toyota factory tour, and visiting and experiencing all that Japanese culture has to offer!

January 22, 2008

My So Called Break...

All too often of late, people ask me how my break has been.  My response is usually “What break?”  Finals ended on December 19th, and one would think that it is time to sit back and relax.  For some people this is true as they set off to exotic locales such as Thailand or the Virgin Islands.  For me it meant a few more days of planning MIT Energy Futures Week before everyone on campus disappeared for Christmas holidays.

So for the first time in our lives, my wife and I spent Christmas on our own right here in Boston.  It was a little strange not having family around, but still very nice.  The nostalgia for home was nothing that some homemade chicken enchiladas and a couple of Christmas margaritas could not cure.  Promptly after Christmas, we took off to visit my wife’s family in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I was hoping to escape the death grip of the cold weather, but I do not even think that it broke 20 degrees while we were in New Mexico.  So after a calm New Year’s Eve, I flew off to Silicon Valley where the real fun would begin.

My flight arrived on New Year’s Day in San Jose.  I previously rendezvoused with a couple of classmates on the connecting flight in Phoenix, and we took the short drive over to the Stanford Park Hotel in Palo Alto.  The next couple of days were the highlight of my time at MIT Sloan thus far, and the feeling in Silicon Valley is absolutely amazing because of how many people are starting companies in the area.  As part of a group focused on energy, we visited some startup companies with revolutionary and disruptive technologies as well as local venture capitalists.  Nanosolar (www.nanosolar.com) was one of the most interesting because they are promising solar panel installation for utilities at far below the current market rate for solar, which will allow solar to be much more competitive.  Their thin-film solar technology makes for much quicker and reliable production of solar panels, and the energy and optimism of the CFO showing us around was apparent.  Other high points were the reception at the new VMWare campus, a visit to Google.org (philanthropic arm of Google), and the final evening reception at the Carnelian Room in San Francisco.  The Carnelian Room was unparalleled as it offered panoramic views of the bay from the tallest building in San Francisco.  It was also a reception for all MIT alums in the area, so several of us got to meet some key people and make lasting connections.  I actually have meetings set up here in Boston next week with some people I met there….

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The weather while in the Bay area was horrific as massive storms passed through and threatened our ability to make it to Lake Tahoe after the Silicon Valley Trek.  The National Weather Service said that you would be risking your life if you tried to travel between the Bay area and Tahoe, so 15 of us stopped to buy some chains for the tires and set out.  We were cruising along nicely until we were stopped on I-50 due to avalanche control.  While many people turned around, we waited it out for 5 hours (and had a massive snowball fight on the side of the road in a snowstorm).  Our gamble paid off as we made it into South Lake Tahoe that night and had massive amounts of fresh powder for skiing over the next two days.  We stayed in an enormous house with all the great amenities, including a Wii that we brought along.  Long days of skiing followed by fun nights are a great way to really get to know the rest of your classmates.

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Upon my return, I was immediately swamped once again.  Last week I had 7 interviews for summer internships on top of MIT Energy Futures Week, which I planned as VP of Events for the MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship Competition (Energy Track for the MIT$100k).  The Energy Week functions included luncheons each day with Program Managers from the Department of Energy (Solar, Biomass, Industrial Technology, Vehicles & Fuels) and an evening event with Bart Riley (Co-founder of A123 Systems).  It was a very well received week and a great way to meet others in the clean energy field interested in starting up new companies.  The mood around campus was somewhat frantic as people prepared furiously for upcoming case interviews.

So now I have the next two weeks or so to catch up on everything else and close up some loose ends before class starts up again on the 5th of February….

Silicon Valley Trek visits:
Tioga Energy, Ausra, Livescribe, Nanosolar, Plug & Play Tech Center, Salesforce.com, VMWare, NebuAd, Brightsource Energy, Google.org, Morgenthaler Ventures, Menlo Ventures, LS9, Goodwin Proctor, Amyris

Massachusetts Tech Trek visits:
Atlas Ventures, Care.com, EnerNOC, NStar, Mass. Office of Energy Efficiency, General Catalyst, HubSpot, Akamai, Veveo

December 07, 2007

So Much Has Happened.... Whew!

Whew….  The last few weeks flew by so fast that I just realized I have not been very diligent about updating my blog.  This could go on for a long time, but I will try to keep it short.  So much has happened, and the semester is winding down for finals.  I will give a semester summary and complete plans for the break in my next post after finals.  Here goes….

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Fall Ball:  What a blast!  So many Sloanies with their significant others came together for a great night over at the Boston Park Plaza.  Cocktail hour followed by a sit down dinner, and then the real fun started.  All kinds of music and dancing (good, bad, and ugly), and when you get such a diverse crew of people together, you are bound to see something new.  Then there is always that one person who does not speak up as much during class that you all of a sudden see breaking it down on the dance floor looking like Usher possessed.  For me, it was also a time to reflect on how many people I have really gotten to know over the course of the semester.  I was actually astounded because there are 700 of us spread across both classes, and I feel like I know 10 times more people than I did in my undergraduate institution.

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10th Annual MIT Venture Capital Conference:  I might have mentioned it in an earlier post, but I was the VP of Operations for the MIT VC Conference (mitvcconference.com) this year, and that kept me snowed under with work for awhile.  Well, the event finally happened last Friday, November 30th at the Boston Copley Westin.  I would say that it was a huge success with a key group of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs coming together.  The panelists were excellent, hitting on topics like Cleantech, Mobile, Web 2.0, IPO Strategies, and more.  I encourage everyone to check out the website to see the keynotes and other panels.  Helping out with this undoubtedly is one of the highlights of my first semester, and I met some great people that I hope to work with in the future.  Even though making sure everything was going right at the event was a little stressful, it was well worth it.

Job Search:  Company presentations are finally wrapping up, and my cover letter and resume have been picked over so many times that it is hard to read it without wanting to change something each time.  Through multiple resume and cover letter reviews with other students and Career Development officers, I finally have something that I am okay with sending out. However, it still needs to be tailored to each company and submitted on time….

Group Projects:  It is finally completed!  It is a little bittersweet because I am happy to be done with my project, but this also means that my formal time with my core team has come to an end.  We have made the presentation to the class as well as the company, and we have submitted the 17 page paper.  I would say that we have been an amazingly efficient team in learning how we all work together and apart as well as getting to know one another very well.  So to Sachin, Mridula, Matt, Julie, Guangyao, and Jason, it was a great semester filled with laughs and tons of work, and I would like to thank each of you for all you have taught me along the way.  Hopefully we can have a few reunion dinners here and there.

Boston Weather:  So the Texan in me has not frozen just yet.  The weather has been consistently below freezing for a week now, even reaching into the teens on occasion with wind chill in the single digits.  I do not want to speak too soon, but it has been tolerable, and it really is not bad as long as you are equipped for it.  My wife got an amazing North Face coat that I am sure would keep her warm in the coldest parts of the frozen tundra in Siberia….  So to the people from the South, there is hope if I can handle this!  I would say the worst part is when the snow melts and then refreezes creating an ice sheet that you have to traverse on the way to/from school.  Soon enough you learn to balance yourself well enough.

Maybe this was not so short….

November 02, 2007

Mid-terms and SIP Weeks

So I am walking out of one of the numerous lunch presentations one day, and I happen to run into a friend waiting to get into my classroom.  I ask what he is waiting for….  It turns out that the VP of New Business Development from Google, Megan Smith, is at MIT and has agreed to sit down informally with a few students to talk about Google….  At this point I have a decision to make.  I can go to my finance recitation to hear about modified duration and volatility in fixed income, or I can hang out and hear about the newest initiatives Google has cooking.  Easy choice, so I joined about 25 others in a small classroom to hear what the ruler of the web world has in store for us.  Listening to Megan, you really get a feel for the culture of innovation at Google, and how they approach the development of new products.  This is not something that you just get to do randomly for an hour and a half each day….  At MIT, you never know who you will run into.

Last week I had the pleasure of undergoing my first set of mid-terms in more than 5 and a half years.  It is funny how my perspective really changed this time around.  Some people were still the normal balls of stress pouring over every single mid-term since 1990 that I remembered from my days in undergrad, but I took a much more laid back approach this time around.  After all, the grades are not what really matter to me as much right now as learning the basic concepts so I do not look like an idiot when my next employer asks me to calculate the net present value of future cash flows.  I might change my tune when I get my grades back, but the fact is that I survived unscathed and proved that I can still do this….  One thing I learned from accounting is that if I am running a business then I am going to have to hire an accountant….

This week has been a nice break, but I use the term “break” very loosely.  This is Sloan Innovation Period, also known as SIP week.  While there are no normal classes, I attended several seminars on topics I thought might be useful or as a quick preview of classes I am thinking about for next semester.  However, the bidding process prevented me from getting all the seminars I really wanted, but I should have been more strategic in my bids.  Oh well, I will have another shot next semester and next year.  Each session was very interesting in its own right, highlighted by Intro to Strategic Management, taught by a current MIT Sloan professor, in which we broke down the position of Trader Joe’s as a niche grocer.

As for outside of school, Boston is the best sports town in America at the moment....  The Red Sox won the World Series, the Patriots look unstoppable, Boston College is #2 in the BCS standings, the Celtics have a great roster looking to have a great year, and the Bruins are ....well, they are the Bruins.  As for the Red Sox, nowhere else in the world will you find a fan base so dedicated to their team.  I went out one night to watch a game, and I have never been in n atmosphere before where everyone cheers for every single pitch of the game.  Absoutely amazing!

October 05, 2007

Oktoberfest & Company Presentations

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To blow off a little steam this past weekend, several of us banded together and attended Oktoberfest at the Harpoon Brewery in Boston since we could not get in on the trip to the real Oktoberfest in Germany as many of the 2nd year students did.  It was a fun night full of beer and brats listening to the sounds of an authentic German band while getting closer with a few of my classmates.  Wunderbar!  Interestingly enough, it turns out that some of us have the same entrepreneurial interests, so hopefully we can collaborate on a project while at MIT….

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Classes have settled in, and mid-terms are less than two weeks away.  Class discussions are much more intense now that everyone is more comfortable with each other and speaking up in general.  Each class I find myself thinking, “I never would have thought about this problem in that way…”  It really allows you to get perspective into why everyone thinks so differently and how others approach situations from alternate paths.  One of the most interesting recent cases was about the economics surrounding the music recording industry, and I can’t explain just how fun it was to talk about this case, especially hearing the viewpoint of students who come from nations with somewhat lax copyright laws.

Outside of class, there are still a million activities to consider, and there is always an opportunity for a free lunch.  However, choosing the free lunch can be tricky.  There will always be multiple club lunch meetings that you will want to attend on the same day.  Lunch #1 is serving pizza, and Lunch #2 is serving sandwiches from Cosi….  This makes the decision a little easier.  There is a reason you sometimes see people walking around with shirts that say “non-pizza lunch will be served.”  That now makes sense to me.

So company presentations also started this week, further increasing the time crunch.  All the banks decided to come in the same week, so for the first time in my life I spent the entire week in a suit.  It was very interesting to see the different dynamics between each of the firms and how they presented themselves differently to the students.  It all went by so fast…..  Monday – Citi & Morgan Stanley, Tuesday – Goldman Sachs, Wednesday – Lehman Brothers, Thursday – Harris Williams & Merrill Lynch. I knew that coming to business school would give me exposure to some of the top firms, but I never expected for it to happen so quickly or in such an up close and personal manner.

I have also taken on the responsibility of serving as this year’s VP of Conference Operations for the 10th annual MIT Venture Capital Conference at the end of November.  I decided that this would be a great place for me to focus my club time and get serious exposure to an area of interest for me, not to mention get the chance to work with an amazing team to make this the best conference yet.  It is so easy to spread yourself too thin when it comes to clubs (especially during the core semester), but picking one to really focus on has helped me manage my time tremendously.  Plus, I get the chance to work with the 2nd year students who ran the conference last year, and they have provided stunning amounts of support.

September 17, 2007

1st Semester Kickoff

Light speed….  This is about how fast you get things thrown in your direction and how fast the first couple of weeks of class went by.  You just can’t wear out the drinking from a fire hose analogy you seem to hear so often in business school.  Every time I open my laptop, it looks like a bomb exploded on my inbox with a flood of e-mails from professors and TAs about classes and assignments as well as e-mails from clubs kicking off their semester events.  Having a selection of things to do is not an issue, but choosing among them surely is.  So many opportunities to meet people and increase your network or experience something new….

One of the nicest things to hear over the first few weeks was “you will never again have this many people so interested in your success.”  When I signed up for business school, I did not think that I would have an assigned class every week solely dedicated to the Career Development Office and how I will be working with them to find my ideal job.  I was amazed at the resources and the vast amount of opportunities already set in place starting in October, not to mention the passion and enthusiasm of the staff.  And I have only been here for a month?!?!

Clubfest – So many options to choose from.  Unlike many of my peers, I started off relatively slowly.  I joined the Energy, VCPE, and Finance Clubs.  I know that my immediate interests are in energy and venture capital and that I will need a strong background in finance to help me in the process.  But there are so many other clubs I am interested in….MoMIT, Innovation, MediaTech, and Investment Management just to name a few.  I did join a few other clubs that will not occupy such a large chunk of time – namely the Texas Club.  No way was I going to miss the boat on that one since I am already one of the most notorious Texans on campus.  Another significant activity for me is the MIT $100k business plan competition – the granddaddy of them all.  I am hoping to help plan the energy track of the competition this year in addition to competing.  There are several new elements to the competition this year including the elevator pitch competition, which should add another exciting aspect.

One of the most fun pieces of the whole pie is getting to choose the trips you would like to attend.  China, Japan, and Thailand are some of the earliest treks I have heard about.  I already plan to attend Banking Day in New York City over Columbus Day to get my first taste of banking, and I will be attending the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Trip to Palo Alto at the beginning of 2008 to visit some VCs and their portfolio companies as well as giants such as Google.

Oh yeah, and I have been going to class between all this other stuff.  Decision trees, balance sheets, consumer/producer surplus and finance theory all consume my mind before bed each night….