Jan 2014 - Sep 2015
Having just raised $1.5m USD for my own fintech start-up, Divido (https://www.divido.com/), this was the most topical of all the subjects we’d studied since the start of the EMBA some 18 months ago. What made it extra special was the fact that it was taught in the heart of sunny Silicon Valley, in Palo Alto, and its surrounding area.
The course was unusual, in a good way, in that it was taught both by a professor, providing academic rigor, as well as an actual practitioner, explaining how things worked in the ‘real world’. Tim Jenkinson (http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/community/people/tim-jenkinson) is Professor in Finance at SBS and Allen Morgan (https://www.linkedin.com/in/allenlmorgan) is an ex Silicon Valley start-up lawyer and now an active early-stage investor. Allen is also the Managing Director of the Idealab (http://www.idealab.com/), which has built over 125 companies and taken 40 of them to IPO and acquisition. The combination of the two different perspectives from the lecturers created a very unique and inspirational learning environment.
The line-up of guest speakers in this module was the best we have ever had on the EMBA. Because my company deals with online payments, the guest speaker I was the most pleased to meet was Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal. He gave us a candid account of his experience as an entrepreneur in the valley and I got a chance to ask his advice on how my company should approach our international expansion. Some other particularly noteworthy guest speakers included a family of investors: Brook Byers, who is founder of one of the world’s most iconic VC firms, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, and his two sons, Blake Byers, who is a General Partner at Google Ventures, and Chad Byers, who runs his own fund, SUSA Ventures.
Throughout the week we were let out of the lecture room a few times to visit local companies. When we went to Evernote, the Chairman and Co-Founder, Phil Libin, gave us a tour of the office and we got lots of time to put our questions to him, his CEO and CFO. A group of SBS alumni hosted a visit and lunch at Google Campus, where we spotted Eric Schmidt in the flesh, as well as a few driverless cars whizzing around.
In addition to all of the above, and the morning runs around the Stanford campus, there was also plenty of time for other activities. I took the opportunity to meet with the fintech lead at one of the largest banks in the US to explore a strategic partnership. Others went to job interviews, enjoyed some serious shopping, or took the chance to sightsee around the West Coast before and after the module.
I think I speak for most people on the trip when I say it was one of the best modules of the entire EMBA programme, and a memory for life.
CEO and Co-Founder, Divido.com (https://www.divido.com/)
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