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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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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Week 24: Medical Devices, Space Tourism and Russian E-Commerce

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 4 (24), Winter quarter

Steve Jurvetson

The relative (& temporary, I’m sure) breather on reading volume this week left some much awaited time to deal with things out of the classroom: we’ve gotten over the home stretch in our core marketing course with some brand audits and presentations, on Tesla Model S. And it was even more fun to work with my MBA-mixed study groups for venture financing and business planning.

My highlight of the week was doubling the Estonian population on campus when Steve came to join our Sloan class for an evening lecture and smaller breakfast to discuss the most inspiring trends he sees as an investor (no separate notes – but see notes from the Science panel at the Intersection Event for a hint on his direction).

And I even got out of campus for a bit: to a fun chat between Eric Ries and Marc Andreessen at A16Z office on the Lean Startup movement and diversity issues in the valley. Highland Capital Partners threw a GSB mixer at the legendary Old Pro. I was also lucky to have two different insightful conversations with a physicist (one turned VC, the other a space entrepreneur, as it is customary here) in one week, on maximising impact. I am grateful for weeks like this.

Covered in this issue:

  • State of Space Tourism in 2013
  • Risk & Return – was it sensible for Airbus to build the A380?
  • Structuring financing deals and more terms sheets
  • Building an eCommerce firm in Russia
  • Writing a business plan and pitching to VC partner meeting
  • Advanced body language tips to presenters
  • More guests & speakers from Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, Mohr Davidov Ventures, Wikimart, DeRemate, Wealthfront, Exploramed, Bare Escentuals…

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Week 23: Sourcing, Screening, Valuing and Pitching

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 3 (23), Winter quarter

A large group of Sloan Fellows honoured Martin Luther King Jr on his day by driving up to Lake Tahoe. It was great to find out that snowboarding is like riding a bike – fun even despite of the ~7 year break I had.

The classes on free Mondays are not cancelled at Stanford, just moved to normally “open” Wednesdays. As a result, the past four working days were just insanely busy at school, but I fortunately still managed to make it to a visit to Dropbox HQ and attend a demo days preview at 500 Startups.

Covered in this issue:

  • Nuances of valuing bonds and stocks
  • Venture capital pipeline sourcing and screening
  • Avoiding the pitfalls of pattern recognition in picking VC investments
  • Managing a venture portfolio through economic crisis
  • Pitching tips
  • Creating a consumer brand of tech components and using social media
  • Eric Schmidt was back in his co-teaching class + many guests from Illuminate Ventures, Highland Capital, Accel, Intel, Klout, Gilt, Edelman

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Weeks 18-20: Innovation Economy, Debate Blunders and Creative Computing

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 8-10 (18-20), Autumn quarter

Not to worry, despite of the three week scope in title this is not a monster-length post. Between a lovely wedding, an unexpected funeral and Thanksgiving break in between my focus has temporarily shifted a bit away from school as this quarter concludes. Do enjoy the little there is to share below – and as special gift to reader A.M., yes there are more videos.

Marc & Bill

A notable off campus educational highlight  last week ago was an event at A16Z where  William Janeway (being interviewed by Marc Andreessen on the photo above) discussed his book Doing Capitalism in the Innovation Economy: Markets, Speculation and the State. Combining his 40 years in venture capital with a PhD in Economics, Bill has great insights into when, how and where governments should play any role financing tech innovation and where progress should be left for markets. And as a curious subtopic – the need for an occasional bubbles in the latter case.

Covered further in this issue:

  • How to avoid small groups polarizing towards extremes in debate
    • Kõrvalmärkusena Eesti lugejaile: jah, teadus teemal Reformierakond VS Väike Grupp!
  • Centralization VS distribution of control in global organizations
  • More history of Presidential candidates screwing up in public
  • Financial ratios and common size reports in accounting
  • Effective networking tips’n’tricks exchange with Sloan classmates
  • How computing changes human bodies and the definitions of creativity
  • How big internet players have changed hardware IP value chain

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As We Speak: Reading Notes

The below are reading notes of some good old truths, new aha-s and pro tips from a pretty good concise communications guidebook called As We Speak: How to Make Your Point and Make it Stick by Peter Meyers and Shann Nix. Mostly focussed on public speaking, especially to larger audiences – but touches upon other topics as well, such as small meeting settings, managing crisis communications, using comms & presentation technology and structuring 1:1 tough conversations.

The book was assigned as reading for a brief reflection essay in the Generative Leadership class at Stanford, but I would (and have already) recommended it as a no-brainer purchase for any manager to hand out to people on their team who need a little comms help. They’ll get through it in a few hours and be grateful for the few very tangible things they can implement the same day.

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Week 17: Economists Designing Orgs, Ethos of Problem-Making and Sick Bush in Japan

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 7 (17), Autumn quarter

This week will go down in history as the one that finally saw the portfolio of profiles of every single Fellow of the Stanford Sloans class of 2013 hit the public interwebs. Please meet my lovely class in its diversity, internationally and otherwise.

On other news, Americans re-elected Obama for their President (aka POTUS – didn’t know that one before) on Tuesday, which in the fair state of California sounded more like a sign of relief. And I, in turn, spent far too much time on Estonian blogs, chats and Facebook threads, tracking an insane sequence of judgement lapses by some party politics leaders back home. Between these two parallel world, I could not have had a better week to start a new class, Political Communications: How Leaders Become Leaders taught by a very experienced practitioner in the field, David Demarest.

Covered in this issue:

  • Why calling taxes “revenue enhancement” works
  • Why globalization and CxO executive titles should be taken less for granted than people think
  • How the classic forms of political communications, a speech and a debate, are constructed by the best
  • How 20-30 year old experimental art tends to turn into everyday products eventually
  • Necessary evils around good old software development: intangible assets, intellectual property, patents

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Weeks 15-16: Conglomerates, Lemmings, Founders’ Dilemmas and Tax Lotteries

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 5-6 (15-16), Autumn quarter

This post consolidates my notes from two weeks instead of a normal one, yet will be a bit more concise than usual too, for a few reasons: I was down with flu for several days and had to miss a few classes and then the midterm exams in Financial Accounting and Organizational Behaviour changed the normal scheduling.

Also, the first session of the latest addition in our core timetable, STRAMGT 259: Generative Leadership by Dan Klein yesterday was too… experiential to take any notes, really. Basically, we did three hours of improv theatre. It was a lot of fun, but instead of getting into the theory here – get the book: Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up by Patricia Madson. And say “yes” more to whatever life throws at you, go with the flow and see what happens.

For additional entertainment, here is an experiment shared by my classmate Marc who is lucky to take a Behavioral & Experimental Economics class by freshly Nobel-prized Al Roth: primatologist Frans de Waal showing how even monkeys reject unequal pay (see especially from 2nd minute).

And now on to the regular programming. Covered in this issue:

  • Why people suck at predicting when they finish a task
  • How overdiversification, and especially uncontrolled aquisitions lead to dysfunctional conglomerates
  • Lemmings following lemmings, but not sheep
  • Predicting future divorces
  • Research from surveying 10,000 founders that quantifies the impact of common “gut decisions” like picking investors or sharing stock between co-founders
  • Guest speakers explaining how they’ve used creative incentive schemes to get more out of porn site classification crowdsourcing and VAT payments in China
  • The impact of investment lags on IP value creation in startups and established companies
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Presidential Tweeting

The President of Republic of Estonia, Toomas Henrik Ilves has had a Twitter account, @IlvesToomas since May 2012. Not one of the first adopters among heads of states in the world, he has nevertheless taken quite a freeform and experimental approach to using this communications channel, with a rant in response to Nobelist Paul Krugman’s systematic bashing of Estonia’s austerity measures and poking fun at his aviation-enthusiastic colleague in the East creating some public controversy before. You can agree or disagree with him (and he often engages with responders), but having an elected figure step out of the expected frames is noteworthy in itself.

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Week 14: Confucius, Shrek, Devil’s Advocates and the Board

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 4, Autumn quarter

Covered in this issue:

  • How Confucius helps the Chinese to consume free MP3s
  • How a CEO is stuck between the Board and his team in a complex matrix of conflicting loyalties
  • How a side-effect of managing a few trillion dollars in your funds is the need to do a lot of board voting for your shares
  • How high-profile VCs can keep your loans in the bank and close your hires
  • How startups should tell their story the way seen in Shrek
  • How to make the devil’s advocate a resident part of participatory decision making culture
  • How citizens should break the government monopoly of environmental and pollution mapping

And here on to the full notes: Read the rest of this entry »