Silicon Valley Venture Capital Trek

The week after spring break, myself and a few of my MBA peers were fortunate enough to go on the Silicon Valley Venture Capital Trek in various cities – San Francisco, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and a couple others. As members of the student organization, Fisher Entrepreneurship Association (FEA), our goal is to learn about Entrepreneurship, Start-ups, Venture Capital (VC), and Investing through networking, events, and experiential opportunities. This was my first time on the trip, and it was by far one of my favorite MBA experiences so far. We met with Managing Directors, IPO Lawyers, Venture Capital Partners, and Founders & CEOs from various companies: Wilson, Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR), Google X, EY (Ernst & Young), DFJ (now Threshold Ventures), Prevedere Inc., and Aeris, and a couple others.

Listening to professionals in this space was eye-opening. There were so many questions myself and my peers had as young minds interested in learning how to get into the start-up space and understanding what type of professional experience and knowledge you need to be successful in it. Hearing success stories, failure stories, stories about the “grind” of this world, and honest perspectives about the start-up and venture capital industry gave many of us the ability to narrow in on what we would love to do professionally in this space. For me, after a few years working in tech and sports/entertainment, I would like to start my own company which will tie my passions together.

Most interesting things I heard during the trip:

  • Most of successful companies created their own market (ex: Facebook, Google, Intel, Cisco).
  • This idea of collaboration in tech is called “coopetition”.
  • Value = product-market fit / risk (execution).
  • NETWORKING is crucial!!
  • Get a mentor.
  • 3 parts to venture: 1) sourcing, 2) due diligence, 3) portfolio.
  • People who start a company aren’t always the ones to scale it.

What venture capital firms look for in entrepreneurs:

  1. How self-aware is this person?
  2. Are they able to recognize the fires and won’t ignore the problems?
  3. Do they recognize their own strengths and weaknesses?
  4. Are they persistent and do they have the mental endurance it takes to build and grow a company?

If you’d like to learn more about VC, start-ups, and entrepreneurship, below is a list of books and videos that were suggested to my classmates and I during our trip:

  • “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horowitz
  • “The Art of the Start” by Guy Kawasaki
  • “The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company” by Steve Blank & Bob Dorf
  • “Straight Talk for Startups” by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman
  • “Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs Identify and Build Billion-Dollar Successes” by Tarnang Shah and Shital Shah
  • “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore
  • “Something Ventured” – Netflix movie
  • “Secrets of Silicon Valley” – YouTube

Below is a list of people you should be familiar with – learn their stories as they either successfully built up billion-dollar companies or founded VC firms with highly invested portfolio companies in the Silicon Valley area:

  • Larry Ellison – Oracle
  • Marc Andreesen – Netscape
  • Andy Grove – Intel
  • Alan Shugart – Seagate Technology
  • Gordon Moore – Intel
  • John Chambers – Cisco
  • Steve Jobs – Apple, Pixar
  • Scott McNealy – Sun Microsystems
  • John Doerr – Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
  • Larry Sonsini – WSGR
  • Lewis Platt – Hewlett-Packard
  • James Clark – Netscape

A big thanks to Fisher College of Business, Professor Oglevee, Mr. Terranova, Mr. Coleman, and the MBA student leadership of FEA for making this trip happen and providing a wonderful growth experience.

The NBMBAA Conference Experience

This past September, the 40th Annual NBMBAA Conference & Exposition was held at the Cobo Center in Detroit, Michigan. For those of you who don’t know, the NBMBAA Conference is the “world’s largest career exposition with exhibitors from 300 of the nation’s top companies.” The event gathers members, corporate partners, and some of the world’s most sought after thought leaders for a week of exploration in the areas of dynamic leadership, technology and innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing, professional development, and education and workforce policy.

This year was my first time at the conference, and it was one of my favorite MBA experiences so far. There were so many top companies from a variety of industries, such as BlackRock, Eaton Corporation, Google, Johnson & Johnson, National Basketball Association, PepsiCo, Inc., Under Armour, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and Whirlpool Corporation. The conference also included different breakout sessions, pitch challenges, speaker lectures, and other events, such as “Big Data: Algorithms vs. Human Analysis” – sponsored by LinkedIn, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Microsoft and The Leadership Studio: R.E.S.P.E.C.T – Women in Leadership – sponsored by Georgia-Pacific.

The conference provided me with one of the best opportunities to get my face in front of my target companies. I had a chance to interview with Microsoft, the NBA, and Under Armour—three of my potential employers. I never imagined I was going to be able to speak with any of those companies, but the conference made that possible.

A few other benefits I received from the conference were being able to watch our case competition team present, speaking with local high students and undergraduates about The Ohio State University and the Fisher College of Business, getting invited to the NFL Kickoff Event at the Detroit Lions Stadium and the Microsoft Meet & Greet, attending an Under Amour Detroit Brand House event, and building relationships with other black professionals. I will always remember this event and how blessed I am to have experienced it, all thanks to Fisher, the Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and the NBMBAA.

Here are some other perspectives from a few first-years and second-years:

Neethi Johnson, second-year: “I had a wonderful experience at the NBMBAA conference in Detroit where I was able to connect with amazing employers, engage in fruitful conversations, and meet other driven, conscientious MBA students from around the country. As I continue to interview with companies I met at the conference, I look forward to maintaining and cultivating my NBMBAA relationships.” 

Chineze Okpalaoka, first-year: “Last month, I attended the National Black MBA Association conference in Detroit. It has been the highlight of my semester so far. I had the rare opportunity to have enormous face time with recruiters from organizations whose work I admire. I was also able to connect with other young black professionals from universities across the nation. One of my favorite moments was from a breakout session I attended on black women entrepreneurs. It gave me the motivation I needed to keep investing in my own ideas even while I am pursuing my MBA.”  

Tomilola Abiodun, second-year: “The Black MBA Conference was exciting and fulfilling for me. I had the opportunity to network and even interview with some of the top companies in the United States. I am grateful for the opportunity granted to me by Fisher and the Office of Diversity to volunteer and attend the conference.

“I was able to make the best out of the conference by preparing very early. I started applying to jobs on the website in July and started my Interview prep with career management in August. The conference provides great networking opportunities for a second-year MBA like me but can be very overwhelming if one doesn’t prepare adequately. I will advise students to make good use of the resources available to them at Fisher to ensure they gain maximum success at future conferences. I look forward to Houston next year where hopefully I will be at the other side of networking. Thank you, Fisher!”

Anique Russell, second-year: “I attended the National Black MBA conference in Detroit last month and the experience was unforgettable. As a first-year MBA student, it felt so rewarding and beneficial to network with established professionals. As an entrepreneur, I was inspired by the breakout sessions geared specifically toward women in business. I also attended the FedEx small business competition, it was very exciting to watch startups pitch for $50,000 in funding. I can’t wait to attend the conference next year.”

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

It’s day one, and we’re excited to begin a new chapter. We’re all bright-eyed and in a new environment, with new people, with multiple expectations, and with thoughts of what’s the year going to be like.

Then day two comes. We’ve sat through all our first days of classes and received our syllabi. Panic sets in, worry seeps through, and we’re sitting there with “omg” looks on our faces. We knew going back to school to pursue our MBAs wasn’t going to be a walk in the park, but little did we know just how far off we were.

Skimming though the syllabi, nervous and uncertain about how we’re going to handle everything makes the future look scary. Day two is probably the first day anxiety hit. As we head into week five, we’ve already been stuck at Gerlach Hall until late at night, probably sleep deprived, and feeling like we’re barely making it through. There are classes, student organizations, activities, cases, job search and preparation, and hundreds of other things we’ve all just dived right into and have on our plate, and now we’re swimming in the unknown. It’s during these highly stressful times that it’s important to take some precautions. First and foremost, make sure to give yourself some “ME” time. Your health and well-being are most important, so managing stress is key.

Here’s what I like to do to de-stress. I like to start off each week by writing out my weekly schedule and to-do list. Afterwards I’ll make sure I at least give myself a break during the weekend. Over the weekend, I usually sleep in to catch up on missed sleep. I’ll catch up on my favorite shows for an hour or two. Right now, I’m watching Power. It’s amazing!

Going out for a walk helps me get in the right headspace to get ready for my day and to process everything. I’ll usually call my family and talk to them. It makes me happy to hear their voices and to have them reassure me that I’m in the right place and doing what I need to do to reach my dreams.

One activity I recently started trying was yoga. I was very skeptical at first, but it really helps you meditate and relax the mind to be present in the now. It forced me to stop my mind from racing and to feel a sense of peace.

On weekends, I like going out with my friends to different events like football games, speaker events, or to new places that we haven’t been to on Ohio State’s campus or in the city, like the Easton area. The outlet there will give you a nice shopping experience. I’ve also ventured out to downtown Columbus for a Food Truck Festival. This is where I had Jeni’s, a famous ice cream spot here, for the first time, and ate the juiciest and most seasoned jerk chicken I’ve ever had. I’m from Chicago, and we have amazing food, so I was shocked to be so impressed by all the restaurants I’ve been to so far.

Going out is probably a #1 go-to for most people to de-stress, which is great because it’s also important to socialize and let loose a bit. Watching movies or TV, going for a run, shopping, adventuring around Columbus, meditating, getting a massage, the list goes on and on for things to do for “ME” time.

We need to remember that, yes, we’re here for a reason and it’s going to be tough, but our journey throughout the MBA program should be an exciting one.

Some of my classmates ride bikes on the Olentangy Trail, go bar crawling, play soccer, go to the ARC to workout, or even use meditation apps like this one called Headspace. You know what kinds of things and activities bring joy to you. What you need to do is make sure you manage your time, prioritize YOU, connect with others when the stress seems unbearable, and keep your head up.

Remember that you were chosen to be here for a reason, remember why you decided to be here, and lean on each other through the good and the bad times. We all came in together, and we’re all going to survive and successfully leave together.