Entrepreneurship and immediate impact are professional themes that continue to resonate with HBS students. Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition, a popular 2nd year course taught by Rick Ruback and Royce Yudkoff, teaches specific practical skills that are required to become an effective entrepreneur through acquisition. In recent years more and more HBS students are choosing to forgo traditional corporate employment, opting instead to find, fund, acquire and run small businesses.
On Wednesday, April 2nd, HBS Career & Professional Development, in conjunction with the Venture Capital & Private Equity and Entrepreneurship Clubs, hosted the inaugural HBS Search Summit. The event provided a forum for nearly 150 students, searchers, entrepreneurs, investors, faculty, thought leaders and industry advisors to meet and discuss the many aspects of entrepreneurship through acquisition.
The summit was comprised of four sequential panels that explored:
Search models: selecting what fits you
Sourcing methods and tactics
Getting a deal done
Reaching the goal: running the business
The formal sessions were followed by a casual reception where the participants could connect, network and share ideas. The inaugural Summit was a success and we look forward to seeing it grow and evolve in the years to come.
In March, HBS ventured to the Bay Area to host a series of recruiting and networking focused events. In response to our students’ enthusiasm towards exploring opportunities on the West Coast, HBS Career & Professional Development (CPD) hosted the first school-facilitated interview event outside of the Boston area. CPD provided all logistical support for the 93 interviews that took place on March 17th and 18th in San Francisco easing the interview process for both recruiters and students.
Our office also facilitated networking opportunities for students to connect with companies and alumni in the Bay Area. The HBS California Research Center and CPD co-hosted a start-up mixer allowing students to network with exciting companies, learn about potential opportunities and listen to a panel of entrepreneurs and VC partners moderated by Professor Bill Sahlman. With over 65 students and 25 start-ups, including Pinterest, Cointent, Dropbox and Boomtrain, the mixer was full of energy and engaging discussions.
Tuesday began with a Venture Capital breakfast hosted by Kristen Fitzpatrick, Managing Director of the HBS CPD office, which allowed a group of students to learn from alumni working in VC. Interviews continued and student buzz was still high from the event the prior evening. The two days concluded with an alumni networking reception attended by over 180 alumni and current MBA students.
As HBS continues to see an increase in West Coast bound students and alumni, we look forward to making this an annual Bay Area event, partnering with firms both large and small across a variety of industries.
Looking to recruit talent but missed our event on the West Coast? Request the West Coast Club’s complimentary club resume book and connect with students seeking opportunities in your area.
- Drew Davis, Recruiting Coordinator, HBS Career & Professional Development
One of Harvard’s most interesting experiences during the first year of the MBA is FIELD 2. FIELD 2 is a program where students work in small teams to complete projects for companies operating in emerging economies around the globe. In my case, this meant being paired with five unknown classmates in a trip to Malaysia.
I was incredibly lucky. We were going to work with the global partner AirAsia X (our client), one of the most successful airlines in the world which, to the astonishment of the whole industry, has made low-cost long-haul flights a reality. I was very interested in the assignment because I had worked for Airbus as a project manager before coming to HBS and was familiar with the industry. However, I must confess that I was skeptical of the whole FIELD 2 concept: How much work can really get done in 10 days in the field, regardless of our US preparation? Will we really deliver value?
“Don’t worry, Yolanda. This will be like consulting: you are going to be amazed at the intensity of the experience”- One of my team mates, a former consultant, said when we landed in Kuala Lumpur.
And it was true.
My first surprise was to see was how open and collaborative AirAsia X was in its way of working: We had to solve a problem in limited time and therefore they made sure that we had access to all the resources we needed. Small meeting with the chief of marketing? Of course! Problems in understanding technology? Let’s ask the relevant engineers. Data on consumer insights? Sure! In other jobs, access to these resources is usually a limiting factor. As “HBS student consultants”, it became a matter of asking the right questions to gather the right information. The collaboration and partnership atmosphere helped us have a great start.
Getting to understand the real consumers was also a challenge. Interviewing passengers and realizing their actual needs, turned upside down part of the assumptions we had before arriving in Malaysia. Second consulting lesson then: make sure to get customer feedback early and that you don’t get lost in theory. Thankfully, this also went well.
As days passed I was not so optimistic though. Our team analyzed the data and tried to extract conclusions, but the first analyses did not answer our questions. Step by step we tried to understand what was going on: small financial model, excel data filtering, hypothesis validation with data… We were trying without success, and that made me nervous. However, by the end of our stay the pieces of the puzzle started coming together and the picture became clearer.
My consultant friend was not so surprised: “Yolanda, this always happens. The amount of work is substantial and at the beginning it seems that you won’t get to anything valuable… But the responses appear in the end if the work has been done properly”.
Before leaving Malaysia we made our final presentation to the CEO. He was satisfied with the results, happy to receive a fresh perspective and thinking about implementation and next steps. It felt great to have such impact, helping in the understanding of customer behaviors that the company didn’t know before, and setting it more prepared for improved financials with our project. The best part for me was working in the team. If I had been lucky with the client, I had been even luckier with the team. Spending so many hours with smart and fun people, getting to learn from them, and being so coordinated while still having such diverse backgrounds was fantastic. Overall, FIELD was a beautiful consulting experience that has reaffirmed my desire to work in consulting for the summer. Great work and great team.
Over the past several months I have engaged with organizations across East Asia regarding job opportunities for MBA candidates. While economic growth has slowed in the region, the job market is still good overall for MBA graduates and there are excellent opportunities in professional services, retail, consumer goods, and technology companies. Private equity opportunities have generally decreased and although a lot of money has been raised in Asia, much has yet to be invested. According to Private Equity International there’s about $120 billion of dry powder in the region, and the markets where big deals are available—Japan and South Korea—are highly competitive and tend not to be friendly towards foreign firms. The high-growth markets of Southeast Asia generally offer smaller targets or minority stakes in large companies. Below are snapshots of my observations in the countries where I have traveled during the past six months, with a focus on the Asian private equity market.
In December 2013 Chinese regulators lifted the 14 month moratorium on IPOs and also put in place new procedures for how companies can go public, making the process more transparent. There was a backlog of about 800 companies waiting to go public as a result of the moratorium, but it’s likely that China’s stock markets will see only mid-sized companies with little name recognition outside of China going public on the mainland, with the major Chinese firms preferring to go public in the United States. The two most notable examples of this are Weibo, which announced on March 14 that it intends to list on the NYSE and hopes to raise $500 million, and Alibaba announcing on March 16 that it too would file in the United States, expecting to raise as much as $15 billion. China’s SOEs account for 60 percent of the country’s GDP but most private equity funds invest in its private sector. I think it is worth watching those firms that invest in the public sector as this is where new growth potential exists.
There are fewer opportunities for MBAs in the private equity market than in recent years as many of the large international funds have reached hiring capacity. As such, students should pay attention to which funds are raising capital as that might suggest the need for additional headcount. Although most Hong Kong funds are focused on China and generally seek PRC nationals, in the coming years firms may start to show greater interest in candidates who have proven themselves in the U.S. or European markets during the economic crisis since restructuring of companies in China is likely to be more important in the years ahead. Therefore candidates who have this skill set can be valuable to firms even if they are not from China, though Mandarin would likely still be required.
Singapore serves as the regional hub for private equity firms looking to invest in Southeast Asia. While this is a large and growing market, there are few positions for new MBAs in private equity because firms typically grow talent internally and few actively recruit from MBA programs. In North America a common MBA career path for private equity is to spend two years in banking after college, work for two years in private equity, attend business school, and then return to a more senior position in a private equity fund. In Singapore, on the other hand, most firms tend to grow talent from within or hire laterally. Given that there are limited openings each year, if timing isn’t right and a student’s goal is a job in private equity, it would be best to get to Asia in any capacity to be able to position oneself to move to private equity when there is an opening. Most funds also seek locals because they need deal originators with local knowledge and contacts, so people from outside ASEAN will generally need a few years of experience in the markets to be viable candidates, by showing commitment to the region and local knowledge.
Malaysia aims to become a developed economy by 2020 and as a result it has been undergone major reforms to be more business friendly and encourage increased foreign direct investment. The World Bank ranked Malaysia 12th out of 185 countries in its Ease of Doing Business 2013 report; as a point of comparison in East Asia, China was ranked 91st. For MBAs considering internship or career opportunities in Malaysia who are not from the region, English is widely spoken and it is the lingua franca in business. But like most emerging markets pay outside professional services firms will be lower than the U.S. MBA norm and finding opportunities will require a lot of networking and relationship building.
It’s Tuesday afternoon, March 4th. A lively group of HBS students passionate about retail entrepreneurship sit in Aldrich 108, waiting. Then “ping!” – up pop Julia Straus (HBS ’11) and Katharine Hill (HBS ’12) who both work at BaubleBar, the growing one-stop retailer for affordable jewelry, on the big screen. Our virtual conversation is live!
Julia is the Director of Business Development at BaubleBar, and oversees the company’s global digital and offline partnerships. Before HBS, Julia never worked in retail, but had lots of good finance experience. Katharine is the Director of Offline at BaubleBar, after stints in retail and finance. Both had good advice for HBS’ers looking to break into a retail start-up, and discussed the business of BaubleBar.
Go in ready to roll our sleeves up, they said. Katharine shared a funny memory of her first week. One of her first projects was to create the company’s first shop – in the NY office. Sure, she said, where are the drawings? What phase of development are they in? As she stood in this blank space of a room, the founders (Amy Jain and Daniella Yacobovsky, both HBS ‘10) explained, “that’s why you’re here!”
Words of advice for 1st year students without retail experience? Julia encouraged them to get relevant summer experience, like her internship at New Balance. She jumped on an e-commerce project there, and did related independent work during her 2nd year that definitely helped her sell herself to PopSugar Media, her first job post-HBS – where she managed the development, launch, and operations of their e-commerce business.
Also, be ready for a possible multi-step job process, Julia said. Maybe you work in tech over the summer (think Yahoo, etc.) and then in your 2nd year, do independent e-commerce projects. Whatever you do, it’s key to be both patient and passionate. You’ll send out a lot of emails and have a lot of coffee chats. As long as you really do your homework for every conversation, know the company, and bang on the door as many times as you need to – it will happen. Julia shared the tale of one Bauble Bartender; this woman sent 14 emails. They decided she was either crazy or they needed to hire her. She got the job.
“What else should we think about, when looking at different start-ups?”
Don’t be afraid to pitch a position, they said. Offer to spend the summer exploring some specific need or project facing the start-up. This advice dovetailed well with what we in Career & Professional Development hear from entrepreneurs all the time. Don’t go in to an interview without a point of view on the start-up, and what you could specifically do to contribute to the business. Founders don’t have the time to hear someone offer to do anything… they value focus. Yes, it’s also good to be flexible. Just don’t approach an interview vaguely.
“What challenges are next for BaubleBar?”
One ongoing task is customer acquisition. How to get that next person who can’t touch or try on the jewelry? The offline partnerships are key for BaubleBar now, as were the pop up stores the past couple years. Anthropologie now carries BaubleBar pieces, and the partnership is off to a great start given the customer fit. Other deals are in the works, and the company continues to look at demographics and/or geography as criteria for future partner prospects.
Julia and Katharine agreed that the leadership team is focused on where the company is in terms of its scale. They have 85 employees now, and are looking at internal operations carefully. In fact, both Julia and Katharine agreed that this issue of thinking about company size is important for anyone looking to join a start-up. Have a sense of how you would perform given the challenges of wherever the firm is in its growth. What are the operations like? Amid all the opportunity, are you ready for the hurdles and obstacles? What size start-up would you perform best at?
Final words of wisdom for would be start-up joiners?
Katharine admitted that she herself didn’t take the advice she was about to share. “Really, do not stress about waiting for the right role”, even if your section-mates are all set in February, and it takes you to Spring to land the start-up. It’s so easy to lose perspective, but please don’t. You’ll find the right job, and you’ll be so happy you did.
Julia nodded, “It can be discouraging… so many meetings; what feels like so little structure to your search. Keep at it. If it’s really what you want to do, you will absolutely find a way in. I have been so happy at BaubleBar. A product I believe in, a great group, a perfect job for me. So just don’t take it personally when you have to keep plugging – it’s worth it. Do it!”
- Laurie Matthews, Career & Professional Development, Sector Lead: Retail and Entrepreneurship
On the evening of Saturday, February 22, 2014 and all day Sunday, February 23, 2014, the Retail & Luxury Goods Club hosted a record number of nearly 400 students and professionals from Harvard and the surrounding community for its tenth annual Retail and Luxury Goods Conference. The conference marked a decade of hosting business leaders and industry insiders and to celebrate the occasion was themed The Consumer Revolution: Redefining Retail and Luxury for the Next Decade.
The discussions at the conference covered topics that retailers are grappling with today in order to set themselves up for future long-term success and growth. Speakers from all walks of retail, from mass to luxury, brick-and-mortar to e-commerce, start-up to established brand, offered his or her unique view on how interacting with consumers has and will continue to change. From philosophical question such as “What is luxury?” to practical topics such as “How do you grow retail and brand across geographies and channels?” the responses were diverse and underscored how companies have developed tailored strategies based on their answers to these questions.
Representing distinct perspectives from retail and fashion, keynote speakers headlining the conference included Mr. William McComb, former Chief Executive Officer of Fifth & Pacific Co. (now Kate Spade Company); Ms. Julie Bornstein, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Digital Officer of Sephora, Inc.; and Ms. Donna Karan, Founder and Chief Designer of Donna Karan Co. All three speakers spoke about the winding routes they took to get to the C-Suite and reinforced the need for students to follow their passions and stay true to themselves in order to forge meaningful relationships in a people-driven industry and find success.
This year was also marked by a special roundtable discussion with seasoned entrepreneurs Aslaug Mangusdottir, Co-Founder of Moda Operandi, Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas, Co- Founders of Caudalie, and Steven Alan, Founder and Chief Designer of Steven Alan Showroom and The Steven Alan Collection. Moderated by Professor Tom Eisenmann, the founders reminisced about the early days of their businesses and discussed the tough decisions they faced in order to build internationally recognized and beloved brands.
The networking events organized around lunch and a cocktail reception offered attendees an opportunity to interact with the speakers in depth. Overheard were several sound bites of attendees asking for career advice or debating about the future direction of the retail industry.
As the day concluded, the conference ended in celebration of the club’s past decade and a look towards how retail and luxury goods as well as the club will continue to evolve.
-Gina Pak (MBA ‘15) Retail & Luxury Goods Club (RLGC) Director of Conference Marketing
Students from the Women’s Student Association hosted the 23rd Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference on Saturday, Feb. 22nd, welcoming more than 1,000 female professionals, community Saturday, Feb. 22nd, welcoming more than 1,000 female professionals, community members, and students.
Gender equality issues have been generating an enormous amount of dialogue in the past few years, and the purpose of this year’s conference was to leverage the positive wellspring from this discourse toward action. With the theme “Let’s Go!”, attendees were encouraged to use the day’s events to create their own list of next steps toward leading a more balanced, satisfying, and successful career.
The conference was graced with the presence of 4 distinguished keynote speakers:
Maria Renz (CEO, Quidsi): Maria Renz – in addition to admonishing all women to show up at the table – also taught the audience about the three phases of leadership, from learning how to operate, learning how to lead, to creating a vision.
Christine Day (CEO, Luvo) & Vivien Yeung (Vice President of Strategy, lululemon): Christine Day and Vivien Yeung discussed their own fruitful mentoring relationship, while providing guidance for the audience about defining your own space, communicating effectively with mentors , and being honest with yourself in order to bring about work-life balance.
Carla Harris (Vice Chairman & Managing Director, Morgan Stanley): Carla Harris had the audience on their feet, sharing her pearls of wisdom, and even a little of her legendary singing.
In all, the conference featured 19 panels, over 100 speakers, and 3 workshops. The industries and themes covered in the panels spanned numerous topics, from education to technology to hospitality to energy. Each panel tackled a specific topic, such as “Socially Aware Investing,” “Career Switching 101,” and “Education Reform.” Panelists included representatives from the Environmental Defense Fund, Amazon, PBS, Twitter, and more. Many of the panelists were HBS alumnae and served as an inspiration for the diverse career paths that could unfold in the future for the students in the audience. A definite and proud highlight was our first-ever Manbassador panel, which discussed how to build change agents for gender equality within the workplace.
Adhering to the theme of action and coming away with concrete professional advice and life lessons, the conference’s three workshops offered information and guidance on mindfulness, productivity, and negotiating salaries.
Throughout the conference, attendees had ample opportunities to network, both formally and informally. The conference opened on Friday night with a welcome dinner for the panelists that featured the Co-Founder and CEO of Endeavor, Linda Rottenberg, and continued with opportunities to network, such as the small group lunches on Saturday with panelists, where attendees could hear from panelists in a more intimate setting.
All attendees were encouraged to actively Tweet their thoughts and takeaways from the keynotes and panels using the handle #letsgo. The WSA Twitter account received hundreds of references, and we were delighted to see the involvement and thoughtfulness.
The WSA would like to thank its many volunteers for an incredible conference – thank you for your help, insightful Tweets, and energy! Until next year. In the meantime, Let’s Go!
- Diana Lee, Director of Communication, Dynamic Women in Business, MBA 2015