Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stanford Re-cap

What a week! I (Eric) am now safely back in Palo Alto and just wanted to reflect a bit on the incredible week that my teammates and I had in New Orleans.

First, it was awesome experience working with Jen at Drop the Chalk. Jen has an incredible mix of domain expertise (teaching, computer science) and business savvy and she's targeting a need that absolutely must be addressed. Jen's tool is spot on in terms of what needs to change in education - analysis of student performance done in a way that frees up time for teachers. Here's Dave and Leonard hanging out with the boss.

From my perspective it was great working to help along such an important product. If I can give some credit to my teammates, I think the Stanford team did an awesome job of opening up some growth avenues for Jen's products and figuring out a plan to get the company from A to B. Of course we left town with lots of work to be done (Jen at 7pm on Thursday night: "I think you guys are off to a great start!"), but I think the right questions were raised and the path forward is a little clearer. The picture to the left is of Rachel bringing us home in our presentations.

Finally, what can I say to adequately describe my new found love of New Orleans? I'm not quite sure if it was the food (crawfish, gumbo, oysters, catfish, Mr. B's, Cafe Dumonde), the people (hospitality from the Beers and James Carville/Mary Matalin) the fun (Trombone Shorty, betting it all on red at Harrahs, mint juleps) or the entrepreneurial spirit that came up nearly everywhere, but this city is DEFINITELY on a roll. I have a completely different perspective on what can be accomplished down in New Orleans. It's incredible and it's contagious!

Thanks again to Drop the Chalk, the Idea Village, Berkeley, Cornell, Northwestern, Chicago, the local schools and my teammates for making it such a memorable and rewarding week. I'll definitely be back soon...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

And We're Out!

The fact that I'm writing to you on Sunday evening at Louis Armstrong airport ought to indicate that the Haas team survived Friday, and for that matter Saturday and Sunday. After a week of crawfish, too little sleep, controversial speakers and mint juleps we're out of here. Back to our homes devoid of grits, fried green tomatoes and people whom you're sure are speaking English but remain completely unintelligible.

Let's break down the exodus.

After the all-night marathon that was Thursday night one might be curious about how the Berkeley team held up. Here's how it went...

Two of us, myself included, peeled off at around 4:30am. Jim Coulter of TPG was set to present the next morning at 9am, leaving precious few hours to catch some much needed rest. Jim's a man who's not to be denied, so our team's approach was to make sure at least two of us got some rest thereby ensuring at least partial representation at 9am. Sandeep and I made it. Assembling downstairs way later than the expected 8am shuttle departure, we nonetheless made it over to the World War Two Museum theater by the appointed hour. Mike, our intrepid leader and one of the many who slugged it out well through the dawn to 7:30am, joined us. He's man made of some tough stuff.

But here's the problem. When we arrived at the WW2 museum we stumbled upon the ruined leftovers of a breakfast enjoyed. Bacon, biscuits and scrambled eggs lay warming in their trays, but the most sought after item had run dry. Coffee. Precious, precious coffee. All gone. Not a drop. I grabbed the urn by the handles and tilted it forward in desperation, hoping to extract a thimbleful more. No luck. I'd have to settle for decaf.

About ten years ago I attended a dance music campout up in Willitts in Northern California. After a night of moving my body to progressive house beats I got in line for the breakfast. Moving down the stations I made it to the coffee. There was plenty and my cup was filled. The person in front of me questioned the server as he poured the live-giving liquid into my mug.

"Do you have any decaf?" he asked.

"I've got a better idea," retorted the server, "how about I give you some pot to smoke that won't get you high?"

Well put. There's no way to improve upon the statement by adding any further commentary.

Only decaf?!?! That's a desperate situation. Jim's an engaging speaker and you probably don't need me to tell you that. His private equity credentials are without peer and when a man of his stature gets up to speak paying attention is the best thing to do. But paying attention without adequate sleep and only decaf coursing through one's veins is something that belongs on a Japanese torture show. I looked at Mike. He'd had far less sleep than even me and yet he shrugged off the lack of stimulants as if this was all part of a normal day. Jim started speaking.

Then comes the realization. When Jim Coulter speaks stimulants are irrelevant. He's a captivating speaker whose command of the stage equals his command of business concepts. He laid out the entrepreneurial tableau for the audience, and he's eminently qualified to do it. Perhaps most striking of his comments was his firm's avowed mission to reject the assholes, even when their more craven corporate minds might pressure them to do otherwise. This is a refreshing thought, and in the wake of the turgid financial mess through which the world has slogged it represents the direction that many of us wished Wall Street had taken years ago. For many of us the financial industry as a whole has for too long been held under the sway of the assholes. With the industry in disarray there's a good chance that the Jim Coulters are the force of the future rather than the Gordon Gekkos. Okay, Jim's a real person and Gekko's a fictional character and that's where things start to fall apart but you get the idea.

The remainder of the Haas team streamed in at a steady pace. Each looking terrible and each still somehow managing to tap their last drops of adrenaline. The panel presentations loomed in the afternoon and Anoobhav still felt short of practice. Carmie-C, leader of the pack, seemed more calm, but there's a good chance that calm was really just a manifestation of extreme exhaustion. They soldiered on.

The short of it all was that we did in fact make it through the day. It's easy to get nervous when pitching a five minute presentation to a room filled with the likes of General Wesley Clark and the afore-mentioned Jim Coulter. To their credit, Anoobhav and Carmen kept their bottle. Most sane people would have been overwhelmed by a sense of intimidation and I wouldn't have blamed either Anoobhav or Carmer for leaving something warm and sloppy in their underpants. Of course they didn't. They kept their cool and in spite of their extreme exhaustion, managed to represent both our entrepreneur and Haas in a positive light.

And did we win? No, that honor went to Cornell. Although it should be pointed out that at no stage was the week ever about winning in the traditional sense. All that I think any of us sought to win was the confidence of our entrepreneurs and the support of our peers. Anything beyond that was cake. Winning might also include seeing Sandeep shuffle his feet one more time and we were certainly treated to that.

As the sun set on Friday we piled into the bus and made our way over to the palatial home of James "Ragin' Cajun" Carville and Mary Matalin. Scattered amongst the hundreds gathered there were the team members who over the course of the week had looked New Orleans in its metaphoric eye and said yeah, I'll have me some of that. Roll call please...

Carmen "Team Momma" Chan

Anoop "Heart to Heart" Mathew

Anoobhav "Problem Child" Singh

Vikas "End of the Day" Meka

Kenny "K-Dog" Do

Sandeep "Flash for Beads" Kohli

Rohan "Sassy Pants" Thompson

Mike "Stayin' Alive" Dansbury

I'm not sure any of us mastered the use of "y'all". See you next year.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name

The team that Haas sent to the Idea Village this year is by any measure a diverse group. The team boasts only one whitey and he's bald and not even American. While last year's team was similarly diverse, see if you can pick what separates Haas NOEW 2010 from 2009. Let me help: the male to female ratio. There's no rhyme or reason to it, this year there are simply more men than women on the team—a lot more. The ratio is seven to one. Spare a thought for our lone woman, Carmen, forced to spend a week locked away in an office with seven boisterous men, many of whom have poor hygiene habits and eat too many onions and too much spicy food.

Back in Berkeley when it dawned on us just how far out of whack our gender balance was going to be, we set about cooking up a decent name for our team. It was fodder for a bit of fun. Here were a few of the ideas we conceived. Don't dwell on them too long. Hold them in your mind for a moment and then think about how we arrived at our preferred option.

The Suburban Lawns, The Stinkin' Hippies, The Left Coast Tree Huggers, Gold Mansachs...

Each name was supposed to be evocative of something (except the Suburban Lawns thing which is just totally meaningless) and the list went on a few longer, but ultimately the team settled on a winner: Carmie-C and the Sensuous Seven. It captures the team well. Led by the incomparable Carmen Chan, the remaining assemblage of seven men immediately responded to her woman's touch and rapidly accepted her direction. She's a natural in the role.

Team mom, Carmie-C, seeks midnight solace in a delicious dessert

Now maybe you can guess the dynamic that eventually emerged as the week in New Orleans wore on. The Sensuous Seven, at least those who are accustomed to life with our significant others, came to view Carmen as the team mom. It's not fair and none of us would openly admit that they wanted the interpersonal dynamics to go that way but that's sort of how things played out. Carmen's a born leader, and for most us the first woman whose leadership we learned to follow was our mothers. It's sad but it's true. So true. We're weak. Somehow us menfolk are conditioned to slot into deeply ingrained roles when the situation demands it. Let's see how she's able to push, shove and kick us towards our deadline tomorrow. I'll not-so-live blog the end.

We finished dinner downstairs at Capdeville a couple of hours ago. Back then the end seemed nigh. Now it's nearly midnight on Thursday and we're probably kidding ourselves if we think we're done. Carmie-C and the Sensuous Seven are preparing to practice our presentations. We're tired, a bit cranky and each one of us is eager to get back to the hotel and sleep. Nonetheless, we're determined to squeeze in a round of practice. Let's see how we go.

Goddammit, it's 3:35am. We're still here and I'm not sure when we'll be done. I just heard someone mention something about light bulbs. Who's going to make it to breakfast?

Sometime around 3am shit got weird and Rohan busted out the Rambo strap. He was obviously confused.

We're at 3:55am now and eyelids are dropping heavily. We need to get out of here and actually get some rest. Things are getting weird in here. Too long cooped up in a room does not do a mind good.

Holy crap! It's 4:22am and I'm done. I'm just browsing and paying no attention whatsoever. I need to get out of here. Here's the deal: I'm going to back to the hotel for about three hours' worth of sleep. I'll make it to the morning session at the World War II memorial. As for the rest of the team, who knows?

It's Thursday???

The Kellogg team has been hard at work with our entrepreneur, Cecile Hardy. We kicked off the week visiting some stores in New Orleans where NOLA Couture is sold. It was great seeing her products in action and visiting with local business leaders. Yesterday, the team got to task strategizing NOLA Couture’s growth strategy. We took a break in the afternoon to listen to mayor-elect, Mitch Landrieu. The perfect cap to the day was a dinner at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse with local business leaders and Kellogg alumni. Thank you to John and Michelle Payne (our hosts), David Darragh, Henry and Karen Coaxum, and Karl Hoefer. Yesterday, we spent the day hard at work and capped it off with Wednesdays at the Square at a trip to Capdeville.

And today… it was like joining the real world again – working on a deck all day. This experience presents teams with the challenges of real business. The Kellogg team spent our efforts identifying a growth strategy for NOLA Couture. We placed our previous work experience and classroom learnings into action in order to develop recommendations across all aspects of Cecile’s business: Operations, Marketing, Sales, Product Management, Finance, and Strategic Development. It was a unique experience to work with a business that is at a critical inflection point and be able to evaluate it holistically.

We couldn’t find seersucker suits to rent for tomorrow… but we’re ready to rock it. And more importantly, we’re excited to have helped Nola Couture prepare for and meet continued success.


PS – How do you get the powder sugar out from Café du Monde?

Pictures of Team Cornell

Day 1 - Cornell Team pics from St. Bernard Project

War and Peace

I guess it's kind of ironic that the team working with a client whose company uses the name "Piece by Peace" should call its Idea Village work space The War Room. Honestly, when Mike slapped the sign on the exterior door no-one batted an eyelid. When it comes to self awareness and a basic cognition of things such as these the Berkeley Haas team is evidently a bit slow. It must have something to do with all of the pot dispensaries that litter the region surrounding the Berkeley campus. Berkeley's got a reputation, you know. I'm just sayin'.

Rohan prepares for a day of combat with his ideas

At any rate, sometime late yesterday the sign was mysteriously vandalized. Scratched over the word "war" was the well known peace symbol. Maybe we can take a hint after all, and within a few minutes of our arrival back at the IP this morning a retooled version of the sign found its way onto the door. We're the Berkeley Haas team. We've got a reputation to uphold. And nobody knows how to draw peace symbols better than us. We're also rather decent at getting mad about things.

You might remember late last year there were a series of protests across a number of UC campuses, the first of which transpired at UCLA. I recall walking by the Berkeley campus with another Haas classmate who remarked how unconscionable it was that UCLA should hog all the protest glory. "Berkeley won't stand for this," he observed, "I can pretty much guarantee you that something's going to happen tomorrow that will reassert Berkeley's status as the protest capital of the UC system." The next day forty protesters barricaded themselves behind the doors of Wheeler Hall, thereby ensuring that UC Berkeley recaptured its mantle as the undisputed center for latching onto a cause and getting really mad about it.

The re-christened door had its effect. The creative tension of the prior days melted away and the Haas team basked in the newly established resonant harmonic frequencies reflecting off our chamber walls. We were awash in some major good vibes and man, did it feel great. Innovation is an iterative process, circling back around on itself with increasing degrees of refinement. As Wednesday drew to a close, and as the detritus of emptied coffee cups and Oreo wrappers piled up on the table, we came to understand that what had at times been a confusing doubling back had in fact been exactly what we needed: a continual refinement of ideas and concepts. Hell or high water (no pun intended), Traci is going to receive a thick wad of output from the Haas team. We're determined to ensure that the output is actionable and of some ultimate use. Reaching that point has required the repeated discarding and reincorporation of ideas that at one point lacked a meaningful context but later found one. We've got a day to go.

While the light of the day faded, the Haas team emerged from the Peace Room to soak up a bit of local flavor at Wednesday in the Square. Music and booze are integral components of the New Orleans DNA. We enjoyed a bit of both. It was a fitting end to a day that saw the Haas team wage battle with its concepts and secure a lasting peace. It's kind of fitting that on Friday we'll present to none other than General Wesley Clark. I think he might know something about these things.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cornell Team - Day 2

Day 2: Mark Cuban is Ridiculous

Day 2 started early with an 8 o’clock stroll to the city’s Contemporary Arts Center, where we set up shop for the first half of the Monday program. We were welcomed by the Idea Village team, and treated to a nice opening session with Walter Isaacson, the current CEO of the Aspen Institute, recognized author and businessman, and a native to New Orleans. The Week’s corporate sponsors and faculty advisors then rounded out the rest of the morning by introducing themselves and offering to help in any way possible. After a quick lunch break, Dr. Scott Cowen, President of Tulane, spoke to the changing course of both Tulane’s path and curriculum, and the city’s education system as a whole. He again proved as a great example of the ingenuity and spirit currently guiding the city.

We then walked our way down to the IP Building, the home of Idea Village, Launch Pad, and a large number of entrepreneurs and start-ups to kick off the work portion of the week with Chris and Schedulist. We used the segment to strategize about the team’s goals and deliverables, and set up a great framework to help meet Chris’ objectives, and to help his business succeed. Chris and his team have developed a true software-as-a-service solution to deal with nurse staffing issues currently plaguing acute and long term care health facilities. With a clear and present market opportunity, the team set out to help build the company’s launch plan and sales process, and to inform a number of other initiatives.

The evening started off with a dinner at the Superdome, provided by NakedPizza, and a short presentation by none other than Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban. True to form, Cuban made sure to blur the line between reasonable and completely ridiculous, and in between some pretty entertaining anecdotes, he did ultimately manage to provide some pretty pertinent advice for today’s entrepreneurs; work ethic, dedication, and sales are all part of the components that make a company successful. We then wandered over to the Hornet’s arena to catch the evening’s game, which saw the Hornets come back from a big deficit to pull out a nice win over the Mavericks. And of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without the obligatory stop at Bourbon Street to chat up the locals and to further check out the local fare…

New Orleans Entrepreneur Week :30 Spot

New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2010 // :30 Spot from Deltree on Vimeo.

The Value of an MBA?

This week is putting our MBA skills to test. Can we provide the business strategy Tutti Dynamics needs to develop and market an innovative product concept? Is it possible to do all this work within four days? More importantly – though – last night’s events at two cocktail parties full of New Orleans power elites put our hard won networking abilities to the test. Had all those late nights in Lincoln Park bars finally paid off?

Booth – and this may just embarrass our school – has an orientation program called ‘mocktail’ for first year students. Second years pretend to be corporate recruiters while first years pretend to be eager job hunters. In a contrived cocktail party/networking, second years teach first years the subtle fineries of networking etiquette: (1) how to enter conversations - always introduce yourself (2) how to exit conversations - “I need a refill” is acceptable while “you are so boring that you make me want to poke myself in the eye” is not (3) how to ask for business cards – say ‘please’ instead of grabbing the person’s purse, riffling through it, in order to find their ‘digits.’

The challenge: Could we apply these networking principals in an actual setting? Would we choke under the pressure of meeting the president of the Hornets? Could we converse with people who actually have important jobs –not just other MBAS who talk about the prestigious positions they will have? Do we have the ability to convert that pleasant chat into an actual connection?

I could go into the details of these conversations, but that wouldn’t be in true Chicago style, so I’ll let the numbers tell you the value of our MBA.

· Chicago Booth Representatives at Networking Events: 8

· Important People at Events: 41

· Business Cards received: 97

· LinkedIN Invitations Already Accepted: 12

· LinkedIN Invitations Pending: 32

· Potential Job Leads: 3

· # of invitations to “get in touch with me later:” 24

· Follow-up emails sent to new contacts: 31

· Percent of Conversations Converted into Business Card Exchange: 82%

· NPV Value of Contacts: $92,350

· Enjoying benetes and iced coffee with your 15 new best New Orleans friends: Priceless

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Insights, Imperatives and Home Cookin'

MBA students, almost by definition, are a bunch of alpha types. We've got opinions—sometimes informed, sometimes not. And we like to share them. The Haas team engaged in a lot of vociferous opinion sharing today. What was making the air in the room so hot? Perhaps it was the sun beaming through the window. Yeah, it was the sun. That's it.

Who says Berkeley students are all namby-pamby peaceniks? Tempers fray as Mike settles his score with Sandeep.

More seriously, we made a lot of headway today. The challenges facing our client are not trivial, and we're determined to tackle those challenges in a way that makes the best of our knowledge and experience. There are eight of us on the team—we're Carmie C and the Sensuous Seven—and we've all got something useful to add to the conversation. Today was an exercise in navigating each of our respective inputs and moving them through the innovation process.

Stanford, Kellogg—who are are always called "Kellogg" and never "Northwestern"; interesting, huh?—Chicago and Cornell are bona fide top-tier schools. That's beyond question. And they all boast outstanding faculty members. At Haas we've got Sara Beckman, and today was so much about the direct application of Sara Beckman and Michael Barry's framework for innovative thinking. I could go into it at length but I'll hold back for now. Suffice it to write that you should spend a minute reading about it. While plenty of observations, frameworks and imperatives were cast around "The War Room"—as we've affectionately come to call our digs—we nonetheless managed to find our way through to a few solutions. Or so we think.

But that was in many ways a distraction from what initially presented itself as today's main event: an address by the eminently charismatic Mayor Elect of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. The man has a way about him. His delivery is at once punchy and poignant. He's adept at maintaining an accessible narrative replete with anecdotes pertaining to children and Wendy's chicken nuggets and the framing of the tribulations of New Orleans as major national security issue. Mitch's verbal tapestry is colorful, rich and hung right there in front of the audience to enjoy or reject.

Mitch led me to cast my mind back to the night before and our hour in the company of Mark Cuban. Both men possess salient personalities, and in my mind's eye I toyed with the thought of Mitch and Mark going mano-a-mano in a Battle Royale of soaring invective. Mark would yell "bullshit!" at Mitch and Mitch would rub his head, gesture forcefully at Mark and tell him that he'd never truly testing himself until he'd run for public office, or something to that effect. Ah, what food for thought. It'll probably never happen. But if it did, it sure would be fun to watch.

I honestly thought that would represent the highlight of my day—Mitch and his laser-like ability to extract from an audience question the absolute essence of what was being asked. But I was wrong. The true highlight was the dinner the Haas team spent in the company of our local hosts (keep your web site jokes to yourself), Tom and Dian Winindger. That hoary old cliche about Southern hospitality; it's true. Perched on the upper level of an old yet tastefully remodeled building overlooking Prytania Street, the Haas team joined their entrepreneur in the company of Tom, Dian and their band of associates. It was a private event and we'll leave it as such. Although in what we now know to be true New Orleans style, we ate well, we drank much and we shared a few good stories about bad times and good... Mostly good.

It was a dinner that didn't suck.

Cornell Team - Day 1

Day 1: Southeast Louisiana is huggin’ country

The members of the Cornell team were finally able to navigate the late winter travel obstacles and come together just around dinner time on Saturday night, the inaugural evening of the New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. We raised our glasses around a typical New Orleans table piled high with lobster, oysters, and shrimp and prepared ourselves for a pretty great week with our partner organization, Schedulist, and its CEO and founder, Chris Laibe. I even conquered my own aversion to sea life and indulged in an oyster wrapped in herbs and butter. I’m still alive.

Sunday morning served as a somewhat unexpected, but crucial and rewarding start to the week. The Cornell team knew that it was headed to the St. Bernard Parish to lend its hands to the St. Bernard Project, but I’m not entirely sure that the team was aware of the gravity of the troubles still facing the region, almost 5 years after Hurricane Katrina. The St. Bernard Project is a non-profit organization that was started in March 2006 to help rebuild houses in the local neighborhood that were affected by the hurricane. Since then, the group has rebuilt over 260 homes, and has served as a source of inspiration, hope, and service to the community. The project employees are quick to point out that there are still approximately 9,000 or so homes that remain unlivable. We spent the first portion of the morning listening to the organization’s co-founders, Zach Rosenburg and Liz McCartney, speak to the experiences and mission of the group, and then we headed out to sand and mud drywall at a working site. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to Danny Hest and Henry Parry-Okeden for their pretty keen mudding skills; both led the way during an enjoyable and productive morning.

After a short lunch break we were able to have a chat with Mr. Mendoza, a client of the Project’s, and a former resident of the St. Bernard Parish. Mr. Mendoza, who is still living in a contaminated FEMA trailer, spoke to his own displacement, and the scattering of his family, including his mother and brothers, friends, and associates. He talked about the altered neighborhood dynamic, the loss of his job, the trust, and lack thereof, between certain businesses in the community and its residents, and the family spirit and ethic that were damaged as a result of the hurricane. We concluded our lunch by visiting Mr. Mendoza’s new house, which upon the completion of some remaining electrical work, will serve as his first proper home in over 4 years. If I was a greater poet I would perhaps be more subtle in describing the profound nuances of the visits, but unfortunately I'm not. And at the risk of being overly transparent, I have to say that much of the experience with Mr. Mendoza and the St. Bernard Project was inspiring and humbling, to say the least. It also served as a great glimpse into the New Orleans community, and all of its humility, hard work, altruism, and desire to grow together. There’s certainly a tangible family spirit in this town. In Mr. Mendoza’s own words, “Southeast Louisiana is huggin’ country.”

The day proceeded with a more than entertaining bus tour of the city, both its good parts and bad, and ultimately concluded (or so we thought), with a fantastic dinner at Café Reconcile. Café Reconcile is yet another inspiring story inside New Orleans, of which I would encourage everyone to click on the preceding link to learn more about the endeavor. After a pretty fantastic serving of the Café’s award winning banana foster bread pudding to finish up the meal, Chris packed up most of the crew for a trip to Snug Harbor, where we ended the night with a great jazz set, before hitting the hotel to ramp up for a new day...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Walter Isaacson versus Mark Cuban

I thought my blog post today would be mostly about Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, and his exhortations regarding doing well and doing good. There's a lot one could blog on the topic and I fully intended to do so. Walter delivered an inspiring speech that got to the heart of what we're in New Orleans to do as part of the Idea Village's Entrepreneur week: render a bit of MBA smarts to social ventures that seek to make a some cash while giving a little something back to the community at large.

But then we were treated to an animated talk by Mark Cuban later in the day. Mark's a known quantity. His controversies are well storied and his colorful remarks really shock few people at this point. He's got his "I don't give a shit" persona down pat and that's just how he describes his brand: "My brand is I don't give a shit." Apparently he gives a shit enough to make a lot of money. People who don't give a shit usually wind up living in their parents' basements, get fat eating Twinkies and grow excessive amounts of facial hair. Mark gives a shit.

Sandeep registers delight at the loss of Mark Cuban's Mavericks — Mark couldn't give a shit.

But what he doesn't agree with is Walter Isaacson. At the conclusion of his highly entertaining talk he took questions from the audience. Well, that's not entirely true. He took questions that had been submitted in advance. One asked about his approach to Walter's thoughts on doing well by doing good.

Marks response: "That's bullshit to me!" I guess when you're Mark Cuban you're free to proffer opinions of that kind. Far be it for me to tear strips off a man whose net worth is larger than more than a few nations. But I wonder if somehow Mark's way isn't the only way. I'm sure he'd get along well with Milton Friedman. Or perhaps Ayn Rand. Or maybe not Ayn. I doubt he'd have time for her laborious prose. But my guess is that he's got time for some more of what he calls his "f*ck you money". Pardon the expletives.

Truth be told, Mark Cuban didn't exactly crowd out the rest of the day; we spent time refining our entrepreneur's business plans and we were thoroughly entertained by the Hornets versus Mavericks basketball game. Yeah, the Mavericks are owned by Mark Cuban. They lost handily to the Hornets. You know I almost felt sorry for Mark. Almost.

Booth Update #1

We got to the blogging game a little late, but we wanted to share the highlights of our NOLA visit thus far. Yesterday started with a visit to the St. Bernard Project, , followed by an unplanned hour long tour of the 9th ward (lesson: bring your own directions on bus tours). The founder of the St Bernard Project welcomed us with a passionate speech about the continued need for housing in this city. After all they have been through there are still an estimated 12,500 families who are without housing. Prior to Katrina most of the families in St Bernard Parish were home owners, there was 4% unemployment and extended families all lived within a few blocks of each other. This tremendous asset became a liability when Katrina hit, as all the resources for entire families was destroyed. Having heard about this great need, we got to work on rebuilding a home. We only had a few hours, but we managed to hang some drywall and make a little progress. It was really inspiring to see the St Bernard Project’s work and the huge impact they have had on the lives of over 300 families.

You can’t come to St Bernard and not think about Katrina- evidence of it is everywhere. The homes still have the grim spray painted markings that were left by the army and National Guard searchers indicating how many bodies were found inside. Many homes are boarded up, and there are empty lots everywhere from homes that were torn down. Amongst this damage are beautifully restored homes that have no sign of damage.

After using our MBA finance skills to hang drywall, we used the other half of our degree at a Sustainable Greenbuild house networking event. Outside of the delicious Cajun jumbalaya, the “write on your hand photo event” was the undisputed high point.

What is that, you’re thinking? Here’s how the process worked: (1) Have someone write your desired message for New Orleans across the palm of your hands (2) Enter a small white room converted into a temporary photo studio (3) Awkardly (speaking for myself) stand in front of light, put your newly inked hands extremely close to your face, and send off your message with a smile.

Both participatory art and party activity, this photo event united us through our shared messages of hope and progress for New Orleans. Even though one or our photo-shy team members twice deviously evaded the pressure to sully his hands, most people appreciated the activity à recommend for replication at future events.

In the evening, we gathered at Café Reconcile for dinner. Amazing food and we got to really gather as a team for the first time. Here I have to brag that the Booth team is lucky enough to have the best entrepreneur- Darren is a musician, entrepreneur, a Macrobiotic (you know- ying, yang, salt, sugar) and all around great guy. We took our team out to one of the city’s best jazz clubs and heard a great set played by Jason Marsalis and band. Sitting in the balcony, sipping a Ribbeta Strawberry beer was the quintessential NO experience.

Monday Morning:

We gathered at 7:15 to head to the Contemporary Arts Center. The unseasonably cold weather persisted, making us feel like we never left Chicago.

The events started at the new Contemporary Art Center in downtown New Orleans, a massive building full of open concrete plans, curving stairwells and exposed ductwork. I didn’t see any of the art, but I hope it is as cool as the building.

Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute/New Orleans Native. A man with both a local and global vision, he focused his speech on the role of entrepeneurship in revitalizing New Orleans. He highlighted Katrina’s role in reawakening the city’s creative roots, causing the city to cast off the tradition of returning to a post-hurricane ‘malaise.’ A TFA board member, he was particularly enamored by viral growth of charter schools in the New Orleans Area, as the city moves towards having one of the most decentralized school districts in the country. He now (jokingly) suggests that ailing cities get their own hurricane to help them start over again. (I wouldn’t suggest repeating that unless you’re from New Orleans.) He also discussed the uniquely creative New Orlienean culture. One of the more racially integrated cities, New Orleans history and present as a place of where cultures clash, New Orleans is a natural home for new ideas and creative industries.

What a welcome!

Well it is on in NOLA. It is a pleasure to join the Idea Village blogging community as the representative from the Kellogg School of Management.

It’s the third day that I’ve been here getting to know the Idea Village and the entrepreneurship community in New Orleans. For the past two days, I have gotten immersed in New Orleans. We kicked off the trip with a crawfish boil, second line parade, home build in St. Bernard parish with the St. Bernard Project, tour of New Orleans, and dinner at Café Reconcile – among many other fantastic experiences.

Today, the team is excited to see our entrepreneur’s wares in local boutiques. Cecile Hardy, a New Orleans native, created NOLA Couture. NOLA Couture is a New Orleans based clothing line known for its unique prints that are inspired by New Orleans and the South.

So what am I most looking forward to today? It’s a long list: getting to know Cecile better, seeing her business in action, and capping off the day watching the Hornets play the Mavericks.

We’re starting this morning with a speech from Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute. See ya later!

~ Jessica

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Dusty But Worth It

Business school is really about two things: networking and time management. Full schedules are an expect part of any MBA student's lifestyle. Today, we were put to the test.

The cold, windy New Orleans morning didn't deter the bleary-eyed teams from piling into their respective buses sometime around 7:30am. A handful of students appeared somewhat rough around the edges, bearing all the hallmarks of a night spent compromising sleep in favor of more active exploits. A cloud hung over whether or not everyone would actually make it downstairs in time to make our appointment with St. Bernard Project Build. Those doubts were unfounded.

I'm familiar with Katrina fatigue. I've felt it personally. Sometime around the second week after the hurricane hit I found myself tuning out any news about the event and the devastation that followed in its wake. Five years later my attitude hadn't changed. To my mind so far removed from New Orleans, five years seemed like enough time to do just about anything. Why would nearly every every trace of the disaster not now be eradicated from sight? Well, the reasons are manifold and today my personal Katrina fatigue was put to rest.

The UC Berkeley Haas team spent the better part of the morning lending a decent amount of elbow grease to the nascent home of Delia Doty. Like many residents of St. Bernard Parish, Delia's life was thrown into chaos in the wake of the hurricane. Five years later she and her daughter are on the bring of seeing some measure of normalcy return to their existence courtesy of a steady stream of volunteers who have worked on her house. The work is coming along nicely.

The Haas team got to work smoothing over the efforts of a prior set of UMass Amherst undergraduate students. I mean that literally; the Haas team spent the entirety of the morning sanding over Spackle—or mud as the locals call it—and dry wall. The dust that erupted from our labors was tremendous. It navigated its way into every open orifice: ear, nose and mouth. Plus the eyes. Mine still sting a little.

Were it not for those UMass students we'd not be doing any of this.

But we got the work done and it was rewarding. The owner, Delia, took the time to stop by and thank us for our efforts, thereby directly connecting our meager labor to its impact. There's no better reward.

Team leaders, Carmen & Mike, after partying with Scarface himself, Tony Montana

With the morning's work complete we were ready to dash back to the hotel for a quick shower to remove the thick layer of white grime from our bodies. "No," we were informed, "there's no time." So resigned to our filthy fate, and looking like we'd spent a night partying with Tony Montana, we carried on through the rest of our day's schedule. It didn't let up almost without a break until 10pm. But with the thought of the impact we'd had on Delia's life, who cares about how much we stink?

Becoming a New Orleanian at Entrepreneur Week: Lots of Crawfish and a Second Line Later... (Day 2)

New Orleans Entrepreneur Week got off to a dazzling start today as the students, business leaders, and entrepreneurs who are making it all possible congregated for a real “N’awlins” experience—a Welcome Party Crawfish Boil, replete with all of the culinary and cultural extras.

The location—the 9th-floor lobby of 930 Poydras, one of New Orleans’s newest, most original living spaces—provided the perfect setting for the vibrant gathering. Already, the business students were presented with the opportunity to communicate directly with business leaders. And, of course, they did what they do best; enthused by the opportunity to make a lasting difference, they exchanged ideas with one another and huddled around the entrepreneurs to hear about their products and begin discussing plans for the future.

A little bit of “water moisture from the new condos,” as the Downtown Development District’s Kurt Weigle cleverly phrased it, didn’t dampen the mood, either. Everyone moved inside to the lobby, where the conversations and a bit of weekend brain churning continued.

That is, of course, until a little surprise showed up.

A classic New Orleans brass band, just a little taste of things to come!

Given that the team meetings for the national teams don’t officially begin until Monday, you might ask, "All of that, only on a Saturday afternoon?"

That’s called passion, and it’s the reason why Entrepreneur Week will galvanize the entrepreneurial movement and propel New Orleans—already a city laden with potential—to new heights, creating a sustainable model for the rest of the nation to follow.

If you missed out on today’s event, footage can be found here. We will also be posting photos from the event, so stay tuned!


Friday, March 19, 2010

New Orleans Entrepreneur Week: Day I

You may have woken up this morning and assumed that it was just another Friday. But, as you read the morning paper, waiting for your coffee to brew, a group of local New Orleans business students from Loyola, Tulane, and UNO had already gathered to collaboratively provide ideas and strategic assistance to two local entrepreneurs, Sustainable Environmental Enterprises (SEE) and Jack and Jake’s.

That means that today marked the official first day of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2010!

This is a special time for New Orleans. Whether you’re a participant, an entrepreneur extraordinaire, or someone who simply enjoys supporting the cause, we want you to get involved! Especially during Entrepreneur Week—an event that thrives on collaboration and the free exchange of ideas—it would be great if you could send us your pictures, ideas, experiences, questions, comments, and anything else you may find conducive to the celebration and fostering of entrepreneurial talent and ideas in New Orleans!


Stay posted as we update you on all of the great things that are sure to happen in New Orleans this week! Also, if you haven’t done so, be sure to check out to learn more.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Turning the Light On Entrepreneur Week: Aspen Institute Leadership Seminar

On Tuesday, sixteen of New Orleans’s most creative entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to learn from each another in one of the world’s most distinguished forums for cultivating leadership—the Aspen Institute Leadership Seminar. For almost sixty years, these exclusive seminars have challenged the world’s leaders to engage with their peers and think critically about their leadership and the good society.

Using works from history’s greatest minds, the seminars take place in a skillfully moderated environment that encourages the collaboration and open dialogue so fundamental to the Idea Village and the New Orleans entrepreneurial community in general. Thus, this is a unique and special opportunity that is sure to prepare those creative individuals whose ideas and actions both exemplify and precipitate New Orleans’s incredible revival.


And with the help of the Aspen Institute, it's going to be brighter than ever!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Entrepreneur Week

To Launch a Successful Business, it takes A Village ... 17 Google executives, Mitch Landrieu and eight teams of MBA students.

Backpacking through Southeast Asia has its hassles and,
usually, a broken flip-flop would barely deserve a mention in a traveler's Moleskine. But for Kyle Berner, one snapped strap was a life changer. He stopped in a market in Bangkok out of necessity and slipped on a flip-flop he would never forget....

See article here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Turning the Light On Entrepreneur Week: The Speakers Continued

As if yesterday’s list didn’t suffice, here are three more speakers who have helped define the faces of their businesses, their cities, and even their countries. Now, they gather in New Orleans because they, like many others, have been inspired by the city’s enormous potential as a new hub of innovation and creativity.

Speech by The Honorable Mitch Landrieu, Tuesday, March 23
The newest Mayor of New Orleans, Landrieu recently made history and further added to the city’s momentum when he was elected with 66% of the citywide vote, an unprecedented result for a typically hotly contested seat. Already, he has taken direct action to promote New Orleans’s entrepreneurial movement, forming a jobs task force that includes the best and brightest of New Orleans and putting an emphasized focus on economic development in the region. Hearing Landrieu speak will be a special opportunity to observe the great potential for New Orleans as an innovative business hub.

Keynote Speech by Jim Coulter, Friday, March 26
Jim Coulter is a Founding Partner of TPG Capital, Inc. TPG Capital, Inc. (also known as the Texas Pacific Group) is a leading global private equity firm with 15 offices around the world and assets under management in excess of $50 billion. Coulter has served on numerous corporate and charitable Boards including the Stanford Board of Trustees, Lenovo Group International, Continental Airlines, Northwest Airlines, IMS Health, J Crew Group, Inc., Neiman Marcus Group and Common Sense Media. He is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

The keynote will kick off the Coulter Challenge, a day of intense action that will mark the culmination of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week. Even if you can’t make it, we will be streaming this live, so you can visit to tune in!

Speech by General Wesley Clark, Friday, March 26
General Clark serves as Chairman and CEO of Wesley K. Clark & Associates, a strategic consulting firm; Chairman of investment bank Rodman & Renshaw; Co-Chairman of Growth Energy; senior fellow at UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations; Director of International Crisis Group; Chairman of City Year Little Rock; as well as numerous corporate boards. General Clark has authored three books and serves as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative's Energy & Climate Change Advisory Board, and ACORE's Advisory Board. He is a retired four-star general who graduated first in his class at West Point and was a Rhodes Scholar. His impressive military accomplishments, which include serving in Vietnam and saving 1.5 million Albanians from ethnic cleansing, have earned him numerous prestigious accolades.

Also, as we move yet another day nearer to the start of Entrepreneur Week, here’s a great article from BusinessWeek discussing the entrepreneurial fervor that is gripping business school campuses nationwide.

New Orleans is adeptly crafting its niche as a city that offers a collaborative, stimulating environment conducive to entrepreneurial action. Now, with the help of an ever-growing team of inspired, intelligent, and innovative students and business leaders, we’ll ensure that the success stories continue to accumulate and the nation sees the revitalized, re-energized New Orleans.

Tomorrow we continue our series with the Entrepreneur Week sponsors, without whose generous assistance this event would not be possible!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Turning the Light On Entrepreneur Week: The Speakers

As the best and brightest gather to foster an inventive entrepreneurial culture in New Orleans, they will be encouraged by the words of some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders. These are men and women whose innovation, innate knack for spotting and seizing opportunities, and ability to lead—regardless of setting, from billion-dollar businesses to pioneering policy institutes and professional sports franchises—have propelled them to the forefront of their respective fields. They imbue us with a sense of action as well as a desire to create lasting impact through the translation of great ideas to an even better reality. And luckily, all share a common interest in seeing the “New” New Orleans thrive, setting an example for the rest of the nation to follow. All week, their voices will be heard. Their words will represent the principles that form the foundations of Entrepreneur Week. Most importantly, their ideas will inspire us to action.

Welcome Speech by Walter Isaacson, Monday, March 22
Walter Isaacson is the President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a nonpartisan educational and policy studies institute based in Washington, D.C. Through its renown seminars, conferences, and leadership development initiatives, the Aspen Institute seeks to promote enlightened leadership, as well as the pursuit of common ground and deeper understanding. In addition to being the author of several critically acclaimed biographies, Isaacson has been the Chairman and CEO of CNN and the editor of Time Magazine.

Speech by Dr. Scott Cowen, Monday, March 22
The Idea Village welcomes Dr. Scott S. Cowen, Tulane University's 14th President, to round out the speeches on Monday. Dr. Cowen has been largely responsible for reviving and redefining New Orleans at the educational level, turning Katrina into a catalyst for innovative renewal. He spearheaded one of the largest university fundraising efforts in the history of Louisiana and has guided the implementation of innovative academic and research program initiatives at Tulane University, as well as an increased focus on community outreach. He also holds joint appointments as the Seymour S Goodman Memorial Professor of Business in Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business and Professor of Economics in the School of Liberal Arts.

Speech by Mark Cuban, Monday, March 22
Mark Cuban is an American entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks. The founder and owner of several extremely successful businesses, Cuban embodies the entrepreneurial vitality that is now burgeoning in New Orleans.

Check back in tomorrow as we continue with the speaker series! And remember:


Friday, March 12, 2010

Turning the Light On

You’re ready. We’re ready. The energy is flowing; the excitement is brewing; the sun has made a dashing appearance, marking the start of a beautiful New Orleans spring. As we all dreamily await this year’s highly-anticipated Entrepreneur Week—which will bring together some of the nation’s best and brightest entrepreneurs, students, and business leaders to make a lasting impact and celebrate entrepreneurship, New Orleans -style—we’ve decided to provide you with a blog series that will highlight what it’s all about.

Every day over the week leading up to NOEW, we’ll present you with some exciting aspect of this year’s event, from the speakers and events to the sponsors and all of the great experiences you’ll have in New Orleans. So for those whose nerves have begun to fray out of anticipation, you can rest easy and imagine you’re already here. Stay tuned and, as always, remember:


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

And the Countdown Begins!

Friday marked the official unveiling of New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2010. And, in case you missed it, what a start it was!

While local entrepreneurs Bayou Brew, Big Easy Blends, and Jack and Jake's served up their respective specialties—delicious iced teas and margaritas-in-a-pouch complemented the office’s wide selection of fresh fruit and vegetables—many of the entrepreneurs and business leaders driving New Orleans’s innovative economic resurgence united to celebrate the introduction of this year’s event, which promises to help define New Orleans as one of the most progressive and promising business hubs in the nation. Successful New Orleans Entrepreneurial Challenge alumni, such as Naked Pizza (who are now taking their product national with the support of Mark Cuban!), joined other innovators and local business leaders for the press conference, where the participating organizations and week’s activities were announced.

Also, as many of the nation’s most innovative entrepreneurial minds prepare to gather in New Orleans for Entrepreneur Week 2010, here’s an interesting article that will help explain why they should be—and why they are—coming.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's Official: New Orleans Entrepreneur Week 2010

Over the past weeks, the Idea Village team has been busily grinding away at the immense task of ensuring that this year’s New Orleans Entrepreneur Week, “The Jazz Fest of Entrepreneurship,” continues to build on the momentum provided by New Orleans’s recent historic achievements. An indescribable energy has taken hold of the office, as everyone works together to ensure that this year’s NOEW dazzles even more than events in years past. Already, the nation’s brightest and most entrepreneurial minds have committed their time and minds to tackle the up-and-coming Entrepreneur Class of 2010’s most pressing challenges. From March 20-27, they will congregate in New Orleans to provide strategic resources to start-ups, celebrate the city’s progress, and further establish New Orleans as a nationally significant center for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Join us on Friday, March 5, at 3pm, at the Idea Village Office in the IP, at 515 Girod Street, for the official unveiling of this year’s event, during which the participants and the line-up of events will be announced.

And don’t forget: IT’S ON IN NOLA!