Finally a post on entrepreneurship. One of the main reasons to do my MBA was to learn skills , build friendship with like minded people and one day, make my entrepreneurial dream into reality . My career started in a startup, working literally in a garage. We failed and then I moved on. But that dream still remains. Having reached at cross roads where one needs to make choice of the future, a wise decision I made was to do MBA. Many had asked me , how would an MBA teach entrepreneurship? You cant learn entrepreneurship in class, rather you need to learn it by doing it. Here is this post for those dreamers who want to make a dent in the universe and not sure if an MBA would help them.
You only see what you wanted to see
1 yr of MBA is a generalist foundation where you will learn various aspects of business. I have learnt things what I wanted to learn from each of these courses.
From finance course, I have learnt how to value a company, how to find NPV of a project and how to choose whether a to go for a full shot building a product or in a phased approach based on option pricing models. I now can decide if my startup project will be economically viable, value its opportunity cost and the value it creates. From accounting course, I now know to find out how any company is performing , a rough idea on their cash flows and how to control burning cash when I run my business. Models based decision making course has equipped me with a discipline of evaluating and making decisions based on the data. I am a big believer in data and hence this tool has given me a great insight to see how the market reacts and which aspects people care about based on the data & stats. Statistics course has taught me a great tool called “regressions”. I now can predict or analyse what has happened using the historical data which will truly help in decision making process. We just finished a marketing paper on analysing data through regressions and figuring out how effective a campaign was and which customer segment we should focus on. The marketing course has given me a century of knowledge on how companies have done successful marketing and how marketing is an inherent know how for a CEO. I believe that marketers will be better CEOs. I now know which customers will be my early adopters and how to fulfill their value drivers, by positioning my product/service in a right way.
Rotman’s focus on business design have opened a new way to think. I am now a firm believer in empathy workshop as a means to identify customer needs and design thinking as essential strategy to win customer’s heart. From what I have learnt in operations course, I know how to improve a process to make sure the services/products that my startup provides will be under control. Predicting customer demand, adjusting business processes to dance along with demand and have an efficient lean methodology to achieve quality in the service/product that a startup delivers is a huge learning for me.
By this time, you would be wondering “thats awesome, but dude you just learnt how to do but without applying it in real world you wont know if it works” . That’s in fact true.
There are 2 ways to learn swimming. First, is like how my dad learnt. When he was young , his uncle took him to a pond and pushed my dad into it. My dad struggled for a while but in few mins, he started to swim. The second one is how my son is learning swimming now. He is trained by a coach in a small pool, wearing all those floaters etc. To me , I prefer my son’s way of getting trained before I jump into an ocean. I am calculated risk taker and hence this is my preference to learn and get trained on how to run a business before running it.
Learn by doing
When I joined Rotman, the first thing I decided was not to miss any opportunity that would add value to my learning.
Rotman organises tons of speaker sessions every month. Each from different department, different topics from world renowned speakers, book authors. To name few there was session from Randi Zuckerberg about Women in tech, a panel discussion with Chinese ambassador about China’s as the next economic super power, a session about world economic trends from a Nobel Laurete, a discussion on Crowdfunding in capital markets and few sessions on big data trends. I would have attended only 40% of all sessions but from each session I had definitely got a new perspective. You can learn about various industry trends like healthcare in Canada to understanding businesses across the world like Islamic financing in Arab world.
I have utilised most of the opportunities that REVCA club provided me with. Starting with a club kick off session in a startup accelerator where growing startups pitched their ideas and how they are solving cutomer’s pain, till last week’s startup recruitment session, it was an experiential learning. The startup hackathon was my first learning opportunity to shape a random spark into a business idea and pitch it before VCs. It is learning by doing. Learning on what people look for in a successful business, disciplines one’s thinking process to think about ideas as business rather than “yet another iphone app”.
The next best learning was through Startup Advisory service of REVCA. A pro-borno consulting engagement where we help startup with our business knowledge. I am currently advising a wearable tech startup on their marketing strategy for their revolutionary product. REVCA speaker sessions were amazing as well. We had an entrepreneur ,a VC from Silicon Valley talking about running a startup. I had a great learning at VC competition by REVCA. Its an exciting competition where teams act like VC and real startups pitch in front of you for funding. You get to do due-diligence and then negotiations on term sheets with the real startup , of-course on the imaginary million dollar that you are investing. But the real value add here is that, we were judged by real VCs. It gave me a new perspective to think about a successful startup when I am wearing a VC hat. My whole idea of how to identify a successful startup changed upside down when I got to play a VC role with my team. We felt great as we won this competition at Rotman and represented Rotman at Babson college for regional finals. Though we didn’t win at Babson, our team swore that we will train the next years team (with our learnings) to make Rotman proud next year. I also participated in New venture competition where we develop a business in 2 months. Again a great learning on how to build a product/service that customer’s really want.
Entrepreneurial spirits can be felt all throughout UofT. UofT engineering dept has a startup incubator “The Hatchery”. Through REVCA , I got into hatchery as a co-mentor and now I am mentoring enthusiastic engineering students on their startup idea. MBA student helping young engineering students is the best collaboration one could ever see. I have participated in Accelerator weekend competition by Hatchery, a business plan competition where we ideated an excellent social entrepreneurial idea. I am hoping to bring that into reality over summer. I also utilised an opportunity to attend C3 inspire , a conference that brings together bright student minds across Ontario for a day of learning from speakers like Google marketing director, Deloitte Innovation manager about innovations/entreprenurship and also get to learn by doing a mini business plan competition collaborating with each other. I was truly inspired and now a volunteer at C3 inspire , working on spreading the inspirations and taking it to next level.
The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL)
Rotman’s own startup incubator. I remember, last year when I admitted to Rotman, how excited I was when I talked to my admission team and found about CDL’s plans to bring in MBA students to collaborate with startups. This was one big motivation for me to take up Rotman’s MBA offer. I believed that I would have a great learning experience at Rotman. Current 2nd year batch is the first batch to experience this 1 year journey.
If you don’t know what CDL is, please do check out creativedestructionlab.com. Prof Ajay , G7 committee are well known across the Canadian startup ecosystem. The startups are building the next big revolutionary products like Nymi, Myo, Kiwi etc. As an MBA student, we have a 1 yr elective course which we choose in 2 yr. Different from other elective courses where you need to bid , for this course you need to apply to get selected. As MBA student doing CDL course, each one will be involved with startups that apply to CDL. Collaborating and helping/advising them on business aspects is where we add value to the startups. We get to work with these startups on anything ranging from business plans, pitches, business strategies etc. It’s like applying the knowledge we have gained so far in a budding startup. And yes, we can apply for CDL too if we have a startup. One of our 2yr student is a co-founder of Tapylytics, who got into CDL as a startup and now he is at Y-Combinator. I am waiting for fall term to join CDL course. Then I will blog about my experiences and learnings.
All these opportunities are all that I utilised without leaving the campus. There are tons of things happening every week in downtown Toronto. I always wanted to attend those fantastic sessions organised by MARS which is just right across the campus. But with busy 1st year, I had no time to get out of the campus. So that’s my to do list next year to explore the opportunities around downtown, meet new startups and expand my friends circle.
Great! , now that my 2nd term is over, I have 1 more exciting and intense 1 month capstone term where we will be working on solving a real business problem for a firm in “Practice of model based decision making” course. After that, I am waiting for a real warmer summer to start my exciting internship with Innovation team at P&G.
Ok buddies, now I have to sign off and start working on CDL course application. See you in next post about a blockbuster story on how my friend at Rotman who was pianist(before MBA) got an internship at an Investment bank.
VC competition winners- Our team
Entrepreneurship speaker series
New Venture Competition