Starting up at Booth – key learnings for MBA candidates

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First year at Booth I was excited, more than anything else, by the sheer number of opportunities available. It was intoxicating to try to navigate the endless stream of choices from classes, professors and internships to talks, socials and trips. I soaked it all in. After all, it was a special opportunity to meet so many diverse people rich with knowledge, cultivate deep relationships and explore, dissect new ideas! In my heart, I always believed that what mattered to me the most was building a strong community and generating ideas with others that can have a positive, lasting impact.

After spending a fulfilling summer in the growth strategy team at Credit Karma, I introspected. I positively loved building and nurturing teams to solve big, messy user problems through tech-enabled products and empower people at scale. This was something that each of the tech firms I worked with had in common – VMock (AI-driven smart career prep platform), Credit Karma (fintech player that democratized access to credit scores) and Shipbob (tech-enabled service providing “Amazon-scale” logistics to SMBs).

Deeper introspection made me realize that there was a problem that had been staring me in the face, and I could apply all those principles I strongly believed in! Closer to home in India, thousands in smaller cities were struggling to apply to business schools as they lacked the network or finances accessible to their privileged peers. Even more heartbreaking was to learn from 50+ of my international friends at b-school I spoke to, that messages on linkedin from those MBA aspirants were going unanswered. There was a disconnect on both sides of the equation that was perpetuating the ‘rich-kids become rich-adults’ cycle in MBA schools. I decided to act by using everything I knew to try and make a difference – building a strong, diverse team with Juan Pablo and Katie Orovecz, curating a community of~40 committed mentors from top 10 b-schools and bringing it all together in a tech-enabled marketplace platform to democratize access to admission support, with a vision to empower every candidate at scale. Early reviews from prospects have been heart-warming and we are positively surprised by the strength of demand from the community.

Through this piece, I wanted to share with my peers the key learnings I used to channel the frenzied energy from the first year going into the second year at Booth. I believe this could stimulate those who are looking to start-up while at Booth! Without further ado, here are my top 5 experiences/learnings:

  1. Choose classes can help shape your decisions & actions in real life

I looked forward to each class as I implemented the key takeaways at the end of each week: experiments through google analytics, hubspot, SEO etc. from the digital marketing lab class, website design and optimisation through application development class, managing collective team intelligence through leading & managing teams class, building a long-term marketplace strategy through the platform competition class, and the list can go on. A proud moment was the extremely positive feedback from the judges in final presentation of the New Venture Strategy class where Juan Pablo led the pitch. 

2. Professors can be the best long-term mentors & partners in your entrepreneurial journey

Prof. Lil Mohan helped us think in a very practical way about customers, digital acquisition and was happy to an advisor! Professors Lyndsey Lyman and Lil Mohan became our sounding boards to help better guide our decision-making.

3. Identify like-minded people early on to build a team-like-family that is as passionate as you are but diverse in skillset

This is the most crucial piece. If you can find smart people who you will have a ton of fun working with and get them excited about the mission, half the battle is won! We are lucky to be adding members (Panani Raman, Juan Pablo Villasenor, Chen Che) to our team-family who love doing this!

4. Make sure you know what you want by attending Polsky mentoring sessions, quick pitches and other talks

Navigating all those conversations can be overwhelming – we prioritized what we really wanted from each meeting and kept track of key takeaways. Speaking to TechStars for growth hacks, alumni for business analogues, Booth Bay Area Angel network for advice etc. – each interaction left us richer as we documented our leanings and next steps.

5. Best form of learning is by actually building something – immerse yourself in technology if you love it

I read a lot about different topics ranging from growth mindset by Andrew Chen, martech and adtech tools, The Lean Product Playbook by Dal Olsen etc. and spoke to many advisors. What trumped all this? Actually taking time to use these insights to build an online two-sided marketplace platform! Build something (anything at first!) and there is no substitute to that.

As I strive to learn more each day and implement those learnings in our startup, I reflect on some things that worked well. Here is the final thought I will leave you with: Focus your efforts on what can add value during the precious time here at Booth and build what you are passionate about for the long-term with the people you love working with!

Also, please don’t ignore those ‘cold’ linkedin requests from MBA aspirants seeking help and send them our way at!

Read the article at: Chicago Business NewsPaper

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