In the first week at Booth, when meeting people for the first time, the norm is to mention where you come from and what you’re looking to recruit into, just to build a base for conversations. Suffice it to say that my introduction (which contained the key phrases “I plan to go back to India after graduation” and “While at Booth, I’m looking to work on my own startup as a full-time role”) attracted a few second looks of a particular kind. But then, these were followed immediately by “Oh, you know what? I know a couple of people who are doing something like that, let me introduce you to them.”
This feeling of community from the first week is what has defined my time at Booth as one of those hopeful entrepreneurs.
When I speak to prospective students looking at entrepreneurship while at Booth, I like to tell them about how Booth is almost like a two year accelerator—you enter with a notion of wanting to startup and you exit with a clear business plan, some funding (hopefully), but most important of all, an MBA network that you can lean on.
Several of my steps building out an idea have been through courses. I’ll call out two in particular—Entrepreneurial Discovery and Building the New Venture (BtNV). Apart from the systematic way to do customer discovery, I think the most amazing part of the course was a chance to be in the same room as Mark Cuban and ask him questions about his journey and outlook on the world, which he answered with refreshing honesty.
It was in BtNV that I got a tremendous amount of direct value—a set of extremely fun (and needless to say, smart) Boothies who worked on my idea for a full ten weeks, helping me dot the i’s and cross the t’s. It was a great experience, with some memorable (or so I’m told) nights discussing inane topics like what the name should be, where should the business start, and how much equity stake each of us should get. I not only made memories which last, but also got a simulated experience of how those discussions are likely to unfold in the real world.
While all this was going on, the clock on figuring out what to do over the summer was also ticking down. At a school that values flexibility, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find an internship opportunity that fit even my corner-case needs. The Entrepreneurial Internship Program supports Boothies who want to work at extremely early stage startups or on their own startup during the summer. It includes a combination of advisory resources and a stipend. I spent my summer essentially implementing the pilot plans we had come up with during BtNV.
In the midst of the pilot, I interacted with several alumni back in India. I was overwhelmed with the number of offers of connections, advice, and pitches in the first five minutes after introducing myself—a testament to how strong the pay-it-forward culture is amongst the Booth network abroad, even those who graduated over a decade ago. The wealth of support from alumni in the US was equally evident—from amazing mentors at Polsky who offered up their time and experience to help shape our concept, to speakers who came in (as part of the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club) and gave several of us unique insights into the challenges many of them had faced in their early days and how they handled it.
Having never been exposed to the fundraising cycle, I thought I’d also try my hand at understanding a simulated version of it as part of the Venture Capital Investment Competition. Much like my experience in BtNV, I was fortunate to be part of a team that helped me learn a lot more about the venture capital world. I was constantly amazed and humbled by each and every one of my team members, but my defining experience was when one teammate answered every single question a notorious judge threw at him, to the point that the judge gave in.
The feeling of being part of a group has come full circle this year. Some of the more adventurous first year students have formed a group of “Self Starters” that meet every month, and interacting with them has been amazing. I’ve also really gotten to know others in my year who are working on their startups, including one of my earliest (and closest) friends at Booth. The two of us met over wanting to startup after Booth, and as if the world wanted to show that things work out, both of us are now in the 2020 cohort for the New Venture Challenge.
I’ve gone on for long enough, so I’ll end it on one note… as an MBA student looking to work on their own venture, Booth has blown my mind with the community and resources I was able to tap into. I can’t begin to describe how glad and grateful I am for the support I’ve received and the steps I have been able to take while at Booth—a testament to the truly flexible culture and strong community that has been built here.