Ok — I was wondering what was going to motivate me to resume blogging…
Just found out that Class of 2015 has started to receive acceptance letters for early applications. The blogs from Class of 2013 were so helpful, that I feel I need to do this for the future Sloan / MSx fellows. So I’m going to try to get back into the habit of documenting my journey.
I promise to sit down and recap Summer and the first half of Autumn quarters – but to get things back in gear, I’ll start with the topics at the top of mind.
Over the past couple weeks, we have been registering for Winter quarter classes (starting in January). It is the first quarter where we have a lot of flexibility in our schedules. Summer is 100% core for most people and Autumn only leaves room for 2-3 electives (unless you test out of Accounting). You also need to figure out how much time you want to devote to academics. The rule of thumb (so I’ve been told) is to budget 3-4 hours of total work / per week / per credit hour – if a given class is offered as 4 credit hours, you should expect that your weekly required work (including in-class time of approximately 3.5 hours) will be approximately 12-16 hours. Some classes are pretty close to this estimate, others are wildly more/less work – do your research when thinking about which classes (and how many) to take.
Oddly, I have this strong desire to “get my money’s worth” and take as many classes as possible – rather than simply meeting the requirements for the degree. For both Autumn and Winter quarters, I will be at the maximum 22 credits – I am currently paying for this greedy approach, as I’m not able to spend enough quality time learning the core “basics” that I have little prior direct experience with, such as Financial Accounting and Corporate Finance.
For Autumn quarter, I took the following electives (I’ll circle back to core courses in a future post):
Prof. Ilya Strebulaev & Lecturers Theresia Gouw (VC @ Accel Partners)
This class covers two major areas of interest for me: 1: The investment decision-making process employed by Angel / VC investors when evaluating a startup – from introduction, to pitch, to term sheet, to negotiations and signing a deal; and 2: The best way for a firm (who is seeking to grow through use of Angel / VC financing) to properly position itself to potential investors and how these firms should behave / evaluate term sheets that are offered by said investors.
The team-teaching approach is incredible – Prof. Strebulaev brings the academic & theoretical together with Ms. Gouw’s practical experience as a VC partner. Our class is only the second time this course is being taught, so the curriculum is in flux and the instructors are constantly polling the students to ensure that the pedagogy and guest speakers match both the interests and abilities of the students. I suspect this course will become one of the “must-take” classes at the GSB in coming years.
If you take this class, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to network with the guest speakers – BUT be targeted in your approach and only spend time with those guests who can directly help you or work in a related field. These are very busy people and will usually react positively if they see a natural fit and a win-win relationship. You will have the opportunity to meet several venture capitalists and angel investors in this class.
Lecturers Rob Siegel & Scott Brady
STRAMGT 353 is already a legendary class at the GSB and is considered “MUST TAKE” for people who are considering entrepreneurial careers after graduation. Both Rob and Scott are Stanford GSB alum – Scott, in particular, was a Sloan Fellow Class of 2000. These guys are as authentic to Silicon Valley entrepreneurship as it gets. They teach this class using the case study method and cover 1 – 3 firms per class that have gone through the formation / funding / growth process. Most of the example firms are wild successes or are still in the growth phase – but there are also a couple cases of major challenges / failures. The curriculum pulls you into these companies as if you were there while they were facing their most important decisions.
If you’ve never read a business school case before, you’ll quickly learn that they usually start with a biography of a protagonist (in this class, often the founder) and draw you through their story – how did they find their business idea, how did it evolve, what assumptions were correct and/or wildly incorrect, what problems did they face in fund-raising and, usually in a B-case (or more frequently in this class with live guest appearances by the protagonist) the outcome of the decision / inflection point. The way these cases are written is usually immersive – the best cases make you feel what the entrepreneur was feeling and get you quite excited about meeting the protagonist.
Both Rob and Scott are influential VC partners – so they will also force you to think about these cases from the perspective of potential investors. This allows you to see the cases from both sides and see how important it is for the entrepreneurs and VCs to actually like each other. I had the mistaken impression that this relationship was usually adversarial – but since the average “exit” takes 6 – 9 years, it is important that they work together effectively for that entire length of time (especially for early-stage VCs or angel investors).
I’ll come back in future posts and recap specific cases that are interesting, but I just needed to write something and get back into the habit…