Interview Prep – Maryland Style

September 25th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

The first question of my most recent interview was not the typical “walk me through your resume,” but rather an unexpected “why Maryland?” Without hesitation, I jumped at the opportunity to differentiate Smith.

The answer is simply,  the community.

A week ago, after the resume drop on our HireSmith job posting site, the employer requested interviews from myself and a number of my colleagues.  Within hours of the notification, we began an email chain connecting all the students who had been invited to the interview.  The thread quickly grew as we coordinated practice case and behavioral questions in the spare moments of the week and even set up a conference call with alumni over the weekend to ask about their experiences and gain some first hand insight.

The nature of all these exchanges was truly unique.  There was an incredible competitive fire,  not between each other, but to prove that, as a group, we were better candidates than those from any other school they might be recruiting from and, dare I say it, than last year’s class. We circulated notes and insights on the company and debated on their methodology at moments in between classes and late into the night.  With each crossing of paths, we exchanged words of support, reminding one another why we are unique, discussing how we would conquer the interview questions, and displaying a show of confidence for each other that could accompany a Roman gladiator.

After walking up to the interview suite with two of my colleagues by my side, even with all the preparation and practice, that first unexpected question would be the easiest to answer.

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Habitatin’ for Humanity

April 2nd, 2012 by under Uncategorized. 1 Comment.

This weekend we kicked off Team MBA month, where student groups put together events to help the community.  We kicked this off big with 20 students heading down to DC to contribute our blood and sweat to couple of homes-in-progress with Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat is working to rebuild a small community called Ivy City, just off of New York ave, where they are doing both new construction as well as refurbishing some existing spaces.

We split into teams with different tasks, most headed to do Demolition and waterproofing and myself and two colleagues to do Framing.

The morning was crisp and cool, but the sun hit just as we were getting into our groove.

I was on a team of three framing walls in the basement of a refurbishing project.  Being an older building, the floor wasn’t level, and very little else was straight.  There was a great deal of “caressing” to get stuff to fit, we certainly got a good workout from it.

The afternoon was capped off with a fantastic charcoal barbecue at the house of a classmate, where we compared battle wounds and the stiffness of our hair coated by a fairly substantial amount of dust.

The next event is a charity auction. Up for bid: dinner hosted by faculty.  Looking forward to it!

 

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Step right up! Get your Facebook Facelift here!

April 2nd, 2012 by under Uncategorized. 1 Comment.

It was about time for some real business in b-school.

This week we started our second set of classes for the semester. One of my three has left me sleepless with excitement.  The new pilot setup for Entrepreneurship and New Ventures class is a series of challenges, each leading up with the grand challenge of creating a business in the class, where we are graded on every dollar we bring in, in direct competition with our classmates.

This week’s homework was just getting our feet wet: Create a pop-up business and make as much money as possible in 2 hours, with only $5 in seed funding(of course to be returned with interest).

We decided to decline the seed money, and use what we had.  We setup shop at the entrepreneurship showcase at the UMD Entrepreneurship Invitational, our service: Social Media presence consulting, complete with taking new headshots of our customers on site for linkedin or Facebook.

 

Even Testudo was a customer!

We signed customers up for Klout, where they could gauge how changes in their patterns were affecting their reach, as well as gave tips on what patterns and strategies can maximize community engagement.

The exercise was a resounding success, bringing in $200 in the two hours.

I look forward to the next challenge, and will post updates as we go.

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Hilton Case Competiton

March 4th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

After two rounds and a dozen hours working on one of the best power point presentations I have seen come together, we were headed to join Darden, GW, Georgetown, and Memphis at the Hilton headquarters in McClean, VA, a building itself as beautiful as any of their hotels.
Case competitions such as these prove their value as an excellent networking and exposure opportunity to executives – this was no different with the VP of Marketing and the Director of the HHonors loyalty program in attendance.

Presenting in a conference room, we were the third of five teams to go. We were confident in our pitch after watching our competition.  It was a very intimate experience standing five feet from the executives who freely commented and interjected during our presentation.  We felt we had solid idea when one of the directors said adamantly “Sign me up now!”
The other schools interestingly enough presented across the variety of the six topics we had to choose from, ranging in focus from the changing demographics of the traveling population to the high customization of the hotel stay experience.

As the judges debated, we received a tour of the executive floor featuring four model hotel rooms, each prototyping a different initiative ranging from high tech to eco friendliness.The awards presentation had us on the edge of our seats.  The prizes, previously unannounced, were the highly coveted gold and platinum status in their loyalty program.  Third place went to Tennessee, second place, Georgetown.  At this point, we thought we were out.  But sure enough, first place Smith!
I couldn’t feel more fortunate to have worked among such dedicated and talented teammates Marvin Yueh, Emmy Lang-Kennedy, Ting Yun Chang, and, the power oint master, Johnathan Lee.  Johnathan, a second year, vowed to win this from the beginning, not  allowing himself to graduate without taking home a case competition prize.
So I’m thinking of taking my 100,000 points and platinum status to China next winter for China Business Plan competition.  Who else is in?
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an “Augmented Reality” view of the Smith Experience

February 7th, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

This semester I am taking the Technology Commercialization class as part of the “Smith Experience” requirement.  This course pairs teams up with inventors from the University to come up with business plans and consult in the next phases of commercialization for tech ranging from flexible batteries, to next-generation transistors.

My group is working with a team at Children’s Hospital, which is developing an algorithm to superimpose ultrasound imaging on 3D video for Laparoscopic surgery.  This tech basically enables superman-like vision to insides of organs. Very cool.

We took a trip to the hospital yesterday to see it in action and meet the inventor.

 

So far the class has been a very different experience than all prior academic work, and I am delighted to be working alongside CS and Engineering students.  The workload certainly has been sobering as well, so far meeting 3 times a week at 3 hours a piece, but definitely worth it.

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Hitting the ground running

February 1st, 2012 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

This semester started out quick with great alum mock interviews and a fantastic case interview workshop with folks from Deloitte.  These were perfectly timed events, as this is the beginning of interview season for internships.

The OCS (office of career services) employs second-years as “Leadership Fellows”, helping first year students with interview practice, resume and cover letter feedback, and as an excellent resource to know what to expect.  This week I was able to tap into ALL of this, and it was great.  I am so very thankful for all the help that they sent my way last minute.

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Leverage your online presence. NOW!

October 31st, 2011 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Employers will Google you, stalk your Facebook profile, and read your Twitter posts.  Why hide these behind a veil of security when you can use these to your advantage to get that job! Help them paint a well-rounded picture of who you are and prove that you are an institutional fit.  Take this opportunity to show off your art, travels, and hobbies.  Write a blog posts on an industry insight.  Share a recipe!

Here is an info graphic from stats recently aggregated from social media monitoring service Reppler. This graphic really speaks for itself.  Sourced from Mashable: (click photo for full size)

 

So there it is folks – don’t hide your social media presence – use it to further your career!

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How to launch your startup: establishing a web presence for those who know nothing about web design

October 17th, 2011 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Action(execution): The summation of advice I have heard to this date on starting a business.

At the Technology Boot Camp Zvi Band, a UMD grad turned DC start-up Tech Titan, gave a superbly succinct how-to on “existing,” which sometimes is simply the hardest thing to do.

Web presence.  It’s the first step to getting on the radar, whether its Google, blogs, or other social media. Being seen gets you in contact with potential customers. Potential customers get you feedback on idea validation and product vision. These first customers are your Earlyvangalists. These are “The most important customers you will ever know



For those whose business is far from tech, or have a tech product idea but not the expertise, this is a mountain that one would think would require money and or expertise to scale.

Thankfully, this is false.  Zvi gave us the formula to follow:

Step 1:

Test your concept: Landing Page.

Remember back when you had a 56k modem and used AOL to dial up to visit your friend’s new webpage, or that of the local business that seemed to have the perpetual “under construction” gif animation.

The modern landing page is much better than this, and you don’t know need to know jack about html to get up and running. I promise

Solution: unbounce

Or

LawnchRock

Step 2:

Ask users what they need

Build just enough to test with users.

Want or need a more elaborate web site, and custom tailored?

Solution: Sortfolio

Hire a web designer for your price (connecting designers and developers with you)  all you need is a wireframe on a napkin, send it to these people, and trust their design

Remember. Appearances are REALLY important, Zvi pointed out “If you are not a designer, don’t try.  Design is so important, you will lose potential customers if you try to do this yourself.”

Question: What if you have some knowledge, of either html or WordPress, but just need a template?

Solution: Themeforest:

Site templates and WordPress themes from $1 to $30 – definitely not a bad bargain.

I tried this myself with awesome results.  I used a WordPress theme, and just inputted my photos and content as if it were a blog.  Piece of cake.

Here was the result:

Wccdesigns.com:

Great. Now what?

Step 3:

Measure and adjust

Get immediate feedback on your web presence:

Metrics:

Many options out there to track how users found you, what they do while they are on your site, how much time they spend on each page, and much, much more.  All automatically collected for each visitor.

Who to try:

Google Analytics

Kissmetrics

Chart Beat

Clicky

It’s as easy as that.

Here is the worfklow again:

-Take Idea:

Test Concepts – Landing page

Ask users what they need

-Build just enough to test with users

-Measure and adjust

Get up and running asap. With Sortfolio, you can literally get someone to build your site while you sleep, so you can start to get customers to test your product begin to get feedback.  Get your idea out early, so you can create many iterations based on your Earlyvangalists.

Best of luck!

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UMD Technology Startup Bootcamp: I promise, I belong.

October 15th, 2011 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

Engineering and business students were brought together Friday at The Technology Startup Boot Camp, a yearly workshop put on by the Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute.  The institute, an on campus organization focused on technology capitalization, put on the even in cooperation with the Smith school’s Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.

The MBA students were the minority among the Engineering undergrads, masters, and PhD students, some with prototypes in hand ready to try their pitch on anyone who made eye contact.

The results were beyond my expectations.  The speaker panel discussion was led by Jonathan Aberman, a lawyer turned venture capitalist, who coaxed out candid thoughts from the panel, with my favorites below:

When asked “What is an entrepreneur?”

-“People to whom ‘no’ is more motivating.”

-Donna Harris, Managing Director, Startup Regions, Startup America Partnership

(definitely resonated on a few past experience of my own)

When asked “What are common mistakes of entrepreneurs?”

-The misconception of early phase competition: “In the early phase, there is no competition….because you don’t exist! Your biggest competition is yourself. So exist! Go get customers, and get business!”

– Alex Murphy, Founder, Long Tail Interactive

“Focus on profitability.” “Be thoughtful on venture capital and angel capital.” “ Choose your financial partners wisely. Choose those that can be more than money.”

-Donna Harris, Managing Director, Startup Regions, Startup America

My favorite moment of the afternoon was when a very confident engineering student stood up and asked, “What is the value of MBA- do you need an MBA?

It turned out three of the five panelists turned out having MBAs, and the entirety of the panel stressed the knowledge gained through the program, acknowledging that there were many ways of ascertaining such knowledge,  by far the most rounded method was through an MBA program.

Further points made about MBAs were:

“The person that understands numbers is most valuable in times of stress.”

– Jonathan Aberman, Managing Director, Amplifier Ventures; Founder, FounderCorps

“Having cross functional knowledge helps you be a better decision make.r” “[the MBA] is about making better decisions.”

“[Success] is about execution.” “An MBA helps put those tools in your toolbox.”

– Dadi Akhavan, President and Co-Founder, E-centives

With my current life choice validated, I sat up straight in my chair and pulled my jacket lapel back uncovering my nametag, reading MBA candidate 2013.

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Event Coverage – Dingman Center Angels Investor Breakfast

October 14th, 2011 by under Uncategorized. No Comments.

The Dingman Center Angel investor network is kicking off the season with 11 new members, adding to the group of 27 returning veteran investors.  Last season, over $1.2 Million was invested in 6 companies, from 132 that applied.

Capital Access Network (CAN) enables entrepreneurs of start-up companies in Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, and Delaware to connect with active, accredited angel investors. The purpose of the Capital Access Network (CAN) is to provide open and efficient access to early-stage capital for entrepreneurs in the DC Metro area.

The Dingman Center Angels pitch and investment season runs October to June, with monthly meetings featuring two to four pitch presentations per meeting.

The majority of the investors are looking to invest $25-50,000 per transaction, with most seeking to make 3-4 investments each this season.

The first meeting and pitch session took place October 12th featuring 4 companies; Airside Mobile, LocalUp, Urgnt.ly, and Venome.

The first to present was Hans Miller, CEO of Airside Mobile.  His app Airside Express offers users the ability to place food and drink orders for direct-to-gate delivery, parking space reservation, and multiple other service requests.

 

A user can link the app to their frequent flier numbers, where the app can access travel itineraries, knowing where the user will be and when.

Revenue opportunities come in many forms including Advertising, Branded Apps, and Revenue Sharing from in-app purchases (there is $7b spent yearly in retail, food, and parking at airports).

Their competitive advantage lies in partnerships in progress with HMS Host, and Master Card, industry knowledge and know-how, and critical mass (by locking in exclusive agreements with big retail and food chains).

Goals include $750k in revenue by 2013 and $3m by 2015, furthered by expansion into international airports.

With initial seed funding currently at $450k, they are seeking another $500k in convertible note with price cap.

This service really made an impression on me and the investors in the room, as this service could easily fill a much needed void in the market realizing sales for Starbucks and similar food providers through kitchens and prep areas in back-room space of airports, and serving a customer that might not have waited in line due to time constraints in making a flight.

The second presentation was made by Chris Jeffery, CEO of LocalUp Solutions.  LocalUp is the “Hyper-Local approach to Online Food Ordering and Restaurant Advertising.”

LocalUp is focused on secondary and tertiary markets (with over 150 markets where they can be a first-mover in the restaurant guide and ordering space)

Revenue streams can be achieved through:

  • Branded restaurant guides
  • Premium advertising platform
  • Online Ordering Application

The service is currently executed through a dual model: Direct and publisher (Licensing/franchising)

So far they have achieved $18m in sales

Looking for: $1.25m in funding

Mostly to allocate towards:

  • Tech development (40%)
  • Sales and marketing expansion (60%)

This pitch was the most figure-heavy of the lot, which was needed to exemplify the opportunity and performance in an already crowded market space.

 

 

Urgnt.ly was third to pitch, presenting a time and location relevant search platform. Where, for example, a plumber could alert the engine that he is in a certain area at a certain time, and is available for service, while a customer at that place and time would search for a plumber. Either service seekers, or service providers would utilize the space.  The engine would be free to consumers, with revenue generated when a service provider gets a revenue opportunity.

Their iphone app is built, while they are moving to launch android app soon.

Additionally, they are working on a buildout API in order to expand data to partner sites

This pitch was harder to follow speech, slow oral delivered content with overwhelming information on the slides, moving far to quickly to catch the important key facts.

The last pitch was presented by Kevin Lenane – Founder /CEO, and Product developer of Veenome. Veenome is a video processing platform that auto tags video ads over playback.

To hit the ground running, the service is starting with revenue sharing from purchases, a traditional pay through click model. The projection is that most revenue in the future will come from ad bidding for the products that are tagged in the videos.

There is significant competition in this space with Google goggles, Pokeware, Stipple, and luminate.  Veenome wants to get to the market first.

The funding ask was $500k mostly development (60%), and 40% management and customer acquisition costs.

I had the pleasure of seeing Kevin’s presentation 2 weeks ago at the angel review session.

It was amazing to see how this presentation has evolved, nearly completely different than the one I saw 2 weeks ago.  This had a heavier focus on social media sharing and response functionality. Kevin did a great job at heeding advice from the review session spending less time explaining the tech and more on the opportunity.  Overall, a solid product idea with potential.

I am excited for the investors, as Dingman has brought them fantastic opportunities.  I look forward to an exciting season ahead.

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