Posts Tagged Babson

Two Analogies on a Tuesday

I read 2 interesting analogies in my RSS feeds today and I thought I’d share them in the form of a small post (I love small posts). They encompass 2 very active topics in my mind lately: the iPad and Entrepreneurship. Here they are:

  1. When people say the iPad is only a over sized iPhone or iPod touch, here’s a rebuttal: Is a sword an over sized knife? No, right? It looks probably similar but it serves different purposes and was conceived to fulfill different purposes. Thanks to Eduardo Arcos for constantly pointing it out.
  2. This weekend I was again confronted with the different perspectives of entrepreneurship in Mexico and in the US and was impressed at how differently it is understood and practiced in both countries. Don Dodge in an excellent post about the natural evolution of startups shares a bit of advice he gave once to an entrepreneur about not losing focus on a core product to be able to innovate and change the game: “When you are on an elephant hunt, don’t shoot at the squirrels. It wastes ammunition and scares away the elephants”. This is definitely something I would suggest to my fellow countrymen when they’re starting up a company. This and oh, yeah, get an MBA at Babson.

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Ahead of the Entrepreneurship Curve

I had this post in my drafts for a long time. Today I retrieved it to write about something different but very exciting for all members of the thriving Babson Community. Yesterday, Babsons PR blasted the news all over the (social) media: Entrepreneur Magazine and Princeton Review named Babson #1 in Entrepreneurship for both Undergraduate and Graduate Schools. This is the first time that this survey of 2,300 schools ranks both of our schools as number 1. It’s definitely something that makes us all proud and that will bring growth, reputation and importance to Babson’s programs. It will also yield increased responsibilities for everybody graduating from Babson and that will hopefully increase the number of Babson-grad-run startups all over the world.

Originally, this post was a sort of review of a book I had just finished reading: Ahead of the Curve by Philip Delves Broughton, the 2-year-long story of a journalist-turned-MBA-student during his time in the “world’s best business school”, HBS. I’m glad that the exciting news gave me the opportunity to talk about Babson instead of HBS in this post, using only the title of the book to illustrate how Babson thrives as the top-of-mind entrepreneurship school in the world. I could have written about the excellency, particularity or exclusivity that, according to the author, HBS represents in the business school world. Instead, I can say that Babson not only shares a common space with HBS as top business schools, but also stands out as a community that values an entrepreneurial and open mindset and welcomes hands-on innovation. Exactly as HBS plays a role in the elite of the business and corporate worlds, I think of Babson as a contributing force in the entrepreneurial elite in the entire world.

To conclude this celebratory text, I want to recognize the achievements of some of the Babson entrepreneurs that keep our school ahead of the entrepreneurship curve and that I had the great opportunity to sit next to in class. Kudos to Canditto, Lazybones, Incentive Targeting, PeopleAhead, Finroo, RetireLife and VergheseVentures, whose CEO is one of the most inspiring individuals I’ve had the opportunity to meet in my life.

Oh, the places we’ll go as Babson alumni!

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Closure

I can still remember the smell of things that morning of August 13th, 2007 when I first entered Olin Hall at Babson. Things were so strange and new, so simple but inexplicably complicated. I had absolutely no idea what I was about to experience, the level I was about to perform at and the people I was destined to meet and engage with in meaningful relationships. I had absolutely no idea where lessons would take me, what take-aways would stick in my mind and what skills I was about to develop. Looking back, having no expectations was a clever thing to do. Babson has literally blown my mind.
Today I wrapped up my MBA. I had my last class, did my last presentation in front of the class, submitted my last self-evaluation. Two years of this deserves a larger report but I reckon that this is a blog post and I use it just to leave a statement, a short testimonial.
On a more personal note, I started the MBA being freshly wed and I finish it being a dad, a husband and an entrepreneur.

Looking forward to what the next months have in store for me.

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The GroupGuess Oscar Exercise

groupguesslogo

A couple of minutes ago, my colleague and I finally finished coding the alpha site of GroupGuess, the early-stage venture we have created while at Babson.
We came up with a simple site that will let people guess Oscar 2009 winners in 5 categories: Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor.
This exercise will let us gather our first set of collective data and analyze how effective “groupguessing” is and how it can be applied to real business problems. In this first open guess we introduced the incentive to answer guesses outlined in our business plan as a revenue source: there’s a $100 USD prize for the best guesser(s). So, if you’re reading this, what are you waiting for? Go to GroupGuess.com and participate! (you’ll need a Google Account to log in the system).
I must also say that it has been a great experience learning to deploy to Google App Engine. It’s fast, functional and, best of all, free.

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Creating the entrepreneurial marketing mindset

To arrange a meeting with Mr. Bob Caspe, you have to go to his website and fill out a form (he’ll be teaching Marketing for Entrepreneurs this semester). During the first session he shared with us the books he read over the break, recommending specially one that changed his life. These are the kind of things you expect from a professor. Another of these things changed my marketing mind forever:

Marketing is the art of buying your customers.

This is how I’ll tackle my entrepreneurial marketing tasks this semester: Selling air to the first customer, buying him into acquiring my product.

I’m in for a thrilling ride.

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6 Chasms in the Need of Crossing

This is an excerpt of a final write-up assignment I wrote for a marketing class at Babson. It takes the form of a letter to a marketing manager at Xerox addressing the marketing challenges that the introduction of a new “erasable paper” poses to the firm.

In a 2001 essay published in the MIT Sloan Management Review, Anirudh Dhebar, marketing professor at Babson College (and one of the best professors I’ve had the honor to sit in front of), insightfully added 5 more chasms to precede Geoffrey Moore’s well-known chasm between early market and mainstream market that products in a high-tech context have to cross. These 5 new chasms apply to other constituencies and areas that the new product will have to convince in order to achieve long-term success for the company.

The first chasm is of the utmost importance in the case of erasable paper: the Chasm Within The Mind. Think of it: paper that erases by itself. It is indeed a completely new paradigm and all the members of the Xerox community must first cross this chasm, this gulf between the concept of paper as we know it (a disposable, low-value and neglectful item that serves a one-time purpose) and the concept of a product that can be used several times and has a “life of its own”, erasing itself and preparing itself automatically to bring repeated value to its user. This chasm has to be equally crossed by the consumer and other intermediaries in the paper and printing businesses. For this, a very creative and educational initiative has to be started and taken in front of the eyes (and minds) of all the instances that will participate in the market engagement of erasable paper. Xerox’s tradition of innovation and capacity to “think outside the box” will surely contribute to this effort.

Secondly, the crossing of New-Business-Model Chasm is also pivotal to this product’s success. The selling of paper that can be reused suggests a complete redesign of the business model behind paper and its complementary products. Being printing technologies a core competency of Xerox, this doesn’t affect Xerox’s core business enterprise architecture directly but it will certainly affect its value network, as paper manufacturers and distributors will react rather negatively to a product that will dramatically reduce its sales of paper. You, as marketer, have to worry less about the way the company will solve this interesting dilemma. Nevertheless, you have to make sure that the new business models that result of this paradigm shift are present in the marketing plan and are gradually understood by all interlocutors that will take part in the “marketing erasable paper” conversation. For this, I also recommend that the network externalities be actively managed so that Xerox can reap the benefits of direct network effects. The more companies that adopt an erasable-paper-printer, the more the benefits will increase and the greater the incentives for adoption will be for other companies, namely the ability to use this new paper seamlessly in every day life, without worrying about who uses it and who doesn’t.

The third chasm that has to be crossed is the Break-With-The-Past Chasm. In this case, the fissure between normal paper (and normal printers) and their compatibility with the new version of paper and printers: will new-paper-printers be compatible with the plain old paper? Clearly, the new paper will not be compatible with old printers and therefore the switching benefits and advantages of the new printers have to be clearly communicated to the customer and be also easily observable without the inherent ambiguity of improved versions of products. For this, the sustainable aspect of the new paper has to be constantly reminded.

The Disruptive-Technology Chasm in this case will have to be crossed when consumers (and other participants in the value chain) can’t initially notice the improvement of erasable paper compared to normal paper.

The fifth chasm is the Expedient-Fix/Strategic-Solution Chasm and its crossing suggests the realization of erasable paper as a long-term strategic offering by Xerox and not a temporary fix to a short-term solution (like wasting less paper).

After so much chasm crossing, hopefully the crossing of the original Chasm Between Early and Mainstream Markets may seem less challenging and will come as natural progression of the previous crossings. This, dear sir, is what I truthfully wish for this brave marketing endeavor and for the widespread adoption of erasable paper.

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BabsonLatinAmerica.com

Our Logo

One of the good things I managed to accomplish last year was to publish a blog for our club at school: The Babson Latin America Club. With this blog (available at babsonlatinamerica.com) I want to offer a forum for all club members and people interested in doing business in Latin America to express their thoughts, post related info and stay in touch. We are posting all club events there and valuable career development info, as well as linking to relevant stories, articles and events.
It will also be a very valuable resource once we start to fully market our big event for this year: The Latin America Entrepreneurship Forum at Babson College.

 

Much more to come about that very soon.

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208 and 168 days

Mondays nights are usually the nights I end up dreaming and speaking in my sleep about numbers and balance sheets after a late class of Entrepreneurial Finance. The takeaway from that class is always very straightforward: Entrepreneurs don’t have to be accountants in order to see financial statements from arms-length and be able to perceive uses, sources and status of capital and hence be able to conclude what’s wrong or right about the business. Our faculty for this course insists on neglecting the use of spreadsheets and calculators, he wants common and rapid sense when looking at numbers in financial statements. Gut-driven entrepreneurial finance. Love it.

So Mondays are always days filled with numbers and today was not the exception: I received 2 emails that had a number in the first sentence and that together give a simple summary of my life these days: 208 days until graduation and 168 days until my wife’s due date (the latter arrived in my inbox from BabyCenter.com). The former was from the Center for Career Development of Babson, sharing with us all the open positions and job-seeking resources that are available to us…and scaring the crap out of the entire Class of 2009 at the same time. The second email, I must say, provided comfort, excitement and joy. I can’t wait until the cold New England winter is over and I can greet my son/daughter into this world.

In case you were wondering, in my own scared-to-death-because-of-the-economic-meltdown job search process, things are progressing. At least I know where my passion is inclining me to apply: Apple, Facebook, Google, Digg, AT&T and Netflix are on my list as of today. Let’s see what happens.

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The Swatch Quote

I must first say how much I’m enjoying the class of Prof. Anirudh Dhebar called “Marketing High-Tech Products”. It is some sort of philosophical marketing class in which we discover the inner mechanics of every part of the theory of marketing, heavily applied to products and services that have a high-profile or high-tech component.

In one of his classes he put marketing aside to briefly give us some advice in our search for a job. There’s one quote that really resonated in me (which I bold and underline below) regarding the way we present ourselves. I literally quote from the email he sent later to follow-up on this subject:

First and foremost, never, ever, ever, ever forget the following line (attributed to Nicolas Hayek of the Swatch Group conglomerate): “Everything you do and the way you do everything sends a message.” You want potential recruiters to treat you as “world-class,” then there is only one choice: In how you prepare for and conduct yourself during and after the interview, be world-class in what you do and how you do it. And that requires your “message” to be “strong, exciting, distinctive, authentic, consistent, clear, and credible.” Yes, a tall order!

Thanks a lot to Prof. Dhebar for this and if you know of somebody searching for a job, please forward him these thoughts.

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Interviewing Matt Lauzon

On Monday I had the chance to interview Matt Lauzon, Co-founder and CEO of Paragon Lake, as part of an assignment for my Entrepreneurship class with Prof. Zacharakis. Matt is an overly nice person and an accomplished entrepreneur at just 23 years of age. Amazing story.

His company, Paragon Lake (a startup that is using the latest and greatest web based technology to change the way people buy and sell fine jewelry) just got $5.8 million in VC funding and expanded its executive team. 

Being the busy individual he is, he sat down with me for half an hour and patiently answered to my questions. Think of it as giving back to Babson and, as he pointed out in the interview, “always agreeing to take people out to lunch”. This strategy of constantly reaching out to people and offer them a fraction of your time certainly tops Matt’s list of key success factors. That and having a team of “world-class ass-kickers in what they do”, individuals with “high levels of integrity” that helped him build a culture in his company of which he is extremely proud.

Apart from being an entrepreneurial story worth telling, Matt’s is the classic example of an opportunity in an established industry where not much has changed and is very fragmented (jewelry). Paragon Lake’s ability to put the right technology in the hands of the right people is what took them to where they are now: changing the way an industry does business.

A big thank you to Matt for his time and for giving me this experience. It definitely tops my list of “key entrepreneurial days” in my MBA at Babson.

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