Archive | November, 2010

MBA in practice: Movember

30 Nov
Men with moustaches

Men with moustaches

Over November nearly 50 of us in the MBA class have been participating in Movember – raising money for prostate cancer research through sponsorship for growing some awful moustaches for the whole month.

It all started with a conversation in the bar, “would you grow a moustache?” Of course I would – and I would do it for charity too!

This allowed me to put a few things I’ve learnt on the MBA in to practice:

Strategy – not needed when you have a bunch of guys who have suddenly been given an excuse to release the inner Magnum, PI. Just point them at the right URL and they will sign up.

Marketing (Roger’s 5 Forces of Moustache Diffusion):

  • Relative advantage: having a moustache is better than not having a moustache.
  • Compatibility: having a moustache is very compatible with being a man (a real man that is).
  • Complexity: it is not very difficult to grow a moustache (for men at least).
  • Triability: you can experiment with growing a moustache, or try a fake moustache for the day to see if it will suit you.
  • Observability: the moustache is located in a very observable place.

The star/early adopter effect: get James Taylor to join in and anything is possible.

Economics:

  • Supply = demand is good. I ordered 132 fake moustaches so everyone could join in on “Moustache Day” last week and to my surprise, we sold all but 4 of them. This was partly due to the above “James Taylor effect”.
  • Price discrimination: fake moustaches were sold at a “suggested minimum donation” of £2. This allowed consumers to decide how much to donate. I think the top donation was £10 for a moustache.
  • Monopoly pricing – I was the only moustache supplier at SBS last week so I set the prices, which allowed me to extract maximum consumer surplus and make a profit margin of about 1000% (it’s ok – it was for charity!!).

Finance:

  • I had a portfolio of moustaches for sale. Portfolios of moustaches are good.
  • Finance professors like wearing fake moustaches, especially when beer is involved.

Financial reporting: I hereby report that we sold £263 of fake moustaches last week. I also wrote this on a bit of paper, and wrote -£263 next to it. I’m not sure why I did this, but it balanced.

Decision Science:

  • I created a complex regression model to forecast how many fake moustaches we might sell. This was based on world trends of moustaches, the bad-ass Magnum PI index and various other important variables.
  • An awesome lecturer is even more awesome when wearing a fake 118 118 moustache.

In total so far we have raised £2,806. If you stumble upon this post you can still sponsor us (and see some more pics), here: http://uk.movember.com/mospace/552498/

I’m now off to the pub, where I will be getting my monstrosity of a moustache shaved off by a barber with a cut-throat razor! It’s been fun!

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Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford: Awesomesauce

24 Nov

One of the events at SBS that I had been looking to the most was “Silicon Valley Comes to Oxford“, which was held at the business school on Sunday and Monday. I have to say the event did not disappoint – in fact it far surpassed my expectations. It truly was awesomesauce.

As a member of the Technology and Entrepreneurship OBNs (Oxford Business Networks) I had the opportunity to volunteer to help with organisation and to buddy one of the VIPs. I’m glad I volunteered for as much as I did, because I really managed to get maximum leverage from the event and meet some really cool people.

On Saturday I took the VIPs to New College for the Evensong service, which was quite something. Afterwards three of the MBAs had the opportunity to join the VIPs for dinner at the Ashmolean Museum. It was my first time up in the new restaurant and I have to say that while the setting and company were excellent, the food itself was a little disappointing. You really don’t want to serve chewy steaks to Americans.

After the meal I decided to hang out with the VIPs at the Randolph Hotel bar, drinking whisky and introducing them to Jura Superstition. I left at 2am and the hotel tried to get to cover the whisky bill which was running in to the hundreds of pounds! No chance!

Hanging out with Biz Stone & Raymond Nasr

Hanging out with Biz Stone & Raymond Nasr

The VIP I was buddying for the event was Meagan Marks, who was one of the first people at Facebook and is now VP of Product Strategy at Wonga.com, a London based mico-loan company and also an Angel investor in Groupspaces. She was really cool and a pleasure to hang out with.

Another highlight was my first experience of an Oxford Union debate, where the motion “This house believes Silicon Valley is dead: long live Green Valley”, was defeated by the Silicon Valley team which included Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn. If you want weirdy Oxford University pomp and ceremony, an Oxford Union debate is the place to get it!

The best part of the event for me was getting the opportunity to pitch my start-up idea to as many people as possible including several very prominent London investors. My idea was well received and they all wanted to keep in touch to hear more when I’m maybe looking for investment later next year. Until then I need to launch the prototype!

For anyone interested in Internet and Silicon Valley -type technology events, the strength of the event should be a very compelling reason to come to Saïd Business School. Just have a look at the list of speakers. It was pointed out many times that Oxford University is probably the centre for entrepreneurship learning in Europe now. That’s certainly one of the reasons I came to study here.

Caught short at SBS?

20 Nov
The Garden at SBS

The Garden at SBS

When new buildings get planning approval in the UK, there are often very strict limitations on things like the number of parking spaces that the new building can have. The idea is that if you limit the amount of parking spaces then people will be “motivated” in to cycling or taking public transport. The actual result is that people end up parking in nearby residential streets, thus clogging up the streets and irritating the local residents.

There is a similar policy at Saïd Business School, but it has nothing to do with parking. You see I have my suspicions that when they were designing this building someone told the architects to find a way of reducing the amount of pi$$ing and cr@pping the students were likely to do.

(Advance warning – you may have come to this blog expecting shrewd VC and startup musings or commentary about economic issues that I have learnt on my MBA. Well, in case it isn’t already obvious enough, this post is about toilets. I make no apologies.)

That’s the only explanation I can think of for building a brand new building this size with enough toilets to perhaps support a building designed to house the UK branch of the George W. Bush appreciation society.

In the first two weeks at SBS, most of the induction-type lectures were in the largest lecture theatre (the Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre), which can hold about 300 people. At every break massive queues would build up in the guys toilets, which had two urinals and one stall. The SBS Common Room has two stalls in the gents toilets. No urinals! In the first couple of weeks there could be 150+ people drinking beer in there! Then we have a pretty decent library, which must have enough study desks for a couple of hundred students, and there are no toilets. None! (well – one disabled one actually)

This leads to the unpopular “SBS toilet quests”. I’d say about 50% of the time you go to any given toilet here it will be full, which means you have to go on your quest to the other two toilets. Sometimes it can end up with you having to do multiple laps of the building until you find a space (like trying to get parked in a busy car park!). Often you’ll see the same students on the same quest but trying them in a different order. You give each other the “SBS toilet quest nod” to wish them luck with their quest, but at the same time hoping that you are the one that find the Holy Grail – an empty toilet.

Only the other day I saw one of these hardy crusaders falling to their knees, weeping as they made their 9th loop of the building in vain.

I just want a number 2 goddamnit!

I just want a number 2 goddamnit!

So if the new building parking problems are anything to go by, that must mean that SBS students are pi$$ing and cr@pping in the streets around the business school. That or using the train station.

There’s actually a big multi-million pound building programme going on at SBS at the moment. We’re told the expansion is to house more executive education facilities, but I have my suspicions that it could just be a giant toilet block.

Mentor^3

6 Nov
Magnets, how do they work?

Magnets, how do they work?

On Thursday I had the pleasure of attending the Oxford Business X marketplace, where a bunch of kids from various Oxfordshire schools came in to Saïd Business School to pitch business ideas they had developed and to recruit a pair of MBA mentors from our class. There were about 16 teams/businesses – we had had a chance to see their executive summaries in advance – and I was looking out for a couple of teams in particular.

The school kids were brilliant. They ranged in age from about 14 to 17, and I know I speak for all the other MBAs when I say that we were all really impressed by their business ideas, and, moreover, their enthusiasm when we were talking to them. After a solid hour of quick-fire pitches, the MBAs left the room to decide what teams they would like to work with.

I’m happy to say that I will be working with one of the teams I was looking out for. I won’t say what the business idea is – because I know some of the sharpest business minds in the world are reading this blog and they would probably steal the idea (yeah, I’m talking about you Branson) – however I will say that it involves recycling and magnets.

Flipping magnets, how do they work? I’m not really sure, and I don’t want to talk to a scientist to find out. Nevertheless, I think this business could really work. In fact, there are more than a few businesses in there that I think have real potential. Especially when combined with the might of the Oxford MBAs!*

I also recently was accepted as a MBA consultant on the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) programme. Essentially, I’ll be helping mentor some talented entrepreneurs in Ghana, mostly via Skype and email, and then hopefully next Spring I’ll get the opportunity to go out there and meet the entrepreneurs in person in Ghana. I’m really excited about this!

I’m also going to be a mentor on Oxford’s Youth Business Development Competition, which is an international business plan competition open to people between 16-25 years old. I might see if I can get some folks from my old high school, or Dundee University to participate, as I’ve always been looking for a way to give back to my home educational institutions.

I’ve got various other extra-curricular things lined up, but I don’t want to scare myself by listing them all in one blog post. I am not over-committed. Honest!

* please note such hyperbolic endorsement of our influence is slightly tongue-in-cheek. These kids are really smart and driven and could probably do fine without us…