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

Read the rest of this entry »


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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

Read the rest of this entry »


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:

Read the rest of this entry »


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:

Read the rest of this entry »


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

Read the rest of this entry »


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

Read the rest of this entry »


East Coast Study Trip

2013-03-24 22.45.242013-03-29 23.48.38

After a quick 2-day trial hop to visit a few firms like Boeing and Starbucks in Seattle in November, the Sloan Class of 2013 spent a full week of our spring break on East Coast. This time it was less about the particular companies and public organisations we saw, but more about the people, the leaders we met and their learnings and ideas.

All of our hosts had a little theme tip on “resilience” included in their brief (inspired by the Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back book by Andrew Zolli), which some of them chose to focus on and others less so. But most importantly, everyone seemed to just be themselves – which, mind you, can mean something quite different in bluntly direct New York compared to politically polished Washington, D.C.

I certainly appreciated the trust of the open conversations and I am holding back on too detailed notes from the meetings. Yet, just listing the names would be boring too – so let me include just one or two ideas from each. Which, as I am doing this weeks after the actual trip and by heart, are implicitly the concepts or questions that stuck with me – even if the wordings are my interpretation, not direct quotes.

Read the rest of this entry »


Robots Remake the Workplace

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot speaking... via a robot

Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot speaking… via a robot

Spent half a day today at legendary research hub SRI International, for Xconomy-organized robotics forum (see full agenda here), listening to an impressive lineup of industry pioneers of mass-market appealing robotics talk about their businesses. Some speakers were still physically on stage, others embodied inside telepresence robots, of course. And answering to a recurring moderator question if robots will take away human jobs with a recurring “no”.

As Steve Jurvetson (yes, we keep having these sweet Estonian reunions) put it well in the final venture capital panel: it would be absurd to think that “we should pull Excel out of organisations, because we would create more jobs when people tabulated numbers manually again.” The times they are a-changin’, and for sure not  back towards a robot-less world.

See brief notes from all the sessions (and a bunch of videos of cool commercially available robots in action!) below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Week 31: Analyzing Social Networks, Marketing Mix and Restaurant Operations

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 1 (31), Spring quarter

For some weird reason the GBS classes after the Spring break kicked off on… a Thursday. Just 2 days of classes gave a glimpse into what is to come – some very brief notes (and a few good book links) below. Posting anyway, to avoid letting the routine die before I get to finalize the half-finished East Coast study trip report draft sitting in Evernote…

On other news, we are throwing an orientation event for the incoming Class of 2014 already this coming weekend – really feels like yesterday when we were on the receiving end… T-10 weeks. Tick tock.

Covered in this issue:

  • Unbelievably profitable bootstrapping of McAfee
  • Introduction to Social Network Analysis
  • A flashback of statistical regressions, now applied to marketing data
  • Operating a Japanese show-restaurant

Read the rest of this entry »