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

Read the rest of this entry »


Week 22: IRR, Fishbones, Term Sheets & Angels

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 2 (22), Winter quarter

Fishbone

I think we’re getting back in the rhythm here. Continuous flow of external guest speakers and occasional valuation models to be built are bringing more variety to just swallowing hundreds of pages of cases. I did drop my across-the-street strategy class to get back to 19 units and thanks to that even made it to a few BBLs and a GSB High Tech Club company visit to Box. There is a long weekend coming up. Life is good.

Covered in this issue:

  • Finance: NPV and IRR, including pitfalls
  • Entrepreneurial finance: unit economics in business models and real options
  • Angel & VC finance (and a E-Club BBL): life of an angel investor
  • Negotiating Term Sheets, especially on valuation
  • Marketing and Mastery of Communications: more stories, including analysing viral videos & TED talks
  • Guests: Sand Hill Angels, Tory Burch, Pattie Sellers, James Buckhouse, Gil Penchina, Jeff Erickson

Read the rest of this entry »


Week 21: Finance, Ventures, Stories and Space

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 1 (21), Winter quarter

The pace of the new year has been just mindblowing, and not just compared to the Christmas break down time but to almost any of the school weeks from previous quarters. I guess this is what happens when you can almost fully customize your class schedule. And you want to get out of GSB to “across the street” schools for a bit. And you get accepted to this year’s LOWKeynotes speaker series, with dozens of hours scheduled for prep-work and coaching before the big stage. And…

I’m saying “almost in control,” because I have had close to no time to spend with family, sleep over 6 hours or socialize these last five days. And I do intend to do those things this quarter too. Exhausted, happy, but realizing this kickoff pace will not be quite sustainable as is. Let’s see what next week brings with its reading volume and booting up several project groups.

Covered in this issue:

  • Finance basics: free cash flow, annuities, perpetuities & NPV calculations
  • Business planning: financial business modelling, life time value of customers, Dropbox freemium example
  • Venture Capital: industry history and sizing, how VCs think, how they move money and get paid
  • Marketing: stories, stories, stories – creating and delivering them (videos)
  • Strategy: Grabber-Holder model explaining disruptive tech innovation via ultimate nothingness from Taosim and Yin-Yang cycle
  • Space entrepreneurship: an inspiring event on synthetic life with the Student Space Flight club
  • Guest speakers throughout the week: Vinod KhoslaNancy DuarteCraig Hanson and John Cumbers

Read the rest of this entry »


Toolkit for Evaluating a New Venture

Several entrepreneurship-related classes at Stanford refer to a simple conceptual framework developed by Professor William A. Sahlman of Harvard for planning and evaluating new ventures. In short he proposed looking at People, Opportunity, Context and Deal of a venture and analysing how they Fit with each other in this particular combination at hand. You can read all about the model from his article, Thoughts on Business Plans (on Google Books) which in turn comes from an essay collection Sahlman edited in the 90s.

What inspired me in this material was a systematic use of simple, but carefully targeted questions. I decided to extract a condensed reference of them below – still mostly Sahlman with minor revisions, but I’ve added a few more, and would be happy to keep the list living if anyone proposes more useful questions from their arsenal in comments.

Read the rest of this entry »


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
Read the rest of this entry »

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 »


Summer of Startups 2011

Spent almost a full day last week in Helsinki by invitation of Aalto Entrepreneurship Society (See also: #aaltoes & on FB) to speak to 10 teams of their Summer of Startups program. All-in-all it was a worthy time investment for me, and I hope for the teams too – after a lecture on the history and learnings from building Skype I could spend about 20 minutes in a mentoring session with each of them.

Characteristically to being just in the middle of a 10-week intense effort of forming their products in such an early seed stage it is far too early to tell which one of them will actually fly as a company. It could be well just 1-2 companies and I have my hunches to which one(s), if any – won’t reveal that before their final pitches on August 10th though. Nevertheless that same hunch tells me that out of the people present the ratio of future success will be much higher, and even if their current concept fails they will find a new idea and potentially a differently formed team that will help them succeed in the future.
Read the rest of this entry »