feature

On the Ball

David Han, ’02, CEO and cofounder of Yao Capital, long dreamed of starting his own private equity shop. It’s unlikely, however, that he initially envisioned that that venture would pair him with NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Yao Ming, one of the tallest men ever to play in the National Basketball Association. Yet in January 2016—along with close Booth friend and Yao Ming’s longtime business partner, Erik Zhang—Han cofounded Yao Capital with the renowned Chinese sports icon. Their firm focuses on investments in the sports industry in China and around the globe. Considering that Yao is seven feet six and Han more the height of a point guard, the two men would be quite a mismatch in a game of one-on-one hoops. When it comes to investing, they just might be the ideal teammates.<br/><br/>Promising early Yao Capital deals involving the world’s leading kickboxing league, a booming North American sports nutrition company, and a fast-growing auto-racing championship featuring 140-miles-per-hour electric cars have put a smile on Han’s face. “We’ve made very good investments in the early stages, in and out of China,” he said, sitting in a sunny conference room of Yao Capital’s 10th-floor offices in central Shanghai. “We’re in the right time and the right place. And so far, it’s on the right track.

conversation

CAN Do Attitude

Let’s say that you are a smart, driven entrepreneur with a groundbreaking idea to revolutionize food packaging and eliminate all those Styrofoam containers littering the landfill. You’ve got a patent. You’ve got passion. What you don’t have is money. Plus you are in Europe, where early-stage investing tends toward the risk averse. What to do? If you are startup ValueForm and your CFO is Mandar Kulkarni, ’10 (EXP-15), you put your pitch together and take it to CAN, the Chicago Angels Network in London. Founded in 2012 by Shehreyar Hameed, ’05; Jonathan Weiss, ’00, MD ’01; and Rama Veeraragoo, ’12 (EXP-17), the global network of domain experts, mentors, and angel investors gives Booth graduates a chance at early-stage investment opportunities with entrepreneurial startups and extends the school’s commitment to innovation. In early 2012, Hameed had started investing in startups, and developed the idea of CAN to provide access to compelling investment opportunities to the Booth alumni network in London, elsewhere in Europe, and globally. “I wanted to invest and help entrepreneurs harness our strong, global, and diverse network of deep domain expertise to build successful businesses,” said Hameed, a senior financial professional based in London. “Hence the motto, ‘Engage! Mentor! Invest!’ It’s about setting young companies on the right path and opening doors for them. That’s where the real value comes from.”<br/>

conversation

Checking In

The Challenge: FibraHotel (FIHO), a Mexican real estate investment trust (REIT), had good partnerships with local operators and wanted to expand its hotel portfolio with international brands. Previous negotiation attempts with international franchises and hotel operators were not successful because they weren’t willing to negotiate beyond the standard international deal terms and US hotel standards that are generally used internationally. The Strategy: Guillermo Bravo Escobosa joined FIHO following the REIT’s successful initial public offering in 2012. FIHO built a reputation as a solid developer and real estate owner, and it had the capital necessary to secure strong growth in hotels in Mexico. At the same time during which FIHO wanted to grow its hotel portfolio in Mexico, it was looking for a new international partner with whom it could reach an agreement similar to those FIHO had previously negotiated with its local partners—a new international partnership that would better align incentives for both parties. FIHO wanted to find an international partner and develop a deal that was based primarily on a variable fee structure, rather than a standard top-line heavy fee structure deal. Additionally, FIHO wanted its international partner to be willing to “tropicalize” its products to the Mexican market and invest in expanding local operations teams. <br/>

perspective

The Book of Booth: Sinuhe Arroyo, ’11 (EXP-16)

Armed with a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Innsbruck, Taiger founder and CEO Sinuhe Arroyo, ’11 (EXP-16), came to Booth to hone his vision of building a global AI business. The result: a company that has offices in five countries and is becoming a global leader in cognitive automation for the financial sector. CBM: What was the genesis of your idea for Taiger? Arroyo: After completing my PhD and my first acquisition, I realized that I wanted to build my own business and play to my strengths. I took some of the research that I had been doing during my PhD and started building a product. In that sense, we are a textbook case of technology transfer from academia to business. Because I had a strong academic background, the transition to run a business was not necessarily easy. However, the Executive MBA Program helped me put the pieces of the puzzle together. You start realizing how you can assemble the business, and everything starts to make sense. You think, “Why is this not working? Why is this like that? Boom, that’s why it’s not working.” And then it just flows. That’s a beautiful feeling. CBM: How did the Executive MBA Program help you acquire new customers? Arroyo: It boils down to building trust and negotiating. I am constantly negotiating with customers, providers, employees, partners, and investors. Professor Lars Stole set the foundations for me to understand and think in pure economic terms with his Microeconomics class. Also, I really enjoyed my Negotiations class with professor Ayelet Fishbach, where all those concepts from Micro come to life. It was very beneficial to understand the different approaches and mechanisms you can use to negotiate. <br/>

perspective

This is Working for Me: Heather Brilliant, ’05

A financial whiz who studied economics at Northwestern, Heather Brilliant, ’05, worked full time as an equity analyst while attending Booth’s Evening MBA Program. After rising to the role of Morningstar’s global director of equity and corporate credit research, Brilliant moved from Chicago to Sydney in 2014 to take the role of CEO of Morningstar Australasia. Brilliant is passionate about Morningstar’s mission to help investors reach their financial goals. “Whether we are working with advisers, asset managers, or directly with an investor, we always have the end investor in mind as true north, guiding our decision making.”

perspective

At Home, Abroad

Kendra Mirasol, ’93, had one major goal while growing up in Janesville, Wisconsin. “I remember always wanting to get out,” she said. She studied German in high school and moved across country for college at the University of California, Irvine. During college, Mirasol worked in a hotel in Lindenberg, a small Bavarian mountain town. “They spoke zero English,” she says. “It was so fantastic for exposure learning. You had to sink or swim.” After graduation, in 1989, just before the Berlin Wall fell, Mirasol lived in Kranichfeld, East Germany. She stayed with a pen pal whose family struggled to get by under Communist rule. “They were basket weavers—they got paid $1 per basket.” While attempting to leave the country, she was interrogated at the border for three hours because she forgot to file the correct paperwork at the police station. <br/>“Those are exciting experiences,” said Mirasol, now president of IOR Global Services, a global mobility and talent development solutions company. Without work- and study-abroad programs, she said, “My life would be so boring.” Mirasol came to Chicago Booth to supplement her German literature and language background with business acumen. She was able to maintain a global perspective during her interactions with international students. Mirasol could tell that a good friend of hers from Japan struggled to adapt to the direct, unfiltered mode of classroom discussion favored by some American classmates. “It was so difficult for him to even contribute one idea,” she recalled. “He was probably the smartest man in the school, and when I saw that happening, I felt I had a responsibility to facilitate.” These types of cross-cultural support are needed every day, around the world, on a personal level, and in boardrooms. In April 2016, Mirasol’s passion for international exchange—and for the broader benefits of a global economy—motivated her to accept a volunteer role on the board of directors at the nonprofit Cultural Vistas. <br/>

In this issue
feature

Distinguished Alumni Awards 2017

Since 1971, we have celebrated innovative leaders across all industries, from finance to the arts, manufacturing to public service, and beyond. The Distinguished Alumni Awards honor individuals who continue to challenge and change the world we live in, exemplifying the resounding impact of Chicago Booth. This year’s winners—three from the Booth class of 1980—have blazed singular paths to the leading edges of four very different industries: oil, pharmaceutical research, cable television, and food processing. Yet they all have proven their passion for digging deeper and discovering more at every stage of their illustrious careers.

feature

All in the Family

When a family business has multiple generations and hundreds of stakeholders, how does an individual stand out? Create meaningful change? Carry the business into the future? We talked with Booth alumni who lead or manage family-owned businesses, from a conglomerate in Thailand to a national baker of breads that got its start in a Chicago basement. They all sought a Booth education because of its reputation for intellectual rigor, lessons in analytic problem solving, and world-class faculty. The family members who run these businesses have more than one generation schooled in The Chicago Approach™. They reached a point in their professional lives—inside or outside the family firm—when they saw the need to boost quantitative skills. For some, that time came after a world event such as the 2008 crash, which upended commodity prices. For others, the education was a way to step up and assume new roles. Relying on data instead of emotion eases decision making, they say. This doesn’t mean they’re bloodless. Always they have in mind their founders, most of them immigrants, who created what they now run. They share holidays with generations of stakeholders: there’s no ducking a failed venture. <br/>

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Entrepreneurs without Borders

In June 2014, after five years in the marketing department at Coca-Cola, Jonas De Cooman, ’16 (EXP-21), felt stalled intellectually. He was ready to push his boundaries. He planned to pursue his MBA while continuing at Coca-Cola. Then unexpected policy changes at work eliminated continuing education support for De Cooman, and it looked like his plans were crumbling. So he sold his apartment. With two small children, De Cooman and his wife carefully weighed their options and the risks involved. Selling their apartment in Belgium provided the only way to afford his MBA. “I decided to pursue an MBA to kickstart my personal learning curve,” he said. De Cooman realized that he wanted to gain more control over his career and make his own mark in the global marketplace as an entrepreneur. With an extensive consumer marketing background, a global perspective, and a promising business idea, he also saw knowledge gaps he needed to fill in order to launch and operate a scalable new business. “I am driven by personal growth and I felt that I was not learning at the same pace that I used to be learning at the start of my career,” he said. “I chose to study again because I didn’t feel equipped enough to be an entrepreneur.”<br/>

perspectives

The Book of Booth: Sinuhe Arroyo, ’11 (EXP-16)

Armed with a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Innsbruck, Taiger founder and CEO Sinuhe Arroyo, ’11 (EXP-16), came to Booth to hone his vision of building a global AI business. The result: a company that has offices in five countries and is becoming a global leader in cognitive automation for the financial sector. CBM: What was the genesis of your idea for Taiger? Arroyo: After completing my PhD and my first acquisition, I realized that I wanted to build my own business and play to my strengths. I took some of the research that I had been doing during my PhD and started building a product. In that sense, we are a textbook case of technology transfer from academia to business. Because I had a strong academic background, the transition to run a business was not necessarily easy. However, the Executive MBA Program helped me put the pieces of the puzzle together. You start realizing how you can assemble the business, and everything starts to make sense. You think, “Why is this not working? Why is this like that? Boom, that’s why it’s not working.” And then it just flows. That’s a beautiful feeling. CBM: How did the Executive MBA Program help you acquire new customers? Arroyo: It boils down to building trust and negotiating. I am constantly negotiating with customers, providers, employees, partners, and investors. Professor Lars Stole set the foundations for me to understand and think in pure economic terms with his Microeconomics class. Also, I really enjoyed my Negotiations class with professor Ayelet Fishbach, where all those concepts from Micro come to life. It was very beneficial to understand the different approaches and mechanisms you can use to negotiate. <br/>

perspectives

Chicago-style Economics in China

Qi Bin, ’97, has spent nearly two decades at the heart of China’s market liberalization. When he came to Booth, he decided to pursue an MBA over a PhD. “I believed that China someday would have to build a more advanced economic system,” said Qi, now Executive Vice President of the 10-year-old China Investment Corporation (CIC), the country’s sovereign wealth fund with more than $200 billion in registered capital and $810 billion in domestic assets. “Modern China would need people who understand free-market economics, and I could be one of them.”

perspectives

An Array of Talents

“Coming from an entrepreneurial family, I knew I would be starting companies,” said Shruti Gandhi, ’12. And in 2015, Gandhi founded a San Francisco–based venture capital firm, Array Ventures. While completing her undergraduate degree in computer science at Marist College, Gandhi worked full time at IBM as a software engineer, and she earned an MS in computer science from Columbia University. At Booth, Gandhi discovered a passion for venture capital, landing in venture capital roles after graduation, including at Silicon Valley–based True Ventures and Samsung’s Early Stage Fund in the Bay Area. Chicago Booth Magazine connected with Gandhi to discuss her passion for startups and the edge her Booth experience gives her in the high-stress world of venture capital.

perspectives

This is Working for Me: Heather Brilliant, ’05

A financial whiz who studied economics at Northwestern, Heather Brilliant, ’05, worked full time as an equity analyst while attending Booth’s Evening MBA Program. After rising to the role of Morningstar’s global director of equity and corporate credit research, Brilliant moved from Chicago to Sydney in 2014 to take the role of CEO of Morningstar Australasia. Brilliant is passionate about Morningstar’s mission to help investors reach their financial goals. “Whether we are working with advisers, asset managers, or directly with an investor, we always have the end investor in mind as true north, guiding our decision making.”

conversations

Six Days to Pitch

The History: The Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC) is the Executive MBA track in the New Venture Challenge process, which began 21 years ago. We kick off the GNVC in August when all of the Executive MBA students are in Chicago for their electives. The entrepreneurs put together a feasibility study about their businesses, encourage others to join their teams, and submit an application in October. We choose about six teams from each cohort—Chicago, Hong Kong, and London—to participate in the class. The Preparation: Because the course is so short, it actually starts as soon as we choose the teams. I have a kick-off WebEx call in the fall with the teams, who are located all over the world, to start working on their business models. I then host webinars for all of the teams on business plans and presentations. Finally, I have a second, one-on-one call with each team in the winter. Business plans are due a week before class starts, because I want the teams to have written their story and really gotten it down. The Curriculum: The weeklong class is stressful. It’s intensive, and it doesn’t look like a normal class. On the first day, students present to a group of coaches, judges, and outside mentors, and they get a lot of feedback. We handpick mentors for each team based on industry, business model, and startup experience to get them started working with outside people on their model and story. <br/>

conversations

How Do You Avoid Paralysis by Analysis?

Knowing when to stop looking at data comes up constantly in my Algorithmic Marketing class. In this class, one of the main goals is to be able to develop tools that would help someone make better decisions. Building these tools relies on knowing what exactly the decision is or what the question is. Very often people don’t specify their question in a precise enough form. You need to write down a specific question—it can’t be a vague goal or a vague statement. It’s important to thoroughly articulate your question and your research plan. The more precise your question, the easier time you will have looking for an answer. The question in itself isn’t enough, though. We also need to specify the exact parameters of an acceptable answer. It doesn’t occur to people to write down specs of an answer, but that’s another thing that needs to be done before you get started. You need to give yourself some set of parameters to help you understand when you’re going to stop even before you start. These parameters could be a set of rules you have to satisfy. For example, if I’m looking at how advertising impacts sales, it might be that I am looking for a set of parameters in the context of a particular model. Knowing that helps you look in the right direction. You have to chart out what the ideal answer would be, and you have to chart out what you’re going to be satisfied with in the findings<br/>

conversations

The View From New York

New York has the highest population density of any major city in the United States, with more than 27,000 people per square mile. Yet Booth alumni bump into each other regularly. “You come across them at work, on the street,” said Kate Gusin, ’07. “There are a ton of people from Booth here—everyone who moves here has this premade network of people coming from Booth.” More than 2,200 Booth alumni live and work in the New York metropolitan area. While they work mainly in investment banking and finance, they also delve into other fields, including marketing, sales, and publishing. Booth graduates appreciate the networking possibilities in New York. Jacquie DeSimone, ’97, described meeting a fellow Booth graduate at a happy-hour event and starting a conversation about skiing over a cocktail. By the time the night was over, they were talking business, and it turned into an opportunity for both of them. She isn’t the only one with that type of experience. “I was interviewing for a job and it turned out a Booth friend of mine worked there,” said James Reeves, ’13. “She was able to counsel me on the interview process, and I was also able to shortcut a lot of conversations about my knowledge and the breadth of my skills. The degree from Booth spoke for me.” Anya Gezunterman, ’01, agreed. “People here know Booth.” <br/>

conversations

CAN Do Attitude

Let’s say that you are a smart, driven entrepreneur with a groundbreaking idea to revolutionize food packaging and eliminate all those Styrofoam containers littering the landfill. You’ve got a patent. You’ve got passion. What you don’t have is money. Plus you are in Europe, where early-stage investing tends toward the risk averse. What to do? If you are startup ValueForm and your CFO is Mandar Kulkarni, ’10 (EXP-15), you put your pitch together and take it to CAN, the Chicago Angels Network in London. Founded in 2012 by Shehreyar Hameed, ’05; Jonathan Weiss, ’00, MD ’01; and Rama Veeraragoo, ’12 (EXP-17), the global network of domain experts, mentors, and angel investors gives Booth graduates a chance at early-stage investment opportunities with entrepreneurial startups and extends the school’s commitment to innovation. In early 2012, Hameed had started investing in startups, and developed the idea of CAN to provide access to compelling investment opportunities to the Booth alumni network in London, elsewhere in Europe, and globally. “I wanted to invest and help entrepreneurs harness our strong, global, and diverse network of deep domain expertise to build successful businesses,” said Hameed, a senior financial professional based in London. “Hence the motto, ‘Engage! Mentor! Invest!’ It’s about setting young companies on the right path and opening doors for them. That’s where the real value comes from.”<br/>