Post-GSB life in a startup

A common question for a recent B-school grad: What are you going to do now?

In true Stanford entrepreneurship style, I’m working on a startup with a couple classmates. In fact, here’s my first public blog post for Hinted.

What’s Hinted? Why feedback?

The one common factor that all the Sloan / MSx students will have – they’re at Stanford GSB for a reason. They are looking to improve themselves, to prepare themselves for a major change. Whether that’s starting a new company, taking over a family business, climbing a corporate ladder or ascending a government empire – the desire is to prepare or learn how to break through to that next level of management. Let’s face it – most managers get stuck in middle management. Business schools focusing on general management teach you how to think like an executive – and hopefully how to break through to the executive ranks.

But, in the process of doing all this, students are not able to gain these new skills and expand their horizons without some serious self-awareness and introspection. To truly excel and reach new heights, you can’t treat graduate school like simply checking a box – it is really about deeply understanding your own strengths and weaknesses – then learning how to leverage your strengths and bolster your weaknesses.

Hinted is all about that journey of self-awareness. Stanford GSB (and probably most graduate schools) is a fantastic place to get feedback – we’re often taught that “feedback is a gift.” But even with this open mentality, feedback is often not timely, a pain-in-the-ass (for the giver), superficial and not actionable. We want to change that by making feedback a continuous process, a very easy thing to give and with a time-dimension to show you actual results of your efforts.

Not everyone out there has the opportunity to spend a year or two in B-school (or any other grad school). That’s why we want to share tools like Hinted – and the open feedback attitude – with everyone.

Startup 101:

Winter and Spring quarters: We took our idea through Prof. Rohan’s STRAMGT 321: Create a New Venture: From Idea to Launch class. Pre-formed teams (can be MBA, MSx or any other Stanford student) with a venture idea apply for this class, usually in groups of 3-5 students. Prof. Rohan uses Stanford’s d.school methods to force you to explore as many avenues of your proposed venture as possible. Often, teams will find that their first idea runs out of steam too quickly – they can either fake it and run through the paces, make minor adjustments to their idea or radically pivot to a new concept. This class was a great opportunity to do some research, try different ideas, talk to potential users and prototype a feedback tool with some guinea pigs (our MSx classmates). He also connects you with investors with experience in your field to give additional suggestions and guidance (except in the rarest instances, they’re not really there to invest in your class project ideas.

After graduation: It was time to decide if we were going to continue and make a genuine effort at a real startup. Before graduation, it is simply too easy to say “yes” and not really mean it – or to simply use the prospects of working on a startup to procrastinate a bonafide job search. That’s why it makes sense that so many fabled startups begin with someone dropping out of school – it forces you to focus and get real very quickly. We were very lucky – our entire class project team decided to move forward and we’re now all working together as Hinted’s founding management team.

Where are we now: In the few weeks since graduation, we signed our first official customer,  acquired an awesome domain name, interviewed 4 law firms (and selected WilmerHale because they have an awesome startup package), incorporated and started our social media campaign (albeit we are still very stealthy). More updates to follow as we accomplish some more cool milestones…

Erik Wittreich building our whiteboard frames

Erik Wittreich building our whiteboard frames

Randy Sternke putting wisdom on the new whiteboards

Randy Sternke putting wisdom on the new whiteboards

Let me know if you find this helpful, interesting or have any questions / feedback for me. I’m personally blogging because I want more candidates to become aware of the awesome mid-career degree program at Stanford GSB – the MSx program doesn’t have nearly the publicity it deserves. Because of my experience, I’m more open to feedback now than ever before – please ask if I can help you make your decision to come to Stanford!

-E

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