Going Green: Getting a well rounded education

The first year at any school is a blur. Balancing a wide load of courses, meeting new friends, exploring the city, and making connections for my job switch was more than I could’ve imagined. In my second year, I’ve decided to go deep on things that mattered most to me:

  1. Embrace my love for digital media and technology (looking forward to >play this weekend)
  2. Take classes in my weak spots (financial modelling, and financial information analysis)
  3. Learn how to play golf
With camera present, Mike forgets to keep his eye on the ball. 
For me, the second year has been about going deep in what I enjoy most and spending time learning things that I’ve always wanted to do. While it didn’t make it into my application essay, golf has been one of those skills that I’ve always wanted to get at B-school. 
Lucky for Haasies, we’re right next to Tilden, a par-70 18-hole golf course right in our backyard. Utilizing my new negotiation skills, a bunch of my classmates and I were able to get reduced pricing for lessons. That’s experiential learning.
It’s been great over the past couple weeks to work on our farmers tan while learning to hit the ball in a quasi-straight line.  
Samir poses with Chris our instructor while Vincent works on his farmer tan. GO GIANTS!


SF Music Tech: The Bits in the Beats

The San Francisco Bay Area is fast becoming the hot-bed of music and technology. Both Pandora and Mog are in Berkeley’s backyard (Oakland and Berkeley, respectively).  The MBA experience at Haas is more than just the curriculum and the community in Haas, but being an MBA provides tons of opportunities to network and make new connections. Brian Zisk, who was a former panelist for the >play conference, organizes a semi-annual conference.

Having attended the SF Music Tech Summit in December, I was thoroughly surprised that a mere six months later, 700+ people would be filling the Kabuki Hotel in Japantown for another pow-wow.

The underlying theme was to recognize the power of proper data analytics and management to empower the music ecosystem.

As the music industry adapts to the digital age, the attendees were stress that there will always be music.  As the industry seeks new business models, it was made clear that many of the companies aren’t re-inventing the way people interact with content and music, but looking towards data analytics as a guiding light to new monetization models.

From Cisco’s Eos’ technology enabling both front-end and more importantly, back-end management Saas solution for enterprises to Pandora conscientiously tracking its users to pair growth with capital investments the tone to both artists and businesses was that in order to succeed, one needs to see the numbers in music.

Know who your audience is and where there are
There is no silver bullet. Gone are the days where listeners flock to the artist. Gone are the days of mono-channel distribution.  While artists and their promoters are in search for a general recommendation, figure out where your listeners are and go to them.

Susan Boyle
Case in Point: Susan Boyle’s CD Sales

Case in Point: Susan Boyle
Simon Cowell saw $$ when she got up on that stage and cleared her windpipes.  The label was clearly shocked when her CD went on sale—91% of recorded sales were from physical DVDs.  Thinking that digital sales were not being accounted for, the label soon learned that Boyle’s audience watched on YouTube, but still purchased plastic CDs.

There were also some great quotes:

  • Monetization through Hypersyndication: Get your data out there, actively send out your info. It’s about distribution, give them the data so that it’s clean, so it doesn’t rely on user submissions. Hypersyndication will enable artists to find new ways to get paid.” Darryl Ballantyne, LyricFind
  • Understanding Your Point on a Growth Curve: “We’ve always been vigorous with our analytics. However, it can be surprising. For the first couple of years, our growth over time was surprisingly linear. When you’re in the early part of the exponential growth curve, it looks very linear.” Tom Conrad, Pandora
  • Comparing Android v. iPhone OS: “You can push faster and iterate to learn with Android. Android is good for acquisition.  For the iPhone, its the opposite. We’ve received pushback from user registration, often a week to two weeks.  But with the iPhone, we get more paid conversions.” Warren Wan, Dada Entertainment
  • On Multitasking Functionality for the Phone: ” When you can run things in the background, companies will be able to use background information to trigger events or discovery.” Reno Marioni, Nokia

It was great to dive into the conference. The greatest value from attending the conference isn’t just the download from the panels, but from the conversations in between the panel.  I was able to meet some amazing minds! From learning about JamLegends, meeting A&R managers, and networking with entrepreneurs to exploring a partnership with the SF Chapter of the Grammy’s I was grateful that the conference was in Japantown—I walked down the block to carbo load at my favorite ramen shop.

Pictures from Flickr:

A variation of the post was taken from the DMEC blog.


the four weeks that just flew by – my winter break trek

“CAL” braving -15°C in the Forbidden City

They say that time waits for no one and it won’t wait for me. What seemed like for long weeks have quickly sped by as I start for my second semester at Haas.

Berkeley, CA
A little known fact: Berkeley has a low-cost, fairly broad student health insurance plan (SHIP).  Under SHIP, we not only enjoy $5 copay for eye exams, but also 50% discount on Lasik. Following my last final, I walked across the street from Haas to the UC Berkeley School of Optometry.  The next couple days were a bit dark.

Taipei, Taiwan
A week later, got onto a plane and headed to Taiwan. My wife and I got married right before school started and I wanted to take her to Taipei to meet the rest of my family. While in Taipei, I was able to connect with Haas alumni.  I was amazed at the loyalty of the alumni that they were willing to go out of their way to meet a stranger.  I learned more about what consulting, technology, financial services was like in Taiwan.

Taiwan Alumni dinner with a MBA ’11

Shanghai and Beijing, China
On the 5th, I flew from Taipei to Shanghai to meet up with 59 other Haas MBAs (combination of Full Time and evening/weekend) on a 10 day China Trek.  Treks are entirely student run and five of my classmates put together a truly memorable trek.

Balancing company visits, site seeing, and a lot of late night karaoke, it was a tour de force of activities.  We got the opportunity to visit companies including: Johnson & Johnson, GM China, Frog Design, Medtronic, Google China, Tencent, Huawei, Innovation Works, and LiNing. Beyond the company visits, we were able to meet up the alumni chapters who were able to provide great insights into doing business in China.  One alum stated that there are three rules of doing business in China:

  1. Everything is possible
  2. But, everything is hard
  3. When they say that there it is not a problem, it is a big problem

Over the past four weeks there have simply been to many unforgettable times. It was a privilege to have Kai-Fu Lee (李开复) drop in and discuss his thoughts on China, innovation, and the Chinese psyche. It was incredible to see the passion and love of Haas from the alumni. It was pure bliss to sing “I want it that way” with 59 other classmates.

So what’s next? Study tonight for the waiver exam Friday afternoon, meet up with my wife to attend a SF MOMA 75 Anniversary event in the evening, and meet some prospective Haas ’12 at the Super Saturday I over the weekend.

New Years at Taipei 101 (the 2nd tallest building in the world)

Shanghai at night


On the other side of town

One of the greatest things about Haas is not what goes on within, but what happens just a stone’s throw outside of campus.   I came to Haas to switch careers, with the goal of moving from consulting to technology.  There are plenty of ways to explore new fields, understand industry trends, and make alumni connections.  I’ve joined the Haas Technology Club and the Digital Media & Entertainment Club (DMEC), enrolled in speaker series, and plan to take classes in the Management of Technology (MOT) program. 

But let’s not forget that the Silicon Valley is in our backyard. And last Friday was a great reminder of this. With the Bay Bridge closed, a bunch of Haas students braved the crowded BART trains to the Virtual Goods Summit. The summit brought together leaders in this emerging space for conversations about the state of the virtual goods ecosystem as well discussed growth opportunities. Projected to be an $1B US industry this year, it’s growing at an incredible pace.

Having walked into the conference with only a general knowledge about the space, I felt as if I was drinking from a fire hose.   I realized that much of what we discuss in class: demand curves, willingness to pay, price discrimination, and… even statistics are being used real-time by companies trying to monetize on digital content. The key difference is that shifts in policy don’t take months, years to bring change; change can take place in a matter of hours.  To dip into the pool of insight, check out a presentation from Bill Grosso, CTO and SVP of Product, Live Gamer.

I left the summit with a head full of information and had the opportunity to network with thought leaders in the industry.   Most importantly, the energy from learning about such a kinetic and growing industry made the 20 minute BART ride home seem to flicker by in 20 seconds.

Haas @ Virtual Goods Summit 2009