Recommitting to Blog

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…


Stanford MSx

Stanford has rebranded the Stanford Sloan Masters program as the Stanford MSx – Masters of Science in Management for eXperienced professionals. It is certainly more descriptive, but I think their primary goal was to eliminate confusion of the Stanford Sloan program with MIT’s venerable business school.

With the new branding, students will still be known as Sloan Fellows – to carry forward the heritage of the Sloan vision of training mid-career executives. But the program will still be a full-time immersive experience, instead of the typical nights / weekend approach of the typical EMBA.

I still think the MS in Management is confusing – it will certainly not address all the questions for future students if the MSMgmt is equivalent to an MBA in future employers’ eyes. But in reality, I don’t think it matters. Since most of the accepted students probably have 10+ years experience, having “Stanford GSB” on your resume and being able to talk about the experience is certainly more important than the reader immediately understanding the difference between an MBA and the MSMgmt.

If you’re expecting to get your next job from a posting, little things like this might be really important to you — but I think we’ll all be in a different league after this experience.

Got my new student binder!

Ok, I must admit, it was a little anticlimactic… Sure, there are some good nuggets in there, but I didn’t find anything in there that couldn’t have been emailed in a PDF attachment or put on a student-only website.

But having it in-hand does make it feel “more real” — after all, I’m still somewhat in disbelief that our lives will be abruptly put on hold in a few months. I do look forward to new Sloan orientation (mid-April). Meeting my fellow Sloanies and getting some on-campus time will do wonders.

Here’s what I did learn from the binder:

  • Early Sloan Orientation: 13 – 15 Apr 2013
  • Recommended on-campus date: 28 Jun 2013
  • Sloan Orientation: 9 – 10 Jul 2013
  • First day of class: 15 Jul 2013

In the early orientation, we’ll get to meet current Sloanies and get their perspective. Spouses and significant others will be sharing their advice with new incoming spouses (and significant others).

Apparently, there are some 60+ GSB student groups — but no information on how to join, when they meet, etc. Apparently there is a new Sloan-specific entrepreneurship group too — not sure how that will be transitioned, since no one from the previous year will be there to hand off the torch to incoming students…

I wish there were more information in the binder about how electives will work and how we go about deciding which ones we want to take. But it looks like we won’t have the opportunity to add very many electives until Winter quarter — so I guess there is plenty of time to figure that out. Because we’re only on campus for one year, I’m realizing how short this program will be and how difficult it will be to incorporate certain classes (either because they are full or not offered when I would be able to take it).

I also hope to have decided where to live by April orientation. I figure that would be a good time to pick a new landlord and sign a lease. Hope we find a great place to live!

PRL Room 36

As part of my GSB visit, I stopped by Room 36 — part of the Mechanical Engineering department’s Product Realization Lab.

While Room 36 is just the “light” workshop (there are also “heavy” workshops with metal foundry, metal working, woodworking, rapid prototyping, etc.), the facility is quite capable. Students can gain access to all the PRL facilities by paying a very reasonable shop fee (this year it was only $100 for a full academic year) and taking an orientation / safety briefing. While there are some ME classes that utilize the PRL facilities, it is NOT necessary to be enrolled in one of those classes to gain access to the PRL’s resources.

Marlo Kohn, who runs Room 36, was kind enough to give me a brief tour. Tools include a couple small laser cutters, industrial sewing machines, drill press, scroll saw, bandsaw, vinyl cutter, heat transfer press, etc.

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There is also a well stocked pair of electronics benches with computers, o-scopes, soldering stations, adjustable power supplies, etc. The PRL also sells common components, so unless you’re working on something exotic, you shouldn’t need to leave campus to procure parts. There are several decent shops nearby if you do need to buy parts that are not normally stocked (Jameco, Fry’s Electronics, etc.).

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Perhaps most useful to me, they also have a pair of industrial-grade 3D printers. They allow students to use the Stratasys FDM and 3D Systems Projet printers for only the cost of raw materials (e.g. resin). They do not charge for machine time! So I will definitely take advantage of these machines…


I will definitely try to work in ME 203 and ME 318 while I’m on campus!

I’m probably causing some confusion — is this guy a GSB student or a ME student?? Well, I’m more personally excited by the economy of “stuff” than I am by the economy of information. Being able to put your hands on your creation has an amazing impact on most people. I’m no exception.

Visited GSB campus

Ok, got back from my trip to Palo Alto!

Virginia and Sally answered all my questions and arranged a class visit for me. Most pressing for me: If you have any pets, you will need to find off-campus housing (unless it is a certified service animal). So we will definitely be looking for a rental house or apartment that is dog-friendly.

I got to sit in on Prof. Aaker’s Marketing class (this is part of the Sloan core curriculum). This class was dominated by guest speakers which had interesting perspectives on modern marketing methods. The Sloan students had also prepared “elevator pitch” style marketing solutions to assigned case study problems. Since I don’t know the context of the overall course, it’s hard for me to comment on how this day factors in to the overall goal — but I can say that the class was engaging and interesting.

I was surprised that the Sloanies weren’t more outspoken as there were relatively few questions, but clearly they were paying attention. Some were sitting back and absorbing the presentations and others were taking notes furiously (either handwritten or laptops open). I was also surprised that there weren’t more laptops open — I only counted 6 active laptop users (a few more closed) and a couple tablet users.

Guest speakers represented these firms:

  • Klout (social / media analytics specifically measuring influence)
  • Gilt (e-Commerce specializing in high-end / exclusive brand products)
  • Edelman (PR firm specializing in tech clients)

The lecture hall (classroom) is reasonably comfortable. This particular room has a 3-part front wall that is slightly angled inward and the entire wall behind me was glass. The front wall can be any combination of whiteboards and projection screens. The room is tiered — each row is one step higher than the row in front. The chairs were comfortable, but could be better…


I also had lunch in the Arbuckle Dining Pavilion — the sushi is actually quite good. But it can be difficult to find an open table…

Overall, the new GSB campus is beautiful. The buildings are inside out — there are no interior hallways. I was surprised by this, but it totally makes sense in a climate where the weather is so nice most of the time. Simply no reason to force people to stay indoors. Almost every classroom or office suite is directly accessible to the outside. The upper floors are connected with balcony-style walkways and open stairwells. Solar panels on most of the roofs and signs proudly stating use of reclaimed rainwater for flushing toilets.

Although the GSB campus is at the periphery of the other Stanford academic buildings, it is a short walk to the rest of campus. I was able to walk from GSB to the Huang Mechanical Engineering building in less than 15 minutes. It was easy to see when classes let out — a throng of bicycles would appear in the streets and sidewalks. Clearly bikes are probably the most common mode of cross-campus transportation.