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:
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
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
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.
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
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:
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
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.
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…