East Coast Study Trip

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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.

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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.

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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

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Spring Quarter Courses

Here I am, staring into the bittersweet 10-week end sprint, the final Spring quarter of my Stanford year. Coming out of the academically intense Winter quarter you kind of want to replicate the feeling of a whirlwind, yet at the same time leave some space to deal with the inevitable prep for re-entering the real world soon. Here’s what lies ahead:

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Week 30: Exits, Second Markets, M&A & Thunderlizards

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 10 (30), Winter quarter

Originally planning out March I was quite sure that next week will be a complex one, after all, it is still labelled in calendar as the “exam week”. In reality, the Winter Quarter pretty much culminated today, with the last Finance class where the entire Sloan class was together in the same lecture. We do have one more core in Spring, but it will be in sections, so between all electives and split schedules, it will be mostly social when we meet from here on.

This week was mostly about delivering papers and presentations. With one team we built a business plan and pitched a crowdsourced service for proofreading and language learning feedback to dyslexics, foreign students and white-collar immigrant workers. With another team, we designed an elaborate proposal for taking a real public company private, shifting their product portfolio for higher exit multiples, levering up the non-existant debt, restructuring operations (yup, the founder’s private jet and golf tournaments need to go) and getting out at 10X of our money in 5 years. With third group, we pre-analysed and went through 6 real startup pitches along with a real VC mentor and decided to maybe just to give money to one of them.

Despite of the chaos of trying to schedule ~20 people into these different groups at conflicting times, I really enjoyed actually doing stuff (as opposed to just discussing in class) with my MBA peers. The ease and breakneck speed at which almost anyone in this school can deliver complex quant models and high quality analysis still amazes me. And then you can pull pretty much anyone on stage with a 5 minute heads up to present the outcome with coherent, engaging story line.

I have jus two final exams this quarter, three hours of Entrepreneurial Finance (cap tables, term sheets and anti-dilution math) done last night and Core Finance (WACC, optimal portfolios, options and bonds) to be done next week. Then onto the East Coast study trip and the saddening final 10 weeks here.

Study notes covered in this issue:

  • Alternative equity markets filling the IPO gap
  • More Exit talk, especially Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Real pitches from real startups
  • Hunting for the Thunderlizards
  • Guests: Barry Silbert of SecondMarket, Peter Currie, Louis Elson from Palamon, Mike Maples of Floodgate

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GSB Book Recommendations to John Doerr

Last week, John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins was speaking in the View From The Top speaker series at Stanford GSB. (Video is yet to come online, but I shared some notes here.) As part of his speech, John gave his book recommendation to the audience and in return asked the audience to email him 3 book suggestions back.

I got curious and, as I sent in mine, also asked if he would share back what the rest of the school thought. Angela Valles from KPCB was kind enough to do just that (thank you!) and for sake of easier sharing, I dropped the entire thing as it was now to a Goodreads list – open for voting, sharing, reading and other good social things.

It is quite an eclectic selection of things we read and recommend our guests here at the GSB (between MBAs, Sloans, PhD students, faculty and guests of the day), I have to say. Just a few titles were mentioned more than once in first ~200 emails. There is a lot of to-be-expected business bestsellers, but also quite a few fiction titles. And what I like is the balance of seemingly extreme ends: physic lectures meet religious texts, Ayn Rand meets Karl Marx, US history matched with stories from Asia and Europe.

Enjoy: CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL BOOK LIST

 


Weeks 28-29: Bootstrapping, Europe(?!), Options & Private Equity Operators

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Weeks 8-9 (28-29), Winter quarter

So there: it takes about 28 weeks in Stanford to finally have someone mention Europe in any other context than a semi-joke about Greek macro environment in the short term. And these two weeks suddenly opened the floodgates: there was the first European company case this far, we spent some time on the (quite miserable) comparative venture financing stats between the continents and – most importantly – the rotationally geography-themed Sloan TGIF parties finally turned to the European night (affectionately dubbed as the “Estonia & the Rest of Europe” evening). Relieved with a sigh with my Swedish, Dutch, German, Swiss, French, Italian etc classmates: we have not entirely disappeared from the world map as seen from the West Coast yet, and will keep working on that threat.

Partially supported by the annual Stanford Entrepreneurship Week, the last weeks were super-exciting for the flow of external speakers – there is a separate post summarising those you should not miss. And we did do the Final View presentations of the LOWKeynotes program, including your’s truly’s 9 minutes on how hard it has been to adjust to somewhat surprisingly lacking digital living infrastructure here, coming from Estonia – videos for which will be online in 1-2 weeks. Stay tuned.

Covered in this issue:

  • Bootstrapping, venture debt and swimming against the tide in Europe
  • Exit planning and IPOs in venture deals
  • Thinking like a limited partner, structuring PE deals, operational turnarounds and the visible future of Private Equity
  • Derivatives and options – both financial and real
  • Academic research on VC compensation and incentives
  • Guests from: The Foundry, Avik Ventures, AngelList, Astia, Makena Capital, TPG, TSG Consumer Partners, Sierra Ventures, YouTube, Trulia, OpenLane, Fayez Sarofim, Accel, Meritech Venture Partners…

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Extracurricular Fireworks: Friendster, Prezi, Rovio, Bonobos + O’Reilly & Doerr

With the end-of-quarter groupwork frenzy I am behind on posting the academic lecture notes – hope to get to that this weekend. But meanwhile, as the flow of new thoughts from extracurricular guest visitors in just last seven days has been mind-blowing I’ll post them for your enjoyment.

See further for tips, startup plugs, book recommendations and videos from:

  • Jonathan Abrams (founder of Friendster, Socializr, Nuzzel, Founders Den)
  • Peter Halacsy, Peter Arvai (co-founders of Prezi, Hungary)
  • Peter Vesterbacka (Mighty Eagle, Rovio)
  • Andy Dunn (CEO and co-founder, Bonobos)
  • Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media, O’Reilly Alphatech Ventures)
  • John Doerr (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Buyers)

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Week 27: Tech IPOs, Seed Investing, Bankruptcies & International Trade

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 7 (27), Winter quarter

After the public holiday last Monday (which I realized could not have been more eclectic between sick kid babysitting, running, building a unit economics model for a startup business plan assignment and babysteps in hacking social graph analysis in Mathematica) there was no breathing room throughout the rest of the week.

Eric Schmidt taught his legendary IPO class, we took a bunch of convertible note based seed financing setups apart and put them back together, the original mad-scientist-turned-CEO Art Levinson shared his thoughts on scaling innovation, we discussed how different can be the approaches to seemingly similar private equity investments, I finally made it over for a long-overdue visit to Stanford Technology Ventures Program and there was a fun reunion with ever-joyful Meg Whitman whom I hadn’t seen since the good old pre-politics and pre-HP days of her more regularly hanging out with us at Skype, in Tallinn and elsewhere.

When I was walking towards the study rooms on late Friday afternoon to get at least a bit of the two different finance group projects due Monday on the way, ahead of the expectedly busy Estonian Independence Day weekend, I got rerouted in a room where Craig Barrett, long-time Intel chairman & CEO was having a candid small class discussion about navigating global business structures despite of government interventions. Only in Stanford. Good news: what he figures competitive nations are supposed to do is pretty much aligned with where the 95-year-old birthday state of Estonia is heading.

And after all this, the most unexpected meeting of the week? Perry, the original Shrek donkey. (He is on YouTube too)

Covered in this issue:

  • How and why Google ended up running an unusual IPO process
  • Changing landscape of seed & angel investing + rare data on performance
  • Scaling innovation from startups to large public companies
  • Inner workings and different flavours of Private Equity partnerships
  • How defaulting and going bankrupt is different between US and various EU markets
  • Practical guide to managing through international trade barriers
  • Guests: Meg Whitman (eBay/HP), Art Levinson (Genentech/Google/Apple), Craig Barrett (Intel), Google Ventures, Snapchat, Private equity partners from General Atlantic, TA Associates, Francisco Partners

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Eesti 95

eesti95speech

Photo courtesy of Mike Barnes

I was honored to speak last night at the Estonian Independence Day reception thrown by the local Estonian society, aka Eesti By The Bay.

The below are my speaking notes, not a full transcript. Happy 95th Birthday, Estonia!

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