From the category archives:

Consulting

About a month ago I received an email from a friend I met at Audencia School of Management on my study abroad trip to France. She asked me if I had any contacts of venture capitalists who she could approach for funding the business she was helping her friends to start in Algeria. I had to admit that I had neither contacts nor much knowledge about venture capital. Even though there was some sort of an elective offered at GWSB that tackled on the new ventures and their funding, I did not take that course. One thing I picked up from talking to some students and reading business publications was that generally venture capital is extremely difficult to secure and you should have a really brilliant idea to sell in order to get a shot at venture capitalists.

So I promised her to contact some of my classmates from MBA programs at GWSB who I thought could have at least some exposure to or experience with the venture capital due to their jobs or because I knew they were trying to start their own businesses. I received back three responses from about ten emails I sent out. It was interesting to read those emails.

One was very short: “I’m afraid I’m not the right person to ask. I can’t even get VC funding in DC”. Another guy said that he was actually working at VC firm and they were raising capital for several projects in the Middle East. He requested additional information and gave links to his company’s website.

And one of the classmates, Ben Lee, a principal at BRL Consulting Group and a blogger at Sustainable Employees, gave a bit more extended general advice which I am going to include here with his permission. I actually featured a post from Ben recently in my blog too. Even though his suggestions are somewhat general, I found them quite interesting and helpful as the very first introduction to venture capital. So here is Ben’s advice:

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Regarding VC contact info, that is a great question.  Here would be my plan of action.

 1.  Write a fantastic feasibility/business plan.  Play extra close attention to the section on who is managing the business and their credentials.
2.  I would try to make your project/business work without needing a VC.  VCs fund an incredibly small number of projects that are presented to them and fund less then 1% of new businesses started each year.  If they have already exhausted the three Fs (family, friends, and fools), they might have better luck talking with a bank if they are from the US or live here now.  Banks in Europe sometimes can be a little tight with their money regarding entrepreneurs.  If they haven’t already, they should start building a strong relationship with their banker.
 3.  Check out www.kickstarter.com.  Pretty cool place to get funding for certain types of projects.
4.  Enter business case competitions and volunteer at business case competitions,  for two reasons.  Number one, if you enter the competition, you could win some money and/or resources for the business.  The second reason is to network with some VCs.
5.  Its all about networking.  Which it seems they are doing a good job with.  But they need to not just let people know about the project they need to let people know that they need funding, why someone should fund this project, and the viability of the project (30-45 second sales pitch).
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So I forwarded all these responses to my friend in Nantes and hopefully the readers of this blog find them useful as well.

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Just a couple days ago I was complaining about the lack of time and opportunities for part-time MBA students to network within the context of the business school. Apparently, having pumped myself up with discontent about this situation, I subconsciously was looking for opportunities to do something about it ;-) .

Over a week ago I received an invitation to attend a GW Consulting Club Networking event. It was scheduled for this past Friday night, and initially I was not sure if I was going to attend it. I was at such an event last school year. I met a few interesting people and had some interesting conversations. At that time I was in the beginning stages of the evaluation process to gauge my interest in management consulting. So I was looking at various opportunities to learn more about the industry.

Anyways, I did want to come this year, but some schedule constraints and overall tiredness by the end of the week could have prevented me from coming. Finally, on the eve of the event I sent my RSVP. The fact that I had a make-up class in Macroeconomics the same night and timing between the events was almost perfect also helped me to make up my mind

The format of the event was pretty much the same as last year. The organizers rented one of the mid-size dining rooms at the nearby hotel. Non-members of the club, like myself, paid a small ticket price to attend. There were some light hors d’oeuvres served throughout the night and all drinks, beer, wine, champagne were $5, – good deal for the downtown DC, I guess.

The more interesting part, of course, was meeting the people. There were GWU students and working consultants mingling in the room. From last year I mistakenly thought that the Consulting Club is only for MBA students. This is not actually the case. Even though it is heavily represented by MBA students, it is open to  and has members from other schools at GW University. This year I also met an undergraduate senior student interested in consulting career.

By my estimates consultants were outweighed by students at least 1:3. I talked  probably to 8 to 10 people. Three of them were consultants, the rest were students, some of them actually from my current classes. As I mentioned in my previous post on networking, as part-time students we don’t always have time for out of class interaction, unless it is a group project or other assignment that requires additional preparation. So it was a good chance to talk to them and learn more about them on informal level.

Overall I am pleased that I made myself come this year again. One interesting caveat to this event. Two consultants in the room had been in the attendance at the last year networking event. Last year, however, they were second-year full-time Global MBA students, and this time they were on the consultants part of the meeting roster, representing Deloitte. I had a chance to briefly chat with one of them, and it was nice to re-connect again.

So one thing that could be perceived as marginal compensation for lack of networking opportunities is that I, as a part-time MBA student, going through a three year program instead of two years, potentially have exposure to more people in the program, spanning through at least three graduating classes of 2010 through 2012.

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