Managing the Idea Buffet

As a follow-up to my post on what an EIR does, I promised to share a little more detail on how I practically go about filtering ideas. Effective filtering, choosing what to engage in and what to respectfully decline fast can be the pillar of effective time management in any case, but even more so when you are growing your own startup ideas list or get bombarded by incoming shiny new things through the dealflow at a firm like Andreessen Horowitz or while networking outside.

The tool I chose to increase control of the process is super simple: write down the list of properties that define an inspiring next venture for you. And then, iterate through discussions.

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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 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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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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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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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.

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Week 26: Debt, Seed Money, Private Equity and Firing Founders

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 6 (26), Winter quarter

Tahoe Vista

 

The picture reflects the exact view I have from where I’m sitting posting this. When you live in Northern Europe, “good snowy ski weather” usually means you have to give in on other things (such as clear skies and light). Not in Tahoe – and that’s why a mission of Sloans have landed here again for a long Presidents’ Day weekend.

But no play without hard work, right. There were quite a bit of extra-curricular activities on campus (I made it to several BBLs even!), some long-planned and inspiring 1:1 coffees with MBA colleagues, a few guests I would bucket in “personal heroes” category. And a fun roleplay of 8am termsheet negotiations, with lawyers at each table and all.

Covered in this issue:

  • Differences in financing with debt vs equity – and some irrationalities caused by taxation
  • Seed financing – how to survive until Series A
  • Intricacies of convertible note structuring
  • European startups: plasma drilling in Slovakia and why you should move to Berlin
  • When and why founder CEOs get fired
  • Introduction to Private Equity
  • BBLs on Crowdfunding and Big Data
  • More guests from: Geothermal Anywhere, Soundcloud, Intellicap, Twitter, Benchmark Capital, Hellman & Friedman, PubVest, LinkedIn

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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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