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Pursuing Careers In Entrepreneurship

Join us for a live chat about entrepreneurship at Booth. Current students and staff from the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Social Enterprise Initiative and Career Services will be on hand to answer your questions. Ask about resources and opportunities that are available to students who would like to pursue careers in entrepreneurship, private equity, venture capital, and social entrepreneurship. Learn about recruiting, competitions, curriculum choices, student groups, and more! Get insights into how Booth can prepare you for a career in entrepreneurship or social impact.

Chat Transcripts  

Guest: Hello! For those of us who want to be entrepreneurs, what internship options do we have? Where do entrepreneurs usually go or what do they do during the summer between years 1 and 2?

* Ramzi Assaf:  What I did in my summer is work on my business. The Polsky Center of Entrepreneurship at Booth has an Accelerator program where they 'incubate' your startup and help you reach some milestones in your business to push it through. They provide some funding (enough to push the business for the summer) and link you to mentors & advisers you need.



Guest: Hi! What are some ways for people like me who are 1-2 years out of undergrad to explore on the side if they would enjoy and be successful at entrepreneurship?

* Scott Stern: I think it depends on what field you are in now. Depending on your company, you can try and engage in more "entrepreneurial" projects at work, if possible. You can also try your hand at starting up something with your nights and weekends, or in partnering with someone who is trying to start a business themselves. At the end of the day though, entrepreneurship is really more a state of mind – are you ready for the risk and grueling effort that it takes? People think it means you have "no boss", but instead it's the opposite. You never aren't working, and are always grinding to make what you are passionate about successful.


Guest: I'm interested in starting up a company in the long run but maybe not immediately after MBA. Are there still many ways for me to explore/learn entrepreneurship in Polsky Center? What are some examples of them?

* Micheline Pergande: Yes, absolutely. The classes you take at Chicago Booth, especially in Entrepreneurship, are meant to teach you lifelong skills that can help you succeed no matter what your selected career path is. The Polsky Center is also a resource for University alumni so we provide many programs in which alumni who decide entrepreneurship is right for them later in their career. Are alumni are eligible to apply to our Polsky Summer accelerator program, can become members of our 34,000 square foot coworking and incubator space, called the Polsky Exchange, or can even get access to mentors, funding, etc. We also host an Alumni Growth Stage Forum twice a year for alumni with growth companies who need help scaling to the next level. We see some students get involved with the Polsky Center as students, but then go into traditional consulting, finance, or other careers…and then reach back out to us later as alumni once they are ready to start a company, or if they need help getting their company to scale.


Guest: Did you come to Booth with an idea for your next venture or did you develop/build it while at Booth?

* Ramzi Assaf:  I personally came to Booth with the stubborn (:P) dedication and all-in mentality to build a business. I started taking entrepreneurship classes which allowed me to meet with other students interested in building a business like me. Some students were 'exploring' while others were more committed. And then these connections triggered many sessions to think about problems we wanna solve in the world. And then landed a problem --> Solution --> Build it --> Etc.... :)


Guest: Did you both join Booth with intentions to pursue entrepreneurship post MBA or did it begin in one of the classes?

* Scott Stern: So I actually came in interested in Venture Capital, and I will be joining a VC firm when I graduate. Having said that though, the best venture capitalists have been entrepreneurs and can strongly empathize with entrepreneurs. I've spent my time at Booth doing as much as I can to gain these experiences (classes, events, working on startups, etc), and definitely can see myself joining a startup that I find myself absolutely in love with through my VC work.


Guest: Hi everyone, for those interested in exploring an entrepreneurship concentration, how do we go about picking classes?

* Scott Stern: These days there are a LOT of entrepreneurship classes. Fortunately, unlike other concentrations, most don't have very strict or linear requirements. Classes like Entrepreneurial Discovery, Entrepreneurial Selling, Entrepreneurial Finance, New Venture Strategy, Building a New Venture, Commercializing Innovation, and obviously the New Venture Challenge all help explore various parts of entrepreneurship. I think just talking to current students about which professors are best, and what they got out of which class, will help you figure out what order makes the most sense and which are right for you.


Guest: Can you explain the difference between the New Ventures Challenge and the Social New Ventures Challenge?

* Cortney Robinson: The Social New Venture Challenge is a tract of the New Venture Challenge.  This is along with the Global and College New Venture Challenges.  They all fall under the same "New Venture Challenge" umbrella but are all four are different competitions with different timelines.  The Social New Venture Challenge is only for teams with a social idea (either non-profit or for profit with a social mission) while the New Venture Challenge is open to all types of ventures.


Guest: Do succesful Booth entrepreneurs end up keeping their start-ups in Chicago or do most tend to move to one of the coasts on graduation?

* Scott Stern: I don't think there is a right answer to this. Each company is so unique. You can see some of the more notable companies that have come out of Booth, like GrubHub and BrainTree have both stayed in Chicago. With how much the startup ecosystem is growing here, I think that will continue to be the case. I'm sure, however, that some companies have moved away for myriad reasons.


Guest:: Ramzi, can you speak to the support you got from mentors & advisors while working on your business? Thanks!

* Ramzi Assaf:  I took my startup through 2 programs that the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship has: the Summer Accelerator and the New Venture Challenge (NVC) which I am in it now! Depending on where I was in the business, I needed some mentors ranging from branding, marketing, digital marketing, web dev, etc. Polsky has a lot of connections with working people and entrepreneurs in all functions almost. They linked me to them and I had several meetings with them where they helped me in that function. Some are still my mentors and advisers now. Some help me with running digital ads, others are more VC/Business Plan mentors, etc.


Guest: How do you envision getting rid of the financial burden of attendance when embarking on the entrepreneurship journey? Any advice?

* Scott Stern: It's tough for sure, and entrepreneurship definitely comes with risk. I am starting in Venture, so that pay will help at first. The truth is though, capital right now is very plentiful. If you have a good idea it WILL get funded, and as CEO, you can probably get close to a 6 figure salary. Not going to pay off your loans overnight, but it's important to VCs that their CEOs are not so stressed over money that they can't focus on the business.


Guest: What does it take to participate in the New Venture Challenge?

* Ramzi Assaf:  It takes a good PROBLEM you saw in the world and have researched and interviews people to understand more, and a SOLUTION you have proposed and ideally started prototyping (what they call MVP = Minimum Viable Product)


Guest: How is the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chicago area in general? Are there many start-ups in the region?

* Micheline Pergande: Chicago has become one of the top-ranked locations to create a new business, due to the diversity of our industries and the strength of our universities. Chicago particularly strong in the pharmaceutical and life-science industry, as well as in manufacturing and tech. In addition, over the last 10-20 years, the number of institutions and resources available to Chicago-based entrepreneurs, including venture funding, has increased dramatically. We are proud to work alongside organizations like 1871, MATTER, mHUB, UI Labs, etc. as well as with the Mayor’s office to drive innovation in the city of Chicago as a whole. We have many startups in the region, especially ones with Chicago Booth affiliations, such as Grubhub, LuminAID, Braintree, Simple Mills, Rise Interactive, etc. Unicorn company, Uptake, Groupon and several others are names you will find with headquarters in Chicago. Don't forget to check out the Fulton Market area of Chicago, which is where Google just set up a new office.


Guest: Hi there - Thanks for hosting this chat! The more traditional industries have very structured recruiting processes to land an internship/job. What are the key resources Booth has available for students looking to go to a startup or smaller company post-graduation? For any of the students here that are going to a startup or company without a structured recruiting process, what were the key things that really helped you in navigating the search?

* Scott Stern: You are definitely right – the recruiting processes couldn't be more different. At the end of the day, recruiting for startups is very unstructured, and a lot of onus falls on the student to be proactive. Having said that, the school provides a good bit of support. Start-up Networking Night happens twice a year, and is a great way for students to meet local area startups. There are also a number of classes that actual position you inside of a startup as a means of doing experiential learnings. I know people who have stayed on and gotten jobs through that. Career Services also works with some of the later-stage startups, or Booth startups, to try and get more formal postings through the GTS system.


Guest:: How would I go about reaching them?

* Kelsey Bergren: The 'Connect with a Student' tool is a great resource for this! https://apply.chicagobooth.edu/portal/studentvolunteer


1 Guest: Thanks for your time all. Scott -- interested in a similar path as you (want to do VC, but realize it would be important to understand entrepreneur's perspective): were there a lot of opportunities for you to match with people in that parallel path and learn from them?

* Scott Stern: A lot of people come in wanting to do Venture. Relatively few get into it, TBH. The second years when I was a first year were really great mentors, and as a second year I have tried to do the same. I am sure the current first years this year will do the same next year, etc. A lot of the most prominent VCs in Chicago are Booth alums, so there is a great deal of exposure to them. All the entrepreneurship classes I mentioned before are extremely useful for Venture, and there is the VC Lab which is taught by a Booth Alum/VC, and places you in a VC for the entire Spring Quarter. It is very much an apprenticeship based business, so learning is constant, and really only through interacting with other people. Short answer, I guess, is: Yes.


Guest: I've heard a lot about the New Venture Challenge at Booth and it sounds like a great opportunity and experience. How do students go about entering the competition or picking a team to be part of?

* Scott Stern: It's a very formal process. There are info sessions that explain everything. They also serve as a place for teams to start to form – you get to mingle and people share their ideas. As you go through entrepreneurship classes, people start to share their ideas and kind of group together to form teams. Or you can start something yourself and solicit teammates. Either way you apply at the beginning of the Winter quarter, and are accepted for the Spring class before the Winter quarter is over.


Guest: What resources at Booth give you the ability to pursue opportunities without the fear of failing?

* Cortney Robinson: There are a good number of experiential learning opportunities that will give you an in depth look at a particular field or career without directly impacting your GPA (if that is your concern).  One that comes to mind is the MBA Impact Investing Network Training program (MIINT), which pairs student teams with social startups to perform diligence and create an investment presentation.  This is a great way to do a deep dive into impact investing!  There are opportunities for you to learn more about your career interest areas through both Polsky and the Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI).


Guest: If you didn't come to school with a start-up idea, could you discuss ways you sold yourself to the admissions committee on your future goals even though they may not have been concrete?

* Ramzi Assaf:  Many people do not come to Booth with a startup idea. I am one of them ;) I just told an appealing and coherent story about who I was, what I've been doing and where I see myself (not specific to a specific idea but more broadly). But the more stuff you've done to prove you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur, the better. If you have tried things in the past, etc...


Guest: What support does Booth provide to an international candidate to start a venture? I assume it's not easy for international candidates to start abroad.

* Ramzi Assaf:  I am international myself starting a business now. Booth's Polsky Center of Entrepreneurship has lots of programs and resources you can take your business through. They also keep adding as they are receiving more funding. It's amazing! So you take your business through programs, work and work and it works out. Perseverance. Same thing as if you were from the US frankly. The only difference is that you need to figure out a visa status. And that has a solution. Your student visa can extend for 1 year after graduation (which is what I’m doing), then you can apply for an Entrepreneurship Visa (if you raise $250,000+ from institutional investors) or some other options if you have enough revenue then your business can sponsor your H1B visa.


Guest: I've read before about Hyde Park Angels - is this affiliated with the school? Have either of you been involved with it or know someone who has?

* Scott Stern: Hey sorry got kicked off. I had a much longer winded answer, but in the interest of time I need to shorten it: basically it is loosely affiliated with the school. They do a program called HPA Associates every year. 3 Boothies join as Associates for a full year. It is highly competitive. My friends have done it (both years I've known all 3). Being in Venture now in Chicago, I also know a bunch of the Angels


Guest: Are there opportunities (and sufficient time) to be actively engaged with startups or work on your business during the 1 and 2 years? (apart from the vacation time)

* Scott Stern: Definitely. Many people work on startups all year round. The New Venture Challenge is obviously the most high-profile way, but the truth is the best teams are working on it well before NVC starts. School, as taxing as it is, is only 9-12 hours per week. Tack on HW and extra-curricular and there is still a good bit of time. Basically if you're in entrepreneurship, when your friends are "recruiting", you should be grinding on your startup!


Guest: Are there programs that encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations around forming new ventures, particularly around more "hard science" ventures such as those in healthcare and biotech?

* Micheline Pergande: I love this question because if you have followed the Polsky Center in the last year you will learn that our namesake energy entrepreneur and trustee, Michael Polsky, gave a third gift to unite all the university’s entrepreneurship resources under the Polsky Center organization. This means that we are now focused on commercializing ideas and research coming from all over the University (including our affiliated national labs – Argonne, Fermi and the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole). We work closely with the Institute for Molecular Engineering, biological sciences division, physical sciences division, computational institute, etc. to translate research and discoveries into companies. The Polsky Center fosters this cross-disciplinary collaboration in a variety of ways and programs, namely our NSF-funded Innovation Corps program, quarterly post-grad and grad student mixers, and our Collaboratorium events, which is exclusively designed to connect Booth students with research that need to be commercialized.


Guest: Ramzi, how did your team come together for the NVC?

* Ramzi Assaf:  By talking to sooo many students about it and gauging if they are interest in the problem, the idea and the COMMITMENT to work as partners on it. Also through pitching in the idea pitches that Polsky organizes. The cool thing is that students have more time than working people to work on a business. And you are right in there. Just need to spread your wings to find them. Finding a team is generally the hardest thing about starting a business.


Guest: Could you talk about what resources the Social Enterprise Initiative provides for social entrepreneurs?

* Cortney Robinson: Sure, social entrepreneurship is one of our largest programmatic offerings.  A couple of the programs designed to support/grow your company include: OnRamp and the Social New Venture Challenge.  These are great opportunities to hone your skills and refine your pitch.  We also have some funding that we put towards social entrepreneurs (both current and graduating students).  Lastly, classes (like The Social Enterprise Lab and Scaling Social Innovation) and student groups (like EVC and NetImpact) are additional ways to learn and continue working on your idea.


Guest:I'm interested in entrepreneurship, but I've only experienced it from the Design Thinking and building/programming sides, not the business side. How would classes/programs from Polsky Center be able to help me grow all the other skills needed to succeed as an entrepreneur?

* Micheline Pergande: Getting an MBA, especially at a place like Chicago Booth, would be an ideal fit for you. First, unlike other business schools, the curriculum is very flexible, which allows students to “choose their own destiny” and take the classes they need to develop a particular skillset and to fill any gaps of knowledge that need to be addressed. We encourage all teams who apply to our top-ranked New Venture Challenge to have teams made of individuals with specialized skillsets because that will lead to better outputs. We host many events throughout the year to foster the team formation process and students are always looking with someone with a programming background to partner with.



Guest: I have some ideas in the context of social impact that I'm interested in. How developed do ideas have to be to take advantage of Booth resources? (e.g. can Booth help at the idea stage to launch a business or is it best to come in with a business that might already be launched)

* Cortney Robinson: We see students come in at varying stages of development.  Even with looking at this year's SNVC cohort, there are examples of entrepreneurs who came to Booth to continue to build their venture and students who had a "lightning bulb moment" one day and applied with not much more than that.  We really see a spectrum in this capacity and are happy to devote our resources to wherever you may fall!  SEI tries to tailor our offerings so that they are a best fit and set you up for success.


Guest: Can I choose to participate in the Summer Accelerator Program if the company I want to build will operate in my home country (outside the United States?)

* Micheline Pergande: Since we believe that the hands-on experience, mentorship and networking, and weekly programming is critical to making real traction and hitting milestones in our summer accelerator program, we require participation to be in Chicago. However, there are several other ways in which our mentorship and support can assist a student or alum wishing to launch a business in their home country. The Polsky Center works closely with our Booth alumni offices around the globe to support entrepreneurs in other countries.


Guest: How would you characterize the difference in skillsets required for traditional entrepreneurship / start-up vs. entrepreneurship through acquisition (i.e. a search fund)?  I assume there is quite a bit of overlap, but I'm curious about the differences.

* Micheline Pergande: Glad you recognized that Chicago Booth has programs for ETA…we have spent some time in the past three years building up our ETA offering – we have conference that we host with Kellogg that we started, an ETA class at Booth, and an annual search investors summits in which 5-6 Chicago Booth students and alumni pitch to investor to raise for their search fund. The main difference between entrepreneurship vs. ETA is that the idea/company is not your own for ETA, it’s not a company you are building from scratch. Search funders as they are called need to first sell themselves and convince a set of investors that they can successfully identify an acquisition target and turn that business around. Therefore, sales, due diligence, operations and management experience would be key skills for search funders. These skills – as well as being comfortable with the unknown and tolerance for risk – can overlap on the traditional startup side.


Guest: Thank you for hosting this.  Could you describe how the Social Enterprise Initiative interacts with student clubs, such as Net Impact?

* Cortney Robinson: We interact often with student groups.  We consider this the best way to remain abreast of what students care about most in the social impact space.  It also helps students utilize SEI as a resource when it comes to exploring careers or extracurriculars like case competitions and board service opportunities.  We like to be as available as possible.  We also demonstrate this by co-hosting events and offering event support.  It is important to us that student groups who are striving to grow the social impact community (at Booth and beyond) are successful in their initiatives.


Guest: Hello, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! Aside from having separate New Venture Challenge competitions, is there a divide between social entrepreneurship and traditional (for lack of a better word) entrepreneurship, or do students often get involved in both?

* Cortney Robinson: Students often get involved in both, which is exactly what we suggest!  I recommend that you explore traditional entrepreneurship classes and offerings while utilizing SEI and student groups as a way to "weave in" the impact.  You can do this through our programs (the Social Impact Leadership Series, OnRamp, SNVC), meeting with our Social Entrepreneur in Residence to learn more about his for profit social enterprise, and/or enrolling in a course. We also co-host many events and programs with the Polsy Center throughout the year.


Guest:Why is Entrepreneurship the most popular concentration at Booth? I plan to go into management consulting but want to pick up an Entrepreneurship concentration. Do a lot of students take this path?

* Ramzi Assaf:  People have different opinions about having a title on your resume that says 'concentration in X'. My view is that you want to show your employer that you are concentrating your classes in something that is relevant to them. That's all. If you like to get some exposure into Entrepreneurship, then you take Entrepreneurship classes at Booth. But whether the concentration will add any value to your McKinsey, BCG, Bain employer, I don't think so. I would take classes you want to learn from


Guest: Ramzi: are your NVC team mates going to be your partners in your business also?

* Ramzi Assaf:  I am lucky that I spent so much time recruiting and finding my team. Now 3 of them are staying with me in the business which is awwwesome!!


Guest: Another question for both Cortney and Micheline - how do the NVC and SNVC compare to each other with respect to exposure and funding available?

* Cortney Robinson: Though we grow in size and notoriety each year I would say that with the New Venture Challenge being the oldest of the four tracts it is subsequently the largest and most well-known.  As far as funding, winners of the SNVC can be awarded up to $50,000.  The NVC has a different prize structure but a first place winner can receive up to $90,000.  Placing in either competition is quite a feat and comes with alot of buzz both on and off campus.


Guest: Do you see Booth alumni starting up companies in regions other than Chicago area?

* Micheline Pergande: Yes, absolutely. For students that start their companies at Chicago Booth, but have a need to operate in another region, we fully support that transition. And for alumni who decide to start their company several years after doing their MBA, we are a lifelong resource to supporting them not matter what their geography.


Guest: What if you don't currently have a business idea/plan in mind - can you still participate fully in all of the classes? Is the experience much better/different if you have a business idea/plan in mind?

* Ramzi Assaf: Entrepreneurship classes don't need you to have an idea in mind. Some classes require you to come up with an idea with your team to push it through the class, and then you will brainstorm with the team and find it :)


Guest: which industry is the most prominent at Booth when it comes to entrepreneurship? How is the interest in tech startups v/s other industries?

* Scott Stern: The industries are definitely very diverse. http://chicagoinno.streetwise.co/2016/06/02/transparentc-wins-the-university-of-chicago-new-venture-challenge/ shows the NVC finalists as a good example for just how diverse people's startup ideas can be. In terms of people not starting their own company, but joining tech startups, FinTech is definitely a hot topic. It's the perfect marriage of Finance (Booth!) and Entrepreneurship.


Guest: Do you feel that focusing on entrepreneurship limited your global exposure? Can you talk about any global experiences you've either had or plan to take?

* Scott Stern: I'd say it definitely can if you let it. But that's very much a choice. Some people focus on local startups, others in SF or NY. I have friends who are gunning hard for London, and another who wants to return to Vietnam to do a startup. So it really just depends. If you goal is a Bay Area startup, then you will need to find other ways to get global exposure. Random Walk is one great way. Spring break and just general trips with friends is another. Booth itself is also such an international place, there are ways to get exposure to a number of cultures without ever leaving campus.


Guest: How does the Flexible curriculum work? Are we free to pick pur courses? or are there any fxed curriculum

* Scott Stern: There are a few rules that will dictate roughly half of your classes – the other half are honestly completely up to you. We have 3 core courses you have to take in some capacity (even if you opt out of a lower level, you still have to take something): econ, accounting, and statistics. Then there are 7 areas (Functions, Management, and Business Environment) that you have to take at least one class in 6 of those 7. There is also class called LEAD the 1st half of the first quarter. Otherwise... it's all on you. You can read more here: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/programs/full-time/academics/curriculum


Guest: Question for Ramzi - How do international students manage work visa in case they are interested in running their own venture in the US after Booth MBA?

* Ramzi Assaf:  Your F-1 student visa can extend for 1 year after graduation in what is called an OPT extension (which is what I’m doing). So you can work for a year after Booth on your business. Then you can apply for an Entrepreneurship Visa (if you raise $250,000+ from institutional investors) or some other options if you have enough revenue then your business can sponsor your H1B visa. I wouldn't worry about that. The hardest thing is for you to be dedicated and all-in working on your startup and not following the crowd - people getting amazing jobs at McKinsey, BCG, Amazon, Goldman, etc. If you're all in, there are ways. I would not worry


Guest: Scott, you mentioned that you were targeting VC when you entered Booth. Did you have any back up plans or other paths you were taking in parallel to pursuing VC?

* Scott Stern: I mean I knew that going to a startup was always a backup plan (both for my intermediate summer and long term); however, I basically went all in on VC and treated those backup plans as precisely that. The recruiting process for any other "real" industry (banking, consulting, tech, etc) happens too early – if you go after those, you will guarantee yourself to not be in VC. At the end of the day, being a VC is also about risk, and you need to be ok taking the risk to really fully go after it.


Guest: Based on your experience, will it be feasible to work on a NVC project and go through recruiting/non-entrepreneurial career path at the same time?

* Scott Stern: Yes and No. Yes in that they kind of don't overlap. Banking, consulting, and big tech are all done by early Winter. NVC isn't until Spring. Having said that, entrepreneurship takes like 100% of your soul and energy to really be done right. If it's your baby and you want it to succeed, I think it'd be hard, as you'll want to start it before NVC ever actually "happens". If you just want to join a team and learn a lot about the process and help a friend for the spring quarter... no problem or conflict whatsoever.


Guest: Thanks Ramzi! "The Student Visa extending one year after graduation" - are you referring to the OTP or is it something specific that Booth facilitates? I have heard that Booth has an entrepreneurship  support platform in India as well. Are you aware of any such thing in India?

* Ramzi Assaf:  The student visa extension is indeed this OPT - yes. 12 months after graduation. You can also gain an extra 2 months because you can start it 2 months after graduation ;) So that is 2 months after graduation on your student visa + 12 months of OPT ;) For the entrepreneurship support platform: I don't know of such a thing.


Guest: How do students participate in the Accelerator - ie is there a selection involved or is it open to all?

* Scott Stern: I presume you mean NVC? There is a whole application process and 30 teams make the class. 8-10 then make the finals. I don't know how many apply in a given year, but anecdotally I'd say it's well over 50 teams.


Guest: Is it more common/recommended that a student applying to get an MBA start a company first and work for a few years to get it started and then get an MBA or go straight into the graduate program first?

* Kelsey Bergren: The average number of years of work experience for a Booth student is 3-5 years. The type of employment can vary, in industry- such as entrepreneurship. However, there is an expectation to have some degree of professional experience when you apply.


Guest: Was there a particular class that you found especially helpful at Booth?

* Ramzi Assaf:  Oh there are so many. Between you and I, there are more classes that I want to take than I can take :( I came from BCG before Booth and starting up my company which is in fashion tech. So I was really interested to learn about Entrepreneurship and Marketing (which is a field I never thought I would like but I found it to be fascinating and kept taking more and more classes). In Entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurial Discovery (how to find a problem in the world to solve and get an idea), Entrepreneurial Selling, New Venture Strategy (how to assess a business plan and how to decide whether an opportunity is worth taking). In Marketing: Consumer Behavior, Data-Driven Marketing, Digital & Algorithmic Marketing.... There are tons!


Guest: How would you rate yourself before and after a Booth MBA?

* Ramzi Assaf:  Each person has a plan when they come at Booth. My plan was to start a business, learn about Entrepreneurship and Marketing (cuz I was weak at that), oh, and meet awesome people & have fun. So I would score myself based on all of those ;) And I can tell you that I am starting up a business and graduating with this business after Booth, raising money, etc. I learned a lot in Marketing!! And I met soooo many awesome people and had a blast with them! SUMMARY: I was a 6/10 before, now I am a 9/10. Always room to keep improving or else life would not be fun :D


Guest: What is the biggest mistake you see prospective entrepreneurs make throughout the 2 years at Booth as they figure out whether start-up life is right for them?

* Micheline Pergande: I tend to think of it a little differently. While a student at Chicago Booth, you have a once in a lifetime opportunity to try something that you might not otherwise ever do at any other point in your life. It is almost like a safety net that encouraged you to take risks and be bold. The worse thing that can happen is you try something and it doesn’t work how you planned. You will still graduate from a top-tier business school with an amazing network of friends, professors, mentors, who are here to help you succeed in your life and career. What I will say is that we encourage entrepreneurs to test their ideas and if they fail…better to fail fast. Entrepreneurs who do not get their ideas out there to be fully vetted and iterated upon are the ones who will have the most trouble adapting. Your best idea out of the gate is rarely the one that will succeed. Better to learn that early and be ready to pivot.


Guest: What motivated you to go to Business School?

* Scott Stern: I always wanted to get into venture, even since undergrad. I ended up going into energy trading instead, and after like 7 years decided I'd had enough. I did some angel investing in the interim which confirmed my desire to do that. I looked at my resume and saw nothing but energy trading for 7 years and said "I need to improve my resume and get some business experience". Voila. B-School


Guest:  Apologies if repeating, I think my question was lost due to connectivity issues. What would be your career advice to someone who wants to start a VC in the future?

* Scott Stern: To start a VC? I'd say you need a few things: 1) entrepreneurship experience, 2) vc experience, 3) connections. At the end of the day it's a business that can only be learned by doing. And funds can only really be raised by having a track record. You need to kind of establish at least 2 of those 3 before you could ever start your own fund. Or, I guess have a lot of your own money and just do it anyways, haha.


Guest: Scott as a follow up to the question about traditional MBA routes while doing NVC have you seen students pursue NVC and then go the traditional route if for whatever reason they stop their venture?

* Scott Stern: Definitely. A lot of people doing NVC already have "real jobs" and are just doing it for the quarter. Others plan to do it for their intermediate summer if they are doing it as a first year. Your first year internship does not in any way dictate where you have to end up afterwards (it definitely helps). I have a few friends who did their own thing, then in the fall when it didn’t work recruited for consulting and now will be doing that post-graduation.


Guest: I'm sure the SEI is constantly growing/adapting.  Are there any particular areas of development or change that SEI is planning for the next couple of years?

* Cortney Robinson: We are currently working on ramping up our research initiative at SEI.  This is increasingly important to us as we go about thinking how Universities can solve social problems.  We have done some preliminary work with other top universities and we also offer funding to support research in the social space.  We are also hoping to increase and tailor our career programming in the coming years.  We want to serve all students in this capacity.  So, that might be a student who is hoping to go into (or back into) the social space, a student who plans to make a switch into social impact down the line, or students who hope to remain in a more traditional space but want to make a mark on the issues they care about.  We've got alot brewing! Stay tuned.



Guest: Hey Cortney - who is the Social Entrepreneur in Residence and what is their role? This may be a dumb question but is this 1 person?

* Cortney Robinson: Dave Friedman is our Social Entrepreneur in Residence.  He works for SEI in a mentoring/advising capacity.  This means that each quarter he has a set number of office hour dates during which he meets with students to talk through anything from projects for class, to crafting a go-to-market strategy for your venture.  He's great and of course a Booth alum!  We also have an Impact Investor in Residence, Brian Axelrad.  He works with SEI in the same capacity with students interested in impact investing.


Guest: Is there any quantification around how many students end up pursuing entrepreneurship while at Booth (as a percentage of the batch)?

* Micheline Pergande: We post that information in our Princeton Review ranking.


Guest: Why should a student interested in entrepreneurship apply to the MBA at Booth instead of applying to other high-ranked MBA Programs? What is Booth's main advantage?

* Ramzi Assaf:  Great question Ana. I personally think that they just have so much money behind the Polsky Center and have so many programs for startups including so much funding in each program to propell you. After silicon Valley, Chicago is becoming a big hub and being at Booth is the best place to get all these connections. They have so many great entrepreneurship classes. New Venture Challenge is awesome - you take your business through it and then helps you raise money as it exposes you to majority of the investors and VCs in the whole are who look at Booth startups to invest their money. And so many other things.


Guest: For those looking to build a Search Fund, do you recommend Entrepreneurship classes/initatives or PE/Corporate Finance classes? Is there any specific resource to the subject of Search Fund?

* Scott Stern: I'd say yes to all of the above. Anyone going into search funds that I know has a concentration in Entrepreneurship and in Finance. There is a specific search fund class, as well as a specific group. See some links here: http://polskycenter.com/bootheta/about.html , https://www.chicagobooth.edu/faculty/directory/o/brian-o-connor , https://www.chicagobooth.edu/programs/full-time/student-experience/beyond-classroom/groups/search-fund


Guest: Please discuss one of your favorite professors/classes you have taken.

* Ramzi Assaf:  Consumer Behavior class (prof. Dan Bartels): Shows you the power of marketing in manipulating people's brains in a way that is beneficial to a brand. Sounds weird to say 'manipulate' a brain :P but this class showed really unbelievable ways marketers dominate our brains!


Guest: Scott - coming from a trading background, how did you show the admissions committee that you were serious about making a move into entrepreneurship and VC?

* Scott Stern: I left my trading job and actually helped launch a startup for a year before applying, mostly because I knew how limited I looked. I also think my angel investing helped.


Guest: Thank you Cortney for your earlier answer - I was also curious if a team can participate in both the NVC and the SNVC

* Cortney Robinson: That is something that has recently changed.  You now only have the option of applying to one or the other.


Guest: You mentioned Polsky Center provides support to alumni as well. What about international alumni who want to start a business in their home countries - are there any resources Booth could provide to them?

* Micheline Pergande: Alumni overseas can apply for Polsky Center membership who enables them to have access to our 50+ mentors and entrepreneurs in residence who can provide individualized guidance and consulting to alumni entrepreneurs. We also host regional events in key cities around the world working with our alumni office.


Guest: Being an international Student, Are we allowed to start a venture while we are still studying?

* Ramzi Assaf: Yes of course! Why not? All you do is register your startup as a C-Corp or LLC or whatever relevant entity and push it through. Then you need to figure out your visa status which is another thing. And that has a solution. Your student visa can extend for 1 year after graduation (which is what I’m doing), then you can apply for an Entrepreneurship Visa (if you raise $250,000+ from institutional investors) or some other options if you have enough revenue then your business can sponsor your H1B visa.


Guest: What sort of resources does the SEI offer for a social enterprise to navigate regulatory and industry specific hurdles for say an enterprise in the insurance space? (I ask because this is something I have been working on)

* Cortney Robinson: On those sorts of specific questions, we would likely connect you with one of  our contacts who has a deep expertise in that space. You can also get a ton of coaching/advice from our staff (including the Social Entrepreneur in Residence). There is actually a team in the SNVC now that is tackling those same hurdles!



Guest: About how many students would you say participate in the various summer accelerator programs through the Polsky Center? How popular are these programs?

* Scott Stern: 10-12 groups end up going through the Polsky Accelerator in the summer. A few are from NVC teams moving forward, others are new ideas. It's a great option though, especially since it helps financially for people working on their startup.


Guest: Is the NVC exclusively for MBA students? Can you apply in either year (1 or 2)??

* Ramzi Assaf:  NVC is indeed a Booth resource. The requirement is that at least 1 core team member is from Booth. You can apply as a 1st year or 2nd year. It doesn't matter