A few useful Kellogg bits  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in , ,

I'm overwhelmed by all the cereal bits flying at me out of the Kellogg box. (c).

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. I seem to have spent a lot of time over the Christmas holidays 'researching' about Kellogg. There is so much going on, it is hard to know where to start. For example, there are over 140 clubs... so about 1 for every 8 students?... which probably explains why most of the club websites are out of date. Of course, I knew a lot of this before I applied - but I really started to get my hands dirty over the holidays. I even joined the mailing list for the Startup Incubator at Kellogg's parent institution (Northwestern University). I figured that since Kellogg has already given me an @kellogg email address, I may as well flaunt it. In the corner of my brain I did think "I should wait for H&S to reject me first... or at least pay my deposit", but I'd otherwise only waste time with something else, e.g. trying to overcome the temptation of eating another mince pie.

From my rummage around, there are a few things that others (even non Kellogg-ites) may find useful... Firstly, there are a few blogs written by Kellogg students that provide useful guidance on what lies ahead. I found an old post by a UK resident studying at Kellogg particularly useful. It describes a check list of things to do leading up to admission:
The earlier posts (towards the bottom) from this next blog reveal the early days of life at Kellogg: drinking the Kool aid of Kellogg culture, overcrowded days, and intense learning...
A few snapshots on DAK and a few more to-do things from an earlier applicant:
Looking ahead, the two main priorities seem to be to (1) get my visa sorted out and (2) getting my financials in place. On the financial aid side, I am disappointed that the deadline has already passed for the two scholarships that I could applied for: the Fullbright and Rotary. Having said that, the Rotary want you to get admitted into a few schools and then they want to decide which one you go to (urgh). Both are now starting to consider applicants for classes entering in 2010/11. I think I may need to settle on a loan from Sallie Mae. I wonder if my uncle in the US will act as a co-signer.


The Business School Plan, Version 1  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in , ,

Time to get my plans for business school into focus. (c)

Now that I am admitted to Kellogg, I'm focusing on how I can realize my ambitions. I'm spending a lot of time thinking about this. I have summarized where I am with this thinking....

By August 2009, just before matriculation, I want to have:
  • Drafted business plans for a couple of ideas that could be commercialized.
  • Got some kind of agreement with my current employer to fund some part of at least one of the plans, perhaps the development of a prototype. This is ambitious, but worth trying for.
By graduation at business school (2011), I want to have:
  • Established a much improved and refined business plan.
  • Built an initial team to realize and operate the venture.
  • Won funding from angel investors or venture capitalists.
  • Won a first customer (a company) for taking the product/service.
  • Put in place the suppliers necessary for the venture to work.
In essence, my plan is to go into business school with some fleshed out ideas and to leave it with a business ready for launch. I think this is realistic and achievable.

I am acutely aware of the pressures at business school: keeping up with studies, activities such as business plan competitions, networking and other opportunities. While two years to launch a business might seem like a long time, getting a business operational during the MBA would be a huge strain. Instead, the MBA can be an opportunity to gather the resources and experiment in readiness. Perhaps I will be able to tempt the computing department / engineering school to issue a project / dissertation opportunity for an undergrad to prototype my ideas? The PE/VC conferences over the two years will allow me to develop relationships with potential investors. The alumni network must surely have decision makers at companies that could be customers.

I expect I will not be able to get too actively involved in some parts of business school life, such as running student clubs. I might disappoint Kellogg in this respect :-/. I did too much of the clubs thing at undergraduate level; for the MBA to be a valuable experience for me, I really need to do things that will reach out beyond the school. Perhaps this will be of value to some at Kellogg.


TechCrunchUK's Christmas Party  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

The networking part of the event featured the highly predictable scenario of a mostly male crowd, with the odd cute girl and TechCrunchUK editor Mike Butcher dressed as Santa. (c)

The TechCrunchUK's Christmas Party on 16th Dec was an interesting night out. I attended the last speaking session, which consisted of entrepreneurs giving pitches to investors and the audience, as well as the networking event that followed. Riaz Kanani has a good summary of the companies that took part in this session.

Most of my evening was spent in the networking party. I was surprised by the number of startup type people at the event. It felt like we were back in the age of the bedroom startups of the 80s, when people were creating games that distributors would pick up and sell to millions. Perhaps this is the power of the internet. Some of the ideas that people were working with seemed so wacky (just check Riaz's writeup of the pitching session to get an idea), that it made me think my own business startup idea is the most solid idea in the world. It was insightful learning about how people were approaching their startup problems. One person, for example was reselling open source software while adding a bit of consulting. Another was rehashing and aggregating feeds to produce their own dot com site. There were also investors there. Some of them made interesting points: Hollywood always makes the most money during a recession, so there is interest in investing in entertainment. There is also an appetite for investing in startups that create cost savings for other companies. Among others at the event, I even managed to catch up with the BBC's technology correspondant, Rory Cellan-Jones. The networking venue worked well, with plentiful of free drinks and food.

TechCrunchUK have posted their own debrief.


Some You Lose  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in , ,

Application season certainly looks to be over for me. These posters sum things up. (c) & (c).

MIT rejected me!! Without even an interview! It aggravates me no end, since MIT is super-strong on entrepreneurship and that is what I want to do. In the meanwhile, while I have been writing this post, Wharton have sent me a denial too! It feels like the whole of the application season has suddenly come crashing down to an end. It looks like I will be going to Kellogg.

This admissions process has been interesting. It is clear that I may have stood a better chance at some of these schools if I went into management consulting after my undergraduate graduation and applied much, much earlier in my career. In hindsight, I think I also mis-calibrated / mis-understood the quality of my applications compared to others applying i.e. my applications were obviously not good enough.

In the meanwhile, I have started drafting business cases for two ideas I have. Both ideas are related to TV  broadcasting in the internet age, an area I know something about. I am a little concerned that my ideas might be trying to solve big problems that will quickly have lots of people swarming to them, rather than tackling small significant problems that are a great niche to grow from. If I can get to business school with a business plan (or two) in hand, I can start using the school's resources to establish potential customers and investors. It would be even better if I manage to get my current employer to sign up as a customer or investor.


Tech Predictions for 2009  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Perceptive Pixel is one way one way the which the way people interact with technology is changing.

As 2009 approaches, all kinds of are people starting to think about the future and what it holds. These are my predictions for next year in the technology space: 
  • I think we can expect advances in interaction devices that make it easier for people to interact with computers, as the iPhone multi-touch and Wii's remote control have done. It is the 25th anniversary of the Mac in 2009; perhaps Apple will introduce a touch-screen / tablet PC that works.
  • Increasing availability of free wifi spots driving mobile internet usage. My sister wanders around her university, shopping centres and home - constantly browsing the internet on her iPod Touch (not iPhone) through free wifi spots.
  • New collaborative / Social Media technologies for the workplace take off. For example, at my current workplace we have started using Yammer, a Twitter type thing.
  • With Firefox 4 adding Prism and Chrome already including Google Gears, more and more applications will be built for the web browser rather than the desktop. i.e. more things like Google Apps and Zoho.
  • New forms of devices that are neither mobile phones or computers will continue to reach expanding niches. This continues the trend of devices such as satnavs, flip cameras, ebook readers and portable gaming devices such as the PSP.
  • The internet will continue to challenge newspapers, movie producers and all other creators of content. How can money be made when content becomes free? Media companies, such as local newspapers, will continue to face bankruptcy.  News ways of funding / paying for content will need to be found. These could include, creating scarcities (pdf), crowdfunding, or new forms of product placement.


Admitted to Kellogg  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Hmm. This looks like a nice club to join.

I've been admitted to Kellogg. I wasn't expecting a call so soon, so it was a fantastic surprise. I was shaking with excitement for minutes afterwards. I wanted to tell everyone, but then told no one. I got the call towards the end of yesterday. I finished my work and headed home, still a little in cloud coo-coo land. I called my brother on the way home and left an answer phone message. He texted back later, "well done, but what did you expect?". Err... dunno. I called my sister; she was thrilled for me. I'll probably tell my parents later today; it will depress them that I've escaped the marriage conversation another two years.

On my route home there is a West Cornwall Pasty place. The warm cozy smell of freshly baked pastries and pies emanates from there. I had been resisting the urge for over a week, but decided to tuck in on a Chicken and Mushroom pie. I felt so guilty afterwards, when I got home I got on my rowing machine for 20 minutes. I then started emailing and calling my friends.

I can feel the rush of my life path wooshing in a different direction. The weight of the debt is also starting to dawn on me. Part of me has started thinking, "you're giving up a reasonably well paying and highly secure job to take on something in the region of $160k of debt... during a financial crisis?". I really need to make sure I make the most of any MBA.


You don't need an MBA!  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

The world's first MBA president has not done much to improve the perceived value of an MBA.

“You don't need an MBA!... Bill Gates – no degree. Steve Jobs – no degree. Larry Ellison – no degree. Richard Branson – no degree”. This was how I was received by an alum at an MIT alumni event on Friday, an event I had been invited to. This alum had completed his undergraduate education at MIT and earned his MBA at Chicago, which he insisted is the number one business school. “An MBA is only useful if you are in commercial banking and want to get into investment banking, or want to get into consulting”, he said. He himself was some kind of management consultant at a large software firm. I found it very hard to argue with him about the value of an MBA for entrepreneurship, but then suggested, “have you heard of Akamai?”. He grinned, said “no”, and walked off. Off course he has heard of Akamai.

The alumni event was a pub-evening type thing in a cocktail bar. The alumni numbered perhaps 20. A few of them were doing postgraduate degrees at my undergraduate university. Others included investment bankers and scientists. They seemed like a likeable bunch, but the  shortage of girls was blatant. I mentioned to a friend afterwards, “they did not seem like the geeky anti-social types that are stereotypical of the place”. She responded, “yes, but the geeky anti-social types probably would not go to an event like this”.

In the meanwhile, still no news from on the MIT Sloan interview front.



Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Want the diamonds at the end of the application process? Then don't turn into the basketcase that rings the adcom every day.

We're moving into the second week of December. Kellogg is rumored to have already started releasing admit decisions. MIT is expected to start sending interview invites from later today (Monday). Wharton is due to release admit decisions in two weeks time. So the run up to Christmas is crucial for my applications.

Foremost on my mind is the Seth Godin thing. It does seem like a really great opportunity. Marketing and sales are where I have least experience and exposure. These skills are key to starting any business. Seth Godin is perhaps a king of this area. Seth organised an information session conference call on Thu 5th. I tired to get on it, but it was full. I think there was capacity for 140 people. From this alone, my hunch is that well over 1000 people will apply. I expect he will take on at most 10 people. With the deadline on Sunday14th, I'd need to put together one hell of a stellar application. Even then, the odds say it'd be easier to get admitted to the school with the lowest admit percentage, Stanford.

Second-most on my mind is R2 applications. How should I approach my recommenders about R2 schools, having already given them a big thanks and a bottle of wine each for all their hard work on five R1 school applications? One of my recommenders spent 3 days on them all five R1 recommendations, while another other took an entire day off work to do it. They're going to be a little bit disappointed if they think that I might not get a place from my first five applications. I'll feel uncomfortable if I don't mitigate against the absolute worst case scenario. Secondly, schools such as Chicago are looking quite appealing. I think I will wait until Monday 15th to make any approaches to my recommenders for R2.


Seth Godin offers you an Alternative MBA  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in

Even if Seth Godin split some milk while drinking a carton, the Internet would go wild on news of it. Check out the results of this Google Search on Seth Godin's Alternative MBA.

Seth Godin: I've always thought him to be a little bit over-rated. However, there is no denying his incredible success. So I find myself suddenly very, very tempted by his opportunity to work with him, be it for free (to do an Alternative MBA, as he calls it) for six months.

His fan base already seems to be lapping it up with great enthusiasm. Calling it an 'Alternative MBA', surely the likes of me and the rest of you actual MBA applicants for Class of '09 must be the kind of person he is targetting. He has even timed it so that any of us could do it and still matriculate in time for the MBA in Fall '09.

The full details are here:

Anyone else tempted?


MIT's entrepreneurial strengths  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Fictional character Tony Stark (Iron Man) is a graduate of the MIT class of '87. He is also an entrepreneur of sorts, having taken over running Stark Enterprises, the company founded by his father. Of course, the problem often cited with MIT is that it doesn't teach you about girls social skills.

There is no denying the fact that MIT's entrepreneurial strengths are legendary. In some quarters, MIT's 100K Business Plan competition is known as the 'mother of all business plan competitions'. The competition has spawned companies like Akamai, with over $600 million in annual revenue. The admissions team at the Sloan school state that the business school inherits the entrepreneurial spirit from its parent institution. A post by a Sloan Phd student notes that "many aspiring entrepreneurs have said they selected MIT Sloan because of its special commitment to Entrepreneurship and Innovation through the E&I Program". I got a taste of MIT's entrepreneurial resources at a MIT Entreprise Forum event last week.

Of the 70 or so people at the event, there were only 10 MIT grads. Everyone else was either from a VC or a start-up. Talking to these 70-or-so people, the event opened my eyes to the mini entreprenurial dot com community in my city. Of the 10 MIT grads, there was perhaps one Sloan grad - but he was from the class of 1989! I've been in touch with him during the week; he wants a job at my company. I'm trying to help him as much as I can. Even though he can't help my application, I may end up in the same alumni network as him - better to get into the habit of helping now rather than later! However, to my surprise, my goodwill is already paying dividends: he has invited me to an MIT alumni event on Friday. I think I may well go. I guess this is what networking is all about - people rubbing each others' backs.


MIT Enterprise Forum: What does the current economic crisis mean for European entrepreneurs and investors?  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Intel was co-founded by an MIT graduate.

The UK MIT Enterprise Forum held an event last week, Wed 26th November, titled  'What does the current economic crisis mean for European entrepreneurs and investors?'. At the event, Abdul Guefor, Managing Director of Intel Capital EMEA, gave a talk on Intel Captial's business and current financial situation.

I was particularly impressed to hear that the MIT Entrepreneurship Forum has 27 chapters in the world, of which London is one. Entrepreneurship really does seem to be in the life blood of the college.

Below are the highlights of Abdul Guefor's talk.


About Intel Capital
Intel Capital think they are the largest investor in tech startups in the world. They also have offices across the world and have been investing in companies for 20 years. Whereas some VCs have only recently been realising that VC is becoming global, Intel has been there for 20 years. Intel does not use VCs as a way of doing R&D. Instead, there are things that are important to be done to help Intel’s business, but which Intel does not want to do. E.g. Wimax: Intel does not want to be a telco, but adoption of Wimax is important for growth of Intel based mobile devices, so it made sense for Intel to invest. Intel is also interested in spend companies that will be financially successful.

The trends that Intel think will be important are

  • Mobile broadband
    • emerging countries will go straight to wireless broadband
    • new types and varieties of devices that are neither the laptop nor mobile phone, but variations in between
  • Power efficiency
    • Electronic goods that regulate their power to ensure energy is not wasted.
    • Example, in the middle east, there are hotels that are interested in air conditioning that turns itself off when people are not in the room
  • Immersive Graphics:
    • In the past, graphics where computed by the microprocessor. In recent times, there have been dedicated graphics processors – built by companies such as Nvidia. Will there be separate processors in the future?
    • 3D immersive graphics are expected in the future.
  • Healthcare sector starts using IT
    • For example, remote monitoring of patients.

In the current financial crisis, we are seeing:

  • VCs shutting down
  • Startup companies revenues reducing
  • IPOs almost non-existant

The impact is of this plummeting valuations and fewer finances.

The crisis is different to the 2001 dot com bust in that this time the whole economy is affected and there is a lack of liquidity in the financial system. Stock markets are also not over-valuing stocks as much as previously.

So is there hope for entrepreneurs?

  • In a downturn, people / resources cost less, the quality of management shines through (i.e. the company is not on the up because everything is on the up), the less able competitors retrench and the long term investors prosper.
  • Great sustainable companies are built in this time, for example Google was built in during the dot com bust. Sterling Moss said that in racing, when there is an accident everyone slows down… but he speeds up to get past everyone else.
  • Entrepreneurs should create a ‘save the company plan’ (detailing cost cuts), rally their investors and ask if the board is functioning – the board is meant to bring outside perspective.
  • VCs sometimes complain that the entrepreneurship pool in Europe is not strong enough: the entrepreneurs are few in number, they are not pushy enough and they are not good at marketing.
  • According to a study, VC returns in Europe in the last 5 years have been -5%, whereas in the US they have been +2%. Is the VC model broken? It is probably just the case that VCs are pumping too much money into their companies; at large sums the returns will not be large. Instead, companies need to burn money slowly – for life, not just during a financial crisis.
  • Innovation, not cost cutting, will lead us out of the recession.
  • When choosing an investor, pick one with a strong track record and one that can provide capabilities that will make you successful. For example, for Intel the sweet spot is ventures that have a product and now just need a way to distribute it. Intel are able to bring in potential client companies. For some of their startups, they have run open days for potential client companies to come in.