The second year beckons!

Back to school, as the summer draws to a close,
I reminisce over the first year, and my satisfaction shows,
For twas’ a year of new friends and learning intense,
And new vistas interesting, discovered through the Haas lens.

As I step onto the hallowed steps of our alma mater,
I sense new confidence, and hear conversations smarter.
A renewed excitement ignites the ambient air,
For the second year has renewed the first year’s dare.

Now, it’s not everyday that you see a roomful of adults ecstatic about having woken up bright and early on a Saturday morning after a week of intense work. But that was precisely the sight I was greeted with as I entered the classroom for Corporate Financial Management, the first class of my second year.

This semester, I plan to take Corporate Financial Management (CFM) and Negotiations and Conflict Resolution. Although CFM was an obvious choice for the quant jock/finance enthusiast in me, I’m particularly excited about Negotiations. Having transitioned into a new product management role in my organization, I can clearly see the need for sprucing up my negotiating and conflict resolution skills. And guess what, true to my enthusiasm, I’ve already started on my required reading for the course!

And yes, club activities have already begun. The Haas Tech Challenge this year has VMWare as its primary sponsor, and Amazon and Salesforce.com as its platinum and gold sponsors respectively. All you Cloud Computing enthusiasts, fire up your thought engines – the event starts end September!

So here’s to a brand new year, fellow Haasies, one that shall pave new roads for us all!

A call to action…

Disclaimer: Overly dramatized and laced with Indian Bollywood style-masala (spices) for readability and boredom prevention.

“Third place to the team with the fantastic ideas on investing in mobile payments” – I heaved a sigh of relief on hearing the announcement by the judges at the 2010 Apple Technology Challenge organized by Haas Technology Club. We were still clinging on to the hope of finishing in the top two at the competition whose question was to suggest a strategy for Apple to invest its $51B cash reserves.

“The second prize goes to the team with a great array of ideas on re-investing in the current Apple ecosystem and further developing the current market”. There was just one prize left, the first prize. Instinctively, my head turned down towards the floor, recollecting the three near-all-nighters our team had spent that week working on our idea’s presentation to the Apple product marketing executives.

Two weeks earlier, our team, Sam Kanakamedala, Shone Tran and I, Archit Lohokare, had been selected as one of the five finalists at the Apple Technology Challenge for the seemingly flabbergasting (not my words) proposal that Apple should spend a part of its $51B cash reserves acquiring Tesla Motors, the electric car company. The idea was a product of some very animated brainstorming over a few cups of coffee at a Starbucks between a software engineer, a product marketer and a technical salesperson.

Flashes of those all-nighters came back to me as I stole a glance at my team members. We knew our idea had strong merit, but backing up ideas with hard facts and data was important. Pouring over 20+ research reports on car telematics, infotainment, electric vehicles, Apple and Tesla from sources like Gartner, IDC, ABI research, Consumer Electronics Association, Frost & Sullivan, iSuppli, etc, we had managed to develop credible projections of the total addressable market, future market growth, opportunities, competitive analysis and a whole slew of consumer survey analyses to support our proposal.

Our team’s debates about how to organize the presentation started playing in my head. Focus on the strategic aspects, not on tactical considerations. Answer the fundamental questions with conviction and simplicity – “Why Car?” and “Why Tesla?” Obsessively working on each slide figuring out how it was transitioned into, and transitioned out of. What kind of questions could we expect on each point, and how could we credibly and honestly answer them. We had to remember that this was, for all practical purposes, a strategy presentation to the product marketing executives at the largest technology company in the world. And we were first year part time MBA students.

The night before the presentation then flashed before me – 3 a.m. and we were midway through rehearsing our presentation. By the end of the night, each of us knew the presentation by rote and had the numbers in the slides on our fingertips. And we were dead tired. I closed my eyes for a bit.

On opening them again, I was back in the O’Neill room at the Haas Faculty Club looking down at the floor. The world was seemingly at standstill and the only sound I heard was the judge saying, “The winner of this year’s Apple Technology Challenge, is TEAM TESLA”! That was our team’s “Miss World” moment – the moment where you stand up instinctively, round your lips into an “O” and then cover them with the palms of both your hands. We had won!

To end on a more serious and heartfelt note, yes, there was a lot of work and a lot of luck involved. I am not, from even the remotest perspective, an authority on b-school competitions. However, the purpose of this post, in all honesty, is to educate our blog readers that Haas and b-school competitions in general are serious business, and to be treated just as you would treat your job. Ideation and out-of-the-box thinking is great and absolutely needed, but as in the corporate world, these competitions will see probing questions from the judges on the validity and coherence of your ideas. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the team, its enthusiasm and its synergy make a monumental difference.

My EWMBA brethren, this is a call to action. So spread your wings, form your teams and attack these competitions head on. I promise you’ll enjoy every moment of it and come out, at the very minimal, with strong friendships, new confidence and great business analysis skills!

For those of you interested, here’s the collateral (slide deck, executive summary, and an acquisition strategy pitch-book) we developed for the competition. We were also helped greatly by a fantastic video developed by Blue Penguin Pictures run by Shone’s close friend Alan Chern, who we cannot be more thankful to. Comments and critical review welcome!

The past few weeks…

So, I’ve had a really busy and interesting month at Haas and couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. But then, I went on this long motorcycle ride with my procrastinating self, and got back from Wonderland only today.

Good memories of the Haas Scotch night organized by HAN SF last week; at least of the first 30 or so minutes. Not sure if I can remember much after that, wink wink. The evening began with an interesting comedy of errors, which involved one of my Haas classmates and me missing the Caltrain first at Lawrence Station, then at Sunnyvale, and finally getting on at Mountain View after a mad rush through South Bay back roads. The event was at the SWIG bar in San Francisco, and boy, was the bar full! It was truly fantastic to see so many students and alumni actively network on a weekday night. But then again, with 150 types of Scotch Whiskey, I wasn’t too surprised! I promise I (was) stopped at 20. Err, 30.

Now I do attend events that don’t just involve “I’alcool” (pardon my French). I, for one, have been interested in the field of clean technology for quite some time. Attending the third Berkeley Entrepreneurs Forum a few weeks ago was an amazing experience. Listening to accomplished VCs talk about where the current investments are being made, what types of technologies are in a “bubble” and which ones have true potential was an insightful eye-opener. I doubt I’ve heard a more articulate segmentation of the clean tech market from anyone before.

And then there have been a couple of interesting competitions I’ve participated in. Give my team your best, folks, we’re in the finals of the first Apple Tech Challenge organized by the active and fun Haas Technology Club. I haven’t had so much fun brainstorming ideas in a long time. And tomorrow is the first round submission of the VCIC competition. Talk about an interesting life!

Last night, I had a dream. I was 10 years old. I went up to my Dad and told him, “I want to be an Accountant when I grow up”. What followed next resulted in a call to Child Services in the dream, so I’ll leave the specifics out. Just kidding! Yep my friends, I dream of accounting these days. That’s how much fun and insanely exciting our class on Financial Accounting Analysis is. I still look back at our midterm group paper submission and am amazed that we learned such sophisticated analysis of financial statements in no time. In all honesty, it’s been one of the best classes I’ve taken till date. And guess what, Prof. Udpa has his own facebook fan page!

So there, that’s a quick snapshot of my past few weeks. And yes, James Bond called me yesterday asking if he could get my life.