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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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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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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Week 25: Midterms, Cost of Capital and Founders in Rounds

Stanford GSB Sloan Study Notes, Week 5 (25), Winter quarter

This midterm week was quite light for classwork – as my elective set happened to have no actual midterm exams.

There was some time to think about an own group project (a business plan for a language teaching/feedback service that plugs into your daily communications flow in foreign language), help out a group of MS&E students writing a project on Skype and another group researching management approaches for their Paths to Power class, reminiscence of the good old days with Howard (the first investor in Skype), drop by the very maltheesque-looking Rdio offices, have calls with two new startups with impressively useful mobile apps in development, visit a stealth mode space startup about to launch some beautiful tech off this planet and then celebrate the Chinese New Year and Gustav’s birthday. And finally play a full round of golf at the Stanford Course.

Wow, actually sounds like a busy week now. The good busy.

Relative short study notes covered in this issue:

  • Optimal portfolios and cost of capital
  • More VC term nuances, especially around founder control
  • Guests: founders on SunRun & Intuit, VCs from Accel & Foundation Capital. And Christy Turlington.

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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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