2018

Stories related to "Entrepreneurship".

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From Fail to Prevail

When Lotika Pai, ’08, arrived for her first day on the job, she was told to leave. Her role had been eliminated. It wasn’t personal; Pai’s start date was September 15, 2008—the same day that Lehman Brothers, her would-be employer, filed for bankruptcy. After enduring a competitive recruiting process and graduating from business school, Pai looked forward to switching into the fast-paced world of investment banking. The setback was understandably terrifying. “It was the sense of being overwhelmed by something that I had no control over,” she recalled. “I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.” In the next few years, Pai got valuable experience as an investment banker at Barclays (which acquired Lehman Brothers days later), but she never forgot the anxiety she felt during the turmoil. “That situation was pivotal for me, in terms of wanting to change the trajectory of my career,” said Pai. That first setback with Lehman inspired Pai to consider entrepreneurship once she had finance experience under her belt. Last year, she cofounded Powwful, a Chicago-based women’s activewear brand that aims to change the conversation around fitness and empowerment. “Ultimately,” Pai said, “I wanted to be more in control of what happened to my career.”

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A Solution for the Caring Economy

Most nights, Chelsea Sprayregen gets a good six or seven hours of sack time—no small feat for a woman juggling being a student at Booth and the CEO and cofounder of the promising startup Provide. “I don’t do anything else besides work,” Sprayregen said without a hint of regret. But, she said, “I can’t function without sleep.” On May 22, however, nerves would keep her tossing and turning all night. It was the eve of easily her most important professional moment, one that would help turn her dream into a reality: overhauling and simplifying how childcare business owners operate. The next day, along with her fellow Evening MBA students on the Provide team, Sprayregen would present to a room full of business-savvy judges (including several Booth alumni), as well as six other finalist teams competing to win the 2017 John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge. <br/>

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The Book of Booth: Tandean Rustandy

With a $20 million gift to Booth in 2017, Tandean Rustandy, ’07 (AXP-6), committed his support to expanded research and programming in social innovation and entrepreneurship. Previously known as the Social Enterprise Initiative, the newly named Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation will serve as Booth’s hub for students, alumni, and faculty tackling complex social and environmental problems. Rustandy founded Jakarta, Indonesia-based PT Arwana Citramulia Tbk, one of the best-performing ceramic tile manufacturing companies in the world. Winner of Booth’s Distinguished Alumni Entrepreneurial Award in 2011, he is a member of the Council on Chicago Booth and Global Advisory Board Asia cabinet. CBM: Why did you make the gift to the Rustandy Center? Rustandy: With the center, we can attract the best and brightest minds—people capable of winning Nobel Prizes—to bring creative and innovative thinking and improve the world.

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Coffee Futures

Back when he worked in finance, Paulo Siqueira, ’04, used to wake up in the middle of the night worried that some market event would spoil his investments. But in 2010, Siqueira and his wife, Juliana Armelin, ’04, left corporate jobs to take the plunge into coffee, starting a farm some 400 miles north of their hometown of São Paulo. “Now, we wake up at night afraid there is going to be a frost in the morning,” Siqueira said.<br/>Despite the occasional weather-related insomnia, the couple has thrived in the coffee business. Two years ago, their farm, Fazenda Terra Alta, won the highest prize for espresso coffee in Brazil. Last year, it won again. Of course, that doesn’t mean the couple’s transition from business to beans has been easy. In growing their farm, they’ve faced a steep learning curve in a business just as volatile as stocks and hedge funds. “If we had known all the risks beforehand,” said Siqueira, “I don’t know if we would have had the guts to start.”

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Med Students without Borders

Like any successful entrepreneur, AMOpportunities cofounder and CEO Kyle Swinsky has developed a business that fills a need in an untapped market. In his case, it’s connecting international medical students to rotations in the United States. Swinsky’s Chicago-based startup is the 2017 winner of the Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge. Run by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the New Venture Challenge is one of the top accelerator programs in the country, and the competition this year was stiff. But Swinsky’s business model, which presented an original and profitable solution to a unique demand, pushed Evening MBA student Swinsky and AMOpportunities to the front of the competition.

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Pioneers in Education

Booth graduates eager to make an impact are finding new ways to apply their MBA—by taking on one of the toughest challenges in the United States today. A growing cadre of Booth alumni are gravitating toward the education sector and applying their business background in a variety of roles, all with the goal of making a difference in the lives of students. It’s an area that badly needs more innovation. In the United States just 59 percent of students who enter a four-year college graduate within six years, according to data from the US Department of Education. And in 2015, 46 percent of scientists rated STEM education for grades K through 12 as being below average, according to the Pew Research Center. For some alumni this less-than-stellar data offers an opportunity to take their careers to different corners of the education landscape—from nonprofit management and school leadership to consulting, investing, and edtech, to name just a few. The combination of addressing some of the nation’s most pressing problems while doing work that’s meaningful on a daily basis is a powerful draw. Meet six alumni advancing bold ideas and envisioning new solutions for the classroom and beyond.

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Worth the Risk

The Challenge: For most homeowners, buying insurance isn’t a customer-friendly experience. It takes time working with an agent and finding answers to numerous detailed questions. Filing claims can be arduous, and agents might not keep up with clients’ life changes, potentially leaving them underinsured. “They don’t even call you a customer; they call you a policy holder,” said Assaf Wand, cofounder and CEO of insurtech company Hippo. The Solution: Wand wanted to use technology to streamline the customer experience, but first he needed to learn the industry. Starting in 2015, Wand used his Booth training to break down insurance regulations and compliance into their smallest parts in order to understand how to build Hippo’s customer-centric model from scratch. “Basically we locked ourselves in the office for two years to figure this thing out,” he said.

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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.

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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/>

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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/>

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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/>

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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/>

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My Culture Collection: Bill Meyer and Sarah Perkins

Bill Meyer, ’18 (XP-87), who graduated in April from Booth’s Executive MBA Program, dreamed up DesignerShare after noticing a huge peer-to-peer gap in fashion-sharing businesses such as Rent the Runway. Knowing he needed someone with fashion expertise to partner with, he asked longtime friend and lifestyle journalist Sarah Perkins to team up. Perkins had frequently loaned her designer items to girlfriends in her college business fraternity and thought the idea of creating an online platform where women could monetize their own closets was “genius.” They joined forces, and DesignerShare launched in spring 2017. We asked the cofounders what keeps them current as they manage their uniquely two-sided marketplace.

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The Book of Booth: Immanuel Thangaraj, AB ’92, MBA ’93

As managing director of Palo Alto–based Essex Woodlands, Immanuel Thangaraj has helped lead one of the world’s largest health-care- dedicated investment firms in raising over $2.4 billion and building more than 100 companies. In 2015, he spun out its early-stage investment activities into Park Lane Ventures, and he remains managing director at both firms. The 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award winner serves as co-chair of the Council on Chicago Booth and is a dedicated volunteer across the university.

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Meet the Founders

For entrepreneurs, tapping into a like-minded community can provide that extra push to keep going. That’s precisely the goal of the Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellowship, or PF3, at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, where nine entrepreneurs are spending the year growing existing ventures. PF3, now in its first official run, serves as a yearlong incubator for Chicago-based entrepreneurs, providing everything from funding to coworking spaces to quarterly check-ins. Graduating University of Chicago students, Booth students, and decelerating Booth students can apply for the program. Here’s a look at the newest fellows:<br/>

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Booth 101: Cooking Local

After earning his Executive MBA from Booth in 2011, Daniel Tan, ’11 (AXP-10), decided to take time off to recharge and rediscover his passion before returning to the corporate world. Family and friends advised against it, saying he should leverage his new degree for a promotion and pay raise. But Tan stuck to his plan, and looking back, he has no regrets. “The entire year of slow travel in Latin America and Asia helped me discover so much about myself and the social causes I’m passionate about,” Tan said. “That eventually led me to quit the corporate world and become a social entrepreneur.” During his travels, Tan realized he had reached his limit in visiting temples, museums, and other typical tourist destinations. He yearned for unique local experiences, and started taking cooking classes wherever he could. “It was a good way to get to know a place,” Tan said. “The cooking-class teachers bring you to the markets. You get a crash course on local ingredients. It’s a complete cultural immersion.”<br/>

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Chairman of the Bordeaux

Stephen Bolger, ’99 (EXP-4), made his name in international management, first in industrial minerals and then in technology. But when Bolger and his wife lost their first child, a decision to align his career with something that had true meaning to him—and the emotional intelligence gained at Booth—led him to pursue his passion for wine in the heart of Bordeaux. While at Booth, Bolger took a class focused on creative thinking, and what he learned there helped guide his career. After working internationally for years, and suffering that tragic loss, Bolger founded VINIV, a Bordeaux-based “experiential” custom-wine-making company that helps clients create not just a personalized product, but a story to tell for the rest of their lives. I will never forget the class I took with professors John P. “Jack” Gould and Harry L. Davis. It was focused on creative thinking and getting a better understanding of “Me, Inc.,” which—when you're a young rabble-rouser—gives you an opportunity to take a step back and think about what motivates you. <br/><br/>

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City-Centered Solutions

Urban centers are growing at the fastest rate ever, creating challenges and opportunities for improving the quality of life, societal outcomes, and global sustainability. For example, fresh approaches are needed to address challenges of mobility, housing, energy, food, infrastructure, safety, civic engagement, and the effectiveness and transparency of local government. A few factors are enabling new solutions and more entrepreneurial participation: advances in technology, business models applicable to dense urban environments, design thinking, an emerging ecosystem, and local governments that are more receptive to partnerships and flexible procurement procedures. This is an experiential lab course focused on entrepreneurship in the urban context. How do we develop profitable, scalable business models to solve urban problems? Through crowdsourcing? Alternative financing? Mobile technology? By using design tools, working in teams, going into communities, and learning from guest speakers and mentors, student teams tackle an urban challenge of interest.<br/>

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Girls Will Be Entrepreneurs

Sharon Burns Choksi, ’98, had always struggled to find clothes she liked for her young daughter. She cringed and her daughter sighed as they walked past an endless number of shirts with only things like “sparkly kittens and dainty butterflies” on the front, she said. Maya, then 4 years old, loved trucks and baseball, but they could never find anything like that in the girls’ section. Instead, they encountered shirts emblazoned with phrases like “cutie pie,” “born to shop,” and “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me!” <br/>“One day, Maya turned to me and asked, ‘Mom, why do boys get all the cool stuff?’ Right then, I thought, ‘I’ll kick myself if I don’t try and do something about this,’” said Choksi. “If a 4-year-old girl was already absorbing that message, something was terribly wrong. Since the big retailers weren’t showing any signs of changing, I decided I had to try and create more positive options for girls.”

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Picking Up the Tempo

Ryan Crane, ’15, stood in his kitchen with a wristwatch in each hand, carefully observing bubbling pots of loose-leaf teas and breathing in spices such as ginger and turmeric. Crane was trying to make a new tea blend that would energize him without the inevitable post-buzz crash. A couple of hours later, he stood with a chilled glass of sparkling tea in his hands. After months of experimentation, stained pots, and pleading conversations with a stubborn SodaStream machine, he had landed on a blend that felt perfect. That was the moment that Tempo became real.

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Something Ventured

Two thousand miles from the Charles M. Harper Center, two Booth-bred entrepreneurs take turns stating their cases. Hands fly up from the crowd, and rapt listeners grill these innovators with questions about their businesses. Poised and prepared, the presenters answer without breaking a sweat. After all, they’ve already weathered the pressure cooker of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s New Venture Challenge finals. The presenting skills forged in that crucible are on display in their confident approach to a new challenge: Polsky Center’s West Coast Demo Day.

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The View From the Bay Area

Is the Golden Gate Bridge looking a little maroon lately? Perhaps. More than 2,600 Chicago Booth alumni now live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area. Though the tech scene dominates, large numbers of alumni also work in consulting, marketing, and investment banking—bringing a data-driven sensibility to the start-up hotspot. Alumni who attended Polsky Center’s West Coast Demo Day at Google headquarters (see “Something Ventured,” page 26) shared how they’re bringing The Chicago Approach to the city by the bay.

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Taking a Bite

When grocery store shelves and fast-food drive-throughs didn’t have what they were looking for, Booth students and graduates didn’t get frustrated. They got inspired. Sensing gaps in the fast-growing world of healthy eating, many of them are capitalizing on the booming good-for-you food movement to start, grow, run, and invest in businesses that bring nutrient-dense, locally sourced products to market. Booth grads are becoming thought leaders in the healthy-food business—a sector that’s growing exponentially and is expected to hit a record-high $1 trillion in sales worldwide next year. Healthy eating is hard to define. For some, it means buying whole foods free of additives; for others it means eating only organic fruits, vegetables, and meat from humanely raised animals; and still others focus on buying directly from farmers they know.<br/>

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Fund and Games

Manish Kothari, ’90, is general manager of institutions for Edmodo, a social learning platform, as well as a senior advisor in Cisco’s Entrepreneurs in Residence program. Thanks to a gift Kothari and his wife, Carmen Saura, made to the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the Kothari Saura Internship Fund provides participants in the Entrepreneurial Internship Program (EIP) with a living stipend, so they can focus on entrepreneurial endeavors. Andi Hadisutjipto—a Full-Time student and the founder and CEO of Chicago-based retail technology company Riviter—participated in the EIP in the summer of 2015 and benefited from the Kothari Saura fund. Bound together by their passion for the start-up scene, Kothari and Hadisutjipto joined a conversation with Chicago Booth Magazine to discuss diversity, funding, and the future of entrepreneurship.

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The View from London

It’s a natural fit—graduates of a business school renowned as a finance powerhouse thrive along the banks of the Thames, making their mark in the world’s preeminent financial and banking hub. More than 800 Chicago Booth alumni live and work in the United Kingdom, home to one of the school’s overseas campuses at Woolgate Exchange, in the heart of London’s financial district. It serves as the headquarters of the Executive MBA Program Europe, anchoring the Booth community as a gathering place for students, faculty, and graduates alike.<br/>

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A Workday With Todd Connor, ’07

According to Todd Connor, ’07, about 25 percent of the 250,000 active duty service members who get out of the military each year want to start their own business. In March 2013, Connor cofounded Chicago-based Flank 5 Academy, a personal incubator aimed at helping people launch a new career or business. The following year, he founded Bunker Labs, a Chicago-based organization that helps military veterans start and grow businesses. Military veterans and entrepreneurs like Connor now helm the 12 active Bunker Labs chapters throughout the United States, focused on expanding an ecosystem to support military veteran entrepreneurship in their communities.

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Booth 101: An Introduction to Beer Pairing

In the back of an Illinois-based taproom, Jamie Hoban, ’02, stands next to a cluster of wooden pallets. Heavy-duty shrink-wrap envelops each of the pallets, which are stacked in rows as high as a basketball hoop in order to protect their fragile contents: thousands of empty beer bottles. These vessels won’t be empty for long. Hoban and his business partners, Brian Schafer and Andy Smith, will soon fill them with Angry Dragon Pale Ale, Pink Tie Saison, Milk & Cookies, and other wildly inventive (and wildly tasty) beers made by their growing business, Ten Ninety Brewing Company.