Week 38: Condi, Internet Ads, Global Warming & Microbreweries

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 8 (38), Spring quarter

This week kicked off with Maker Faire, the ultimate geek fest of robots, drones, noisy machines, 3D printers, lasers and eco-conscious handicraft. I could picture tiny versions of this kind of events as a science faire in many technical universities around the world, but it is quite something to experience the scale of the creativity and crazyness unleashed once the event covers acres and attracts tens of thousands of tinkerers as it does in Silicon Valley. Just as one illustration, I’ll leave you with the Sashimi Choir someone has spent months of their life building for fun:


As a slightly more professional follow-up, we had a study trip to Flextronics this week to hear their story of how to design, develop and produce $30B worth of electronics a year with 200,000 people, and especially how to stay sane with $25B in materials and components travelling in just in time to make the supply chain miracle happen. We did see a solar panel manufacturing line in action, but were carefully kept away from stealth prototyping labs they run for many of their top name Valley clients.

Back on campus we got some face time with Professor Condoleezza Rice. She is more known for her stint as the Secretary of State, of course, but has had a respectable academic career at Stanford since getting her PhD at the age of 26 – and has many intriguing viewpoints on international politics, change management and diversity to share. See the notes below.

Covered in this issue:

  • Social networks in international settings
  • Display & search advertising optimization
  • Climate change
  • More on sales force incentives
  • Colorful range of startup cases: from batteries to microbreweries to lifestyle watches for surfers
  • Entrepreneur’s compass
  • Guests from: Gordon Biersch, Nixon, Carnegie Insitution, Envia

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Week 37: Small World, Churn, Measuring Sales & Startup HR

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 7 (37), Spring quarter

This week was completely overrun with two homework projects that refused to surrender even when groups of Sloans & MBAs spent hours sitting in the room and cranking through logistic regressions and ROI analysis for marketing channels of a pharma company, or trying to calculate the optimal inventory cost of the supply chain of HP injet printer factory. Also, a real dataset of 90,000 users of mobile phone users came in, which will be a basis for one of our final projects on understanding churn – once we chew ourselves through it.

And in the Town Hall with Madhav Rajan, Associate Dean of Academics we learned that the incoming MSx 2014 class will have quite a few improvements to their class schedule, with even more room for electives in Winter & Spring – congrats! Make sure you’ll fill those slots with quant analysis under the California sun this time next year.

Covered in this issue:

  • Milgram’s Small world problem and its modern developments
  • Recency/Frequency/Monetary Value & Churn analysis
  • Measuring sales force performance and forecasting tricks (and a video sampler for a litmus test for if you should be in sales)
  • Organizational blueprints for startups
  • Guests from: Google, VMWare, Progreso, Ariat

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Week 36: Cascading Uncertainty, Sales Ethics, Biotech & Design

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 6 (36), Spring quarter

Somehow the notes from this week are lighter – and not for the lack of activities, but rather a different kind. Somehow felt pointless to try to capture heated in-class ethics discussions or hours spent on preparing group work presentations in bullet point form. Instead, I took some time to dump a new load of photos of school life to the Flickr feed, where I had dropped the ball some time back in February.

The biggest project effort went into a “consulting gig” for the Networking class. Given a network relations dataset from a 200 person law firm (across their work, non-work and friendship social relations), their demographic metadata (tenure, education, roles, age…) and some qualitative survey results, we had to build an action plan that would solve for some of their identified personell issues, such as high churn of women. A very interesting mix of social network visualisations and multiple regression approaches, with potential to take far more attention and time than due for “1 homework of 4”.

As an amusing side product we predicted a single associate to become partner next, which the professor confirmed to have actually happened in the last 2 years since the data was gathered. As a teaser, find person #2910 on this picture to see why that is (partners are red, associates blue):

4 - partners (red) hang with partners, analysts (blue) with analysts

On BBLs front, GSB had a group of StartX companies drop by. Without going into the detail of the pitches, the overall quality of the batch of this accelerator program seemed quite impressive ranked agains many I’ve seen. Which is well done, given the affiliation to a single university and their somewhat less-commercial structure (for example they take no equity stake in companies they incubate and even fund).

EDIT: the most regretted lecture that I unfortunately missed this week: Building computers from bacteriophage data, communication, logic within biological cells in EE380 Computer Systems Colloquium.

Covered in this issue:

  • A data scientist’s take on how social graph analysis fits into the uncertain world
  • Calculating the effect of ads and promotions on sales
  • Tough life of a district manager and ethics of sales people
  • Booting up a biotech business
  • Some design thinking references and videos from IDEO
  • Guest speakers from: Jive, NetApps, VMWare, Connectics, IDEO

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Week 35: Virality, Freemium, Bitcoin & Asteroids

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 5 (35), Spring quarter

Could be that my future co-alumni will look back at this week from the future as historic: the school came out to the public with news that there will be no more Sloan Program. The competition for the title of the Best Sloan Class Ever (est 1958) will finally be over – as us in the 2013 cohort will remain the Last Sloan Class Ever. The program itself will of course live stronger than ever, getting a fresh rebrand as Stanford MSx Program for Experienced Leaders.

Meanwhile, the academic life of T-7 week carried on, busy as usual. I realize the four keywords picked for the title sound a bit buzzwordy – but there was some solid content behind each. Read the notes below, and also check out the long-overdue video of my LOWKeynotes speech from the Winter Quarter if you happened to miss it.

Covered in this issue:

  • Calculating social influence in marketing and building funcional teams
  • Calculating effects of advertising spend on demand
  • Designing Call Centers and measuring process quality
  • Do freemium products need selling?
  • Exit dilemmas of Hotmail
  • Managing media crises and firing firends
  • Being realistic, but curious about Bitcoin
  • Founding stories of Twitter and Square
  • Mapping out all asteroids in space around us
  • Guests: Jack Dorsey of Twitter/Square, Sujay Jaswa of Dropbox, astronauts and folks from Clearwire, DFJ, Lightspeed Ventures

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The Future That Should Be Here Now

I recently shared some thoughts on how surprisingly hard it has been to adjust to how mundane and bureaucratic everyday activities still can be in otherwise tech-advanced Silicon Valley, compared to back home in Estonia. The video from Stanford GSB YouTube channel:

This is probably the longest-prepared short speech I’ve ever delivered, as a finale of a whole-winter-quarter-long LOWKeynotes program at Stanford GSB in 2013. A text version is below the fold, and if you got anything out of watching this, I’m sure you would enjoy all of the videos from my peers in the program. All of the outcomes were worthy of the effort put in, but if you need help from where to start, try the videos from Lukasz Strozek (on digital hoarding) and Evan Moore (on not believing in God) first.

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Week 34: Al Gore, Startups Sales to Enterprises & Founders vs Early Employees

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 4 (34), Spring quarter

No bandwidth to say much more that you will find not one or two, but three beautiful graphs I drew this week with my two little hands below the fold. And that the sales game hinted towards last week concluded with a triple win by Sloan Fellows (who sold $4.1..$4.7M/each over a quota of $2.6M; among those your’s truly being #3).

The two View From The Top events this week were different but great – my notes won’t do them justice. As there is some lag in getting videos out you should just subscribe to the playlist and stay tuned.

Covered in this issue:

  • Visualizing social networks and Empirical demand modelling
  • Toyota’s unique manufacturing process
  • Startups selling products into huge companies
  • Compensation tuning for founders versus early employees
  • Tough conversations before, during and after letting an employee go
  • Guests: Al Gore, Co-CEOs (incl the original “Ari Gold from Entourage”) from William Morris Endeavor, Nuru International, KKR Capstone, Accel, EIR for New York, StudyBlue

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E-mail Zen

Speak of coincidences – or a pileup of pressure: over the weekend one topic came up (as it does in a recurring way) with a group of classmates, yesterday there was this article (The Anxiety of the Unanswered E-Mail) making social media rounds and to top it off, Dave & Jason were having a ping-pong on usage of auto-responders on Twitter today (also see the Quora thread for context).

By “the topic” I mean the ever-worsening pain: humans’ inability to cope with their email load (and what the cultural implications of that are). As someone whose Mail client showed the following unread counts (aka “unprocessed”, really, in my personal methodology), I am obviously part of this global problem:

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Whizzing Winter Quarter

Already weeks into the final stretch I was comfortably settling on the fact that I’ve rushed past the opportunity of writing a reflective summary of Winter quarter (as I did with Summer and Autumn before). Where you lack internal pressure, the will be external one – and as our fabulous Yearbook committee has been recycling those texts in the past they convinced me to not drop the habit this late in the game. So here you go:

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Week 33: Network Centrality, Bass Diffusion, SaaS Sales & Data Science

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 3 (33), Spring quarter

Head down in two inches of readings for this week and a fresh flow of first written project deadlines, like a two-degrees-deep analysis of your friends and advisors social graph or a set of regressions to be run on profitability data of a bank who has no clue if there is any connection between the demographics and profitability of their customers.

For a little different entertainment in the Sales Orgs class we are running a simulation game where you need to manage yourself through the pipeline as a sales rep of a medical devices company. Four virtual “years” in four weeks. After a miserable first year (I hit merely about a quarter of my quota – should have read the manual before I tried to just figure the game mechanics out for 2 “quarters”) I look forward to the Tuesday class from a much more comfortable position after “year” 2. I guess the hours spent as a teen with Civilization and the likes can sometimes pay off?

GSB hosted a fun networking event this week called “Fewer than 300” – bringing people in from over 30 companies who are about to grow out of their startup phase (but are yet to break 300 employees), but have raised money and shown traction and still are just burning of enthusiasm about what they are doing. Think of the likes of Uber or Nest or Visual.ly. Good people and good conversations.

Covered in this issue:

  • Analysing network centrality measures and deriving composite relationships from simple a matrix
  • Using Bass diffusion models for new product adoption predictions
  • Handling variability in processes (from job shops to continuous flow)
  • Economics of selling SaaS subscriptions and merging sales teams after M&A
  • More team-first entrepreneurial models
  • History of Sloan Program at Stanford
  • Data Science learnings from LinkedIn and other Greylock companies
  • Guests: Vinod Khosla, Mark Leslie & part of Veritas exec team, Corey Leibow, Eric Botto, George Parker, DJ Patil

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Week 32: Brokering, Predictable Variability & Paying for Sales Performance

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 2 (32), Spring quarter

The highlight of the week was really non-academic: we got to host the Class of 2014 for the orientation we received in April a year ago. In a proper student timing fashion, when a day before the event you’re not sure what will come out and some of the slides getting still edited by the speaker at the time he is being introduced on stage – I think we eventually put on an all right show balancing more serious talk about academics and transitions with some glimpses into the less serious side of life we’ve had too. (Some videos of the performance of our class’ house band The Spillovers are online here).

Personally, it was especially heart-warming to hear from a bunch of incoming Sloans that they have found this blog and some other writing from our class useful when researching about business schools, Stanford and even deciding to join the Sloan format in particular. Frankly, I did not consider this as a goal for ongoing writing throughout the year originally. About a year ago I decided to keep posting rather to keep in touch with friends (especially back in Estonia) as well as from the more generic life philosophy that while you’re generating content (such as the class notes) for yourself anyway, you better have a clear reason why you would keep it private if there is any likelihood of someone else potentially benefitting too. So when this actually happens, it is a cherry on top.

Cheers to the 2014-ers and any future GSB colleagues reading this, then!

Covered in this issue:

  • Brokerage, trust and reputation in social networks analysis
  • Regressions for customer profitability
  • Predictable variability in Operations
  • Paying sales people well for performance
  • Search funds
  • Guests from: Jive Software, Sequoia Capital, Brown Robin Capital

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