"Pitching" as KEY entrepreneurial skill

I’ve been an MBA student at BABSON for less than three months. Time might look short, but if there is something that I have done much more often than what I believed I would do in just three months is “pitching”.
The “business pitch culture” at Babson is very strong. I heard once from a classmate that even when one is having a beer at the campus pub (specially during Rocket Pitch season), one could simply be approached by a fellow student, who invites you to do your pitch in front of him/her.  And I’m not surprised. If we recall that Babson has been ranked as the No. School for Entrepreneurship for 18 years, such a culture is very consistent with the type of school we are.
Whether you like public speaking or not, business pitching becomes a skill we all develop and some of us master.  Formal and informal spaces at the school allow us to do so.  For instance, as part of my first Entrepreneurship class (which I had during Module 1, which is the first half of the Fall Semester) I was required to pitch twice. The experience was transformational. At first, you feel under pressure, you feel unprepared, you feel uncomfortable: max. 3 slides in max. 3 minutes is not an easy task (when Spanish is you native language, being succinct is not a particular strength!). But after couple of pitches you realize that the panic just vanished and that the connection between you and your idea is more powerful than anything else.
Babson Rocket Pitch 2011
Another special space at Babson to show your ideas to the world is the Babson Rocket Pitch, which is an annual event where Babson and Olin entrepreneurs (students and alumni) are invited to pitch their business ideas to a large audience of students, faculty, entrepreneurs, investors, and service providers – also under the 3 slides/3 minutes format. As one of the students who pitched, I can say that this was a particularly special day. One could see how many people were pitching not because it was a class assignment (which as said, tends to be our first experience with doing an elevator pitch), but because they really wanted to do so.
“Idea Live” is also an additional activity that students have available to hone our “pitching” skills, even if it is not an official rocket pitch or business plan competition. It is a less formal event where students can discuss their ideas and receive feedback in a fun and energized environment. Each presenter has 5 minutes to discuss his or her business idea. No Powerpoint slides, but a white board will be available if needed.
I believe it is very important to realize that even if traditionally a pitch is directed at anyone who might want to provide funding for an entrepreneur’s venture, you can pitch for many reasons beyond funding, like for example to find high level advisors, new partners or new employees. Or you simply pitch because you want to get feedback on your idea, being the latter probably the most powerful take away from any pitch you deliver.


BABSON MBA Alumni Entrepreneurs: "The things the way they are"

BABSON MBA Alumni Entrepreneurs and VCs
1st Year MBA class, Section 2
October 14/2011 

Fresh highlights from today's Entrepreneurship class with BABSON MBA Alumni that came "home"... great stories of resilience, team work and of course, satisfaction...  "the things the way they are".

  • "We have grown our venture through validation"
  • "Convertible debt"
  • "The 'stupidity' of what was offered at that time is what motivated our launch this product"
  • "He is the one that manages the finances, I take care of product development ... I'm not a finance guy"
  • "Nobody was willing to give us money ... we were 'unproven' Entrepreneurs"
  • "I have been a struggling entrepreneur since 2007 ...the struggle for us has been raising money" (Note: he has raised 4.5 million USD already)
  • "Professional investors are the nicest people you can even think of! The VCs are the first people to tell us: "you are not quite where you think you are ... they help us understand why we are a 2 Mio instead of a 6 Mio company, as entrepreneurs at times we have a lot of misunderstandings of the industry we are at"
  • "Boston is known for being a tough climate for a first time entrepreneur"
  • "We really liked the fact that they recognized the own limitations and hired a CEO and other smart people that had a lot of expertise" (said by the Venture Capital)
  • "We are not afraid to invest in first time Entrepreneurs, but we understand that they are companies that will need a lot of attention"(said by the Venture Capital)
Some questions done by the students and some pieces of the answers ...

On approaching FAMILY and (good) FRIENDS for initial investment
  • "For initial friends and family founding, YOU DO NOT APPROACH your poor family members!"
  • "It's the most 'expensive' money I have got, those investors were the ones that kept me awake at night"
  • "Forget the grandchildren .. how is the business?" (that's how the conversations with your father start after they invest in you!)
  • "Treat them carefully, as if they were institutional investors"
  • "Their exit strategy was important, but they were more proud of seeing our product in the TIME magazine ... they were really investing in us"
On RESILIENCE (How often do you ask yourself if you want to continue, if you are doing the right thing?)

  • "About 4 times a day!"
  • "I have a friend that calls me once in a while and what he always asks me is 'Are you still having fun?' And as long as I say yes, that's what matters. We do not feel pity. Those moments of success bring you to the next one ... and your need for success becomes larger ... those moments help you through the dark times ... it is like a roller coaster ... as your company grows, your highs get 'higher' and your lows get 'lower'"
  • "When your employees start getting married and having kids, and you realize how many kids the company is feeding ... that makes you go on"
On FINDING THE TECHNICAL PARTNERS/EMPLOYEES (I have the idea but, I do not know how to materialize it, I'm not an engineer!)
  • We were in our BCAP (BCAP is an experiential learning program at BABSON) room and sketched the first idea of our product ... the sketch was awful, it was clear that we needed real design talent.We decided to find a design school that WOULD HELP us. We just called the design schools and asked to speak with the deans ... nobody paid attention. But I got attention of ONE school, I do not know what happened that day, but the dean gave us an appointment. What called her attention was the STORY we could build around working together: we will have a design school and  business school creating a company! They liked having a designers understanding how to bring a product to the market. 6 months, 30 students, a professors, and us ... it was a very interesting product development process ...  and the result was a 100 USD play table. After that process we had almost 30 designers that were familiar with us and  we leveraged on that network.
  • Recruiting software engineers was very difficult, what would drive them to do something WITH YOU, with a START UP? Are you able to give them the experience they are looking for? It was a sales process, it is about selling a person that at times is smarter than you, that has maybe at the time more opportunities that the one you can give that he/she, the idea that he/she should work with you.
  • "There are too many things that we would have done different. But this is part of the learning curve, you will never have all the answers, what matters is your ability to react and that is what brings you to success"
  • "If you are not making mistakes, you must be doing something wrong"

Disclaimer: The past highlights do not necessarily reflect my personal opinions or the ones of BABSON. It is just a blog post to share an interesting class activity.


I am a TECHMARK survivor

R&D, Marketing & Finance dancing all together to meet the desired targets (our office board)

As an iconic closure to the MBA orientation at  BABSON, we (160+ students) participated in a very intense business simulation. The so called "TECHMARK" simulation is suposed to be a tradition among BABSON MBA classes, to the point that the people that go through it join the group of "Techmark survivors".

As any simulation, the goal was to bring a company to meet certain levels of performance, which reflect a good overall strategic management of a manufacturing organization under the always present conditions of market uncertainty (ROA, ROE, Inventory/Assets, Debt levels, etc.). The exercise was divided into quarters (which in Techmark time were presented in 1 to 2 hour slots) where each of the 265 teams had to make decisions the would lead to a cumulative final result. 

I must admit that participating in the simulation ratified that I need an MBA! The first two quarters of the exercise I was completely lost. Frustration was obvious. I kept thinking for myself: do I really have a business degree? It was really a challenge to make decisions based on so many variables at a time ... expected market growth, competition, production costs, customer preferences, debt management ... even understanding where to start was an issue! Every time we came back to the plenary and partial performance results were revealed based on our quarterly decisions, I felt however I strong relief as the professor reinforced the fact that "this" and "that" business topic was going to be thought to us in details during the program. 

As you know  - I am into quotes these days -,  so  here are some key highlights of the experience ...

"Our classrooms are laboratories. The cost of making mistakes is perhaps a bit of embarrassment bot nothing else ... dare to make the mistakes here!" :)

"Ambiguity, Complexity, Uncertainty, these things will never go away, the difference after BABSON is that you will feel more confortable dealing with them"

"Financial Impact of Business Decisions (...)"

"If winning is not important, then why are we keeping the score? You are in a business school, there is nothing wrong with making money (sustainably)" :)

"Disagree without being disagreeable"

"Do  you want to be the first to move? The first to succeed? The first to sustain?"

"We have near term plans for you, do you have a long term plan for yourself?" :)

"At some point, analysis HAS TO STOP and implementation should begin" :)

"We learn  better when we are enjoying it"

"Screw it! we do not have time to do the number crunching at this point" :)

"Let's don't play it safe , let's take risks ... I have risk apetite"

"If  forecasts would be facts, they would be called facts!" :)

With the TECHMARK simulation I felt that the MBA really started. So much to learn in the incoming 21 months!

My respect to all these savvy managers out there that day after day lead their real businesses to success! Not an easy task! 

Team 4, Industry E

Ps. BTW, we did not win, but we were so close that I am just so proud of our team!


First two weeks of the BABSON MBA in quotes

As many of you know, I started two weeks ago my two Year MBA at Babson!
I am just  H A P P Y - I can't wait for the show to go on. You know this good old feeling of knowing you took the right decision.

Processing high amounts of information in very short time becomes a major skill

The following is a compilation of the quotes that have called the most my attention during the past two weeks  - in no particular order - ... at this point I am so full of feelings, thoughts, emotions, that if I write the conventional way, I will end up sharing a minute of each class and writing a 50-pages blog post (and well, I am doing my best to write "american style", short and to the point)!
  • You can scale technology, operations, a business ...but the toughest thing to scale is the human brain. BABSON offers you Intelectual Transformation, personal transformation, professional transformation (Orientation Welcome)
  • At Babson you earn your degree the "old fashion way": you have to work hard for it 
  • This (BABSON)  is an MBA for uncertain times (Orientation Welcome)
  • How many times in your life will you have so many people to partner with you tu succeed? (Orientation Welcome)
  • This is an MBA to understand and manage growth (Orientation Welcome)
  • BABSON IS A TUITION DEPENDENT INSTITUTION, everything we do, we do it because you do it with us (Orientation Welcome)
  • How many times in your life will you have so many people to partner with you tu succeed? (Orientation Welcome)
  • This is an MBA to understand and manage growth (Orientation Welcome)
  • BABSON IS A TUITION DEPENDENT INSTITUTION, everything we do, we do it because you do it with us (Orientation Welcome)
  • Have I ever thought what my message is “doing” to my reader in terms of our relationship? (Writing class, btw check this hilarious example of terribly bad writing, Exhibit 2!)
  • Find a job that you love and you will never work another day in your life (Center for Career Development session)
  • At BABSON you become a good learner and a good listener (Business Case Simulation)
  • They (professors) will push your thinking to places you never imagined, you will be challenged ... and they challenge you because they know that you can handle it (2nd Year MBA student panel)
  • Now I know how to connect education to the real world (2nd Year MBA student panel)
  • Ambiguity is your friend (as a manager) – as also complexity and uncertainty (Business Case Simulation)
  • There will NEVER be enough information to solve a case (Business Case Simulation)
  • XYZ students are competitive, on the other hand, BABSON Students and collaborative! Use this value (Business Case Simulation)
  • I used to be an engineer until I got educated (Business Case Simulation)
  • There are 3 levels of frustation during a business case discussion. First, when another student just other says what you wanted to say!!! Second, when you say something that was super important to you and the professor does not give a s%#t!!! Third, when the class and discussion goes in a completely other way than the one you developed your case for!!! (Business Case Simulation)
  • An MBA is a marathon and the judges are your peers! (Business Case Simulation)
  • GPA is b%$#*@^t! (Business Case Simulation)
  • It should be called IAD instead of MBA. IAD ... "it all depends" (Business Case Simulation)
  • To create something that otherwise would not exist if you had not done it (Business Case Simulation)
  • I do not believe in market research (Business Case Simulation)
  • How you make critical choices that drive strategic innovation (Business Case Simulation)
  • Remember the "Economy of words", go to the point (Business Case Simulation)
  • Do not use "empty" words ... "flexible", "innovation", "entrepreneurship" - what does that really mean? (Business Case Simulation)
  • Engaging with your class mates during a case is not only about attacking them (Business Case Simulation)
  • ENTREPRENEURS ARE LOUSY at managing an ongoing business (Business Case Simulation)
  • If the professor does not call you  often, tell him!!! (Business Case Simulation)
  • Once you have been my student, you have the keys of my office  (Prof. JB, Business Case Simulation)
  • Learning is the destination, a case is the vehicle (Business Case Simulation)
  • Please, no emotions (Business Case Simulation)

First module books

Ps. Sharing a quote does not mean endorsement :-)


In Colombia you do not have to give your 120%? - a propo Independence Day

I found the previous video one day - randomly - on Facebook.
As anything that is about Colombia, i went on to see what it was all about. Nice video, as usual, nice to hear foreigners praising your land, your culture. 

Yet, there was a comment by one of the foreigners that absolutely called my attention: "In comparison with Europe, Colombia is much less stressful, you are not expected to give your 120% (...)"

I let it sink, even if it stayed in my head for couple of days. Until today, 20.07 ... Colombia`s remarkable Independence Day, where all the people swim in the pride of being colombian (including myself) .. today is a good day however to talk about this 120% ...

Before I go on, I want to clarify that having lived in Europe I (kind of) know what this person tries to express and by no means this post intends to challenge him or his perception. Perception is reality. Period. What I really would like to decode is what it means "not giving the 120%". As colombian, is this actually something to praise? If yes, from which angle?

What does it mean not to give the 120%?

The first thing that came to my mind was "Anekdote zur Senkung der Arbeitsmoral" - in german ("Anecdote to the Decline of the Work Ethic" - english translation). It is a famous short story by Heinrich Böll that I actually learned at school and I never, ever will forget (I graduated from a german school, in my home city, Barranquilla). The story is about an encounter between an enterprising tourist and a small fisherman, in which the tourist suggests how the fisherman can improve his life. It was written for a May Day programme on the Norddeutscher Rundfunk in 1963, and is considered one of the best stories written by Heinrich Böll. And hell it is.
The Tale of the fisherman and the Tourist: A tourist looks on a most idyllic picture: a fisherman dozing in the sun in his rowing boat that he has pulled out of the waves which come rolling up the sandy beach. The tourist's camera clicks and the fisherman wakes. The tourist asks: “The weather is great and there's plenty of fish, so why are you lying around instead of going out and catching more?”
The fisherman replies: “Because I caught enough this morning.” “But just imagine,” the tourist says, “you could go out there three or four times a day and bring home three or four times as much fish! And then you know what could happen?” The fisherman shakes his head. “After a year you could buy yourself a motorboat,” says the tourist. “After two years you could buy a second one, and after three years you could have a cutter or two. And just think! One day you might be able to build a freezing plant or a smoke house. You might eventually even get your own helicopter for tracing shoals of fish and guiding your fleet of cutters, or you could buy your own trucks to ship your fish to the capital, and then . . .” “And then?” asks the fisherman. “And then”, the tourist continues triumphantly, “you'd could spend time sitting at the beachside, dozing in the sun and looking at the beautiful ocean!” The fisherman looks at the tourist: “But that is exactly what I was doing before you came along!” The fisherman replies: “Because I caught enough this morning.” “But just imagine,” the tourist says, “you could go out there three or four times a day and bring home three or four times as much fish! And then you know what could happen?” The fisherman shakes his head. “After a year you could buy yourself a motorboat,” says the tourist. “After two years you could buy a second one, and after three years you could have a cutter or two. And just think! One day you might be able to build a freezing plant or a smoke house. You might eventually even get your own helicopter for tracing shoals of fish and guiding your fleet of cutters, or you could buy your own trucks to ship your fish to the capital, and then . . .” “And then?” asks the fisherman. “And then”, the tourist continues triumphantly, “you'd could spend time sitting at the beachside, dozing in the sun and looking at the beautiful ocean!” The fisherman looks at the tourist: “But that is exactly what I was doing before you came along!”

Thanks to my job at Endeavor for the past 4 years there is a term that has become part of my lexicon: THINK BIG. When I reflect on the 120% thing and the short story of Böll, I can´t help recalling of the term. 

I think as Colombians we are "lazy" to think big, many times.  To think big does not mean "stopping spending time sitting at the beachside dozing" as the fisherman in the previous story does. The two things are not mutually exclusive. This "trade-off" scenario is WAY OVERRATED, please! One thing is valuing and living the PRESENT and another one is excusing ourselves for not giving the extra mile in a nation where so many things need to be done: this is an emerging economy folks! lots of stuff needs to be still created and forward thinking, big thinking is fundamental to that.

I am proud to be colombian NOT BECAUSE OF THE SUPERFICIAL elements that you read in newspapers or over social networks: "WE ARE ONE OF THE HAPPIEST NATIONS IN THE WORLD". What does that mean?  What`s happiness actually? What`s the underlying structure from which we self-portrait ourseves as happy? 

I am proud to be colombian because I feel like the butterfly that struggles to squeeze its body through the tiny hole of the cocoon (read the story) and this excersice made me strong. Anf I feel lucky to be citizen in this environment, because it makes me better and enables me to give my 120% while changing a reality. 

I am proud to be colombian because there is a new generation of citizens raising, a new generation that is waking up and that repulses curruption, crime, hate, envy, injustice and is creating concrete initiatives to create a fair society for all. We are a generation that EMBRACES VULNERABILITY, BUT ALSO KNOWS THAT ITS VULNERABILITY IS THE SOURCE OF LOVE, OF IMPROVEMENT, OF CREATIVITY, OF BELONGING, as Brene Brown says.

I am proud to be colombian, because many of our efforts are starting to show results, because clear numbers make us be part of the  CIVETS, given our reasonably sophisticated financial systems, controlled inflation, and a soaring young population.

I am proud to be colombian because back in the 1800s there was a group of patriots corageous enough to raise their voices and proclaim this nation as independent. They dared to CHANGE.

I am proud to be colombian because we are WHOLE-HEARTED, and let ourselves be seen.

I am proud to be colombian because we KNOW how to freaking give our 120%, and if not all of us do that, there is hell a big part of us that is doing it. Without cliches, withour paradigms, without lame excuses.

Happy independence day.


Wayra Week Colombia 2011

It`s slowly getting late to write this post!
Last week I had the chance to represent Endeavor as a jury of Wayra Colombia. 

To explain what Wayra is, I will invite you to read this post of Martin Varsavsky (I could not explain better the program, so I`ll leverage of that!) and of course the Wayra Web Site - in spanish.

"Wayra is a program that will support the creation of high-tech IT companies in Latin America and Spain. Basically, Wayra is a business incubator, although it wants to be more than that and calls itself a business “accelerator”. (Future) entrepreneurs can submit their projects, even if they’re only at an idea stage, and the 30 teams with the most promising ideas will be given the opportunity to present in front of a jury which will then narrow the selection down to 10 projects (this occurs on a country level). The first three countries are Colombia, Mexico and Spain, and the goal is to have this initiative running in eight countries by the end of this year. This will bring the number of supported projects to 80 by the end of 2011."

I learned too much, from the participant entrepreneurs obviously but also from the jury, which were key executives from Telefonica and other local experts of the IT industry...  e-commerce, "freemium businessmodels", M2M, mobile apps, e-Health, were not very touched terms (by me!!!) ... and the most revealing - Power Point is dead, PREZI rules (well, this I knew before, it truly rules)! And well, I also got even more exited recalling that from this class on the new BABSON MBA curriculum will have a strong Technology component! The new Babson M.B.A. focuses on three elements: preparing students to be entrepreneurial leaders, teaching them to be leaders in a collaborative workgroup, and helping students understand the role of technology in today's business landscape. 

But as sensitive as I am, what moved me the most was the Final Ceremony, where the top 10 projects for Colombia were announced. On statement that called my attention was: "I many times believed that happiness was not for me" - said by one of the winning Entrepreneurs. Wow! You could see people speechless, because the strong emotion did not allow them to speak. There was an Entrepreneur that simply said that now his daughter could be born in Colombia, since now he does not have to go to the States to try to get funding and realize his dream there (many of them do have the Silicon Valley dream). Many of them recalled in their thank-you speeches all the nights whithout sleep, all the sacrifices that had to be made. 

It might sound like the romatic "cliches" of being an entrepreneur, but I loved them. That plays a fundamental part: loving what you do and finding joy and pride in what you have achieved, and being GENUINE about sharing it.  Thumbs up for TELEFONICA and WAYRA!


Stolen "Quotes" from the Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco - DAY 2(#eSummitSF)

Courtesy of the wonderful Twitter hashtag ,  here are some great quotes of the second day of the Endeavor Global Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco!!! Not being able to attend is one of the things that I don`t like of leaving Endeavor in one month :( But if this Summit is like the past two, what an awesome learning experience for all the attendees!

Follow the hastag on Twitter!

Ps. The affirmations shared below do not always reflect my personal opinion nor are suggested ways of acting or thinking. They`re just interesting pieces to reflect about!

It's not about the ceiling wall but the sticky floor 

"Some things can be made perfect. Your job as the ceo is to perfect the perfectable." 

"Great people want a lot demanded of them." - Bing Gordon 

Quality of the people reflects the quality of successful, fast growth. Be dilligent about your team quality 

 Joy Sen 

"Your job as CEO is to be the fastest person of the company." Bing Gordon 

"As CEO is to tell people to be ok" - build confidence from Bing Gordon

Focus on your top 25% of your team and expand from there. These people can bring similar people into game, makes you succeed 

"missionary not mercenary" -   true - that is what keep us on every up and downs - resilience.

 the new ceo's role is to coach not to dictate ...

 "Hire ahead of your needs" - Gina Bianchini 

Biggest risk for high growth company -not hiring right person. Focus on best not average. - J Housenbold  

Lessons learned from . 3) On HR - It comes down to making sure ther right people are ALLOWED to do a great job!

 mission statement gets it right: "people are inherently capable but lack equal opportunity" 

John hamm leadership is a practice, like Medical, is a life journy It always matters.. entrepeural leadership matters even more 

So far Carl Schroeder's key note has been my favorite at the . Biased wisdom of experts vs getting out and seeing new stuff.

"Rookie entrepreneurs maximize value rather than control and get the wrong advisors." - Marc Pincus via  

To be top ranked...your goal is to become the authority on your issue, Matt Ackley Google VP 

Get high page rank with: good content, lists, tutorials, frequent updates, controversy   

Gina BianchiniFocus on the current phasebut always plan thenext two 

Fail cheap, fail at low prototyping. This way you can try again and again very fast and easily.  

Chris Schroeder: entrepreneurs are/should be free of echochambers. They can ask the greatest question of all: why? 

Excited for Global Connections at Endeavor's Summit - speed dating format between entrepreneurs and mentors.