Jonathan Prowse, Davis Jones, Haruna Yasui, and Nikita Jain are full-time MBA students working on an International Business Development project in Dubai, UAE with a local engineering and manufacturing startup company.
With close ties to the Silicon Valley, Berkeley Haas is distinctly renowned for its academic thought leadership and industry expertise in the fields of management, entrepreneurship, and technology. As such, we were each drawn to the Haas MBA program from all corners of the globe – hailing from New York, Toronto, Bombay, and Tokyo – with aspirations of pursuing careers in entrepreneurship and VC.
Collectively, we possess diverse skillsets, with industry experience across financial services, education, and engineering. Upon receiving our assignment for our International Business Development (IBD) class, we found common ground through these complimentary skillsets and our shared interests in entrepreneurship. We were fortuitously partnered with a startup in Dubai to assist in the development of a market expansion and go-to-market strategy for their innovative, engineering solution for buildings systems.
The project allowed each group member the opportunity to apply or prior experiences, coupled with tools and skills developed throughout our first-year coursework, to a project that perfectly aligned with our collective and respective career goals in entrepreneurship and VC. Surrounded by the often-glamorized culture of entrepreneurship in the Bay Area, it’s safe to say that we failed to fully anticipate the significant challenges and tremendous ambiguity that a nascent company faces in its early stages…
(Specific project details cannot be discussed due to the sensitive nature of the company’s patent-pending technology and competitive strategic positioning)
We arrived in Dubai to a very different project than the one we had anticipated. Our client had entered into a breakthrough partnership agreement with an international supplier within days of our arrival, and accordingly, their business needs and future development plans had shifted dramatically. We had spent the previous four months conducting industry research for our proposed market sizing project, but the new partnership agreement created a new, pressing need for further capital investments to support the growing venture. There was no way to anticipate this overnight transformation, but this was exactly the type of project we were hoping for. We were now working for a startup preparing to raise capital to fuel their international expansion – the company’s future now hinged on this critical need for capital funding, and our work over the coming weeks would help to define the organization moving forward.
We anticipated a work/travel experience that involved a healthy mix of work and play, allowing us to learn about the business culture in a new country, forge new relationships, and provide some time for side travel and exploration. Upon arrival, the presumed work:play ratio of our IBD project shifted in order to meet the changing needs of our client, and, truly, it could not have been more exciting.
Fueled by the office’s frenetic energy as they prepared for this pending milestone in the company’s near future, the enthusiasm amongst team members was palpable, as we were now able to assume a much more significant role working alongside our client to shape the future of the organization. Our diverse backgrounds (both academically and professionally) and our career interests in entrepreneurship/VC enabled us to serve as trusted advisors, assuming a primary role in developing the company’s strategy for funding and its pitch deck for investors.
Following three weeks of late nights, too much coffee, sweltering 120 degree heat, and some impassioned brainstorming and collaborative work sessions in the office’s sole meeting room, we converged to prepare a final pitch deck for our client. We conducted more than 20 interviews with industry experts, potential clients, and important influencers for this new market from all over the world to develop a clear vision of the risks and opportunities. We poured over financial statements, created sensitivity analyses for pricing, and cemented the companies’ value proposition for both future clients and investors. Ultimately, we even worked alongside a graphic designer to design and polish the final pitch deck to be used in upcoming VC pitches – if we were to offer lasting value, we needed to treat this as if were our own company and deliver the best possible product.
Our final presentation was structured as a formal VC pitch session. The client’s extremely positive response validated our hard work and confirmed that our contribution to the organization had been significant. We left our client with a deck that will aid and support them as they (successfully) pursue venture funding; confident that the presentation fully communicates the strengths of the organization, its remarkable team members, and their future promise as they enter uncharted territories and seek to transform a global industry.
We came to Haas to learn how to effectively lead people and organizations, to take bold risks, and to change the future of various industries through innovation. IBD provided an opportunity to partner with an exceptional group of visionary entrepreneurs in an emerging market, and it demonstrated the significant value of our MBA program. We came to Haas to learn, grow, and develop as both individuals and future leaders and to forge significant, life-long relationships with our peers and a network of global leaders – our IBD project confirmed the values of the Haas program and all its future promise for each and every member of our team.