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Startup Mentor: Darden Reboot DSAS, EVC event

It takes a lot to fill up an empty room.

Specially with smart people, who are paying good money to get a great education at a top ranked business school and have already had a roster of highly ranked speakers appear before them.

But the Darden EVC and DSAS societies managed to do just that on a Thursday afternoon 7 days before finals week at University of Virginia’s absolutely gorgeous business school campus.

(As a matter of historical record, Darden was one of the five schools on my final list of applications; Wharton, MIT, Columbia, Darden and Carnegie Mellon. While I finished the five applications I only got around to mailing 3 of them out. This 12 year late campus visit was long over due, specially after Adnan started at the program in August of 2009 and Fawzia made her maiden Charlottesville visit in 2002)

It all started two weeks ago when I told Adnan that I may just be able to make it to Columbia’s school reunion because a client had some work that needed to be taken care of in New York. I asked if there would be any interest from his classmates in hearing a failure preach to them about the “righteous way” of finding oneself by starting a business and failing miserarbly at it.

Failure is a long and lonely road and while I expected some interest, I didn’t anticipate the room full of first and second year MBA students who turned up to hear my story.

Since I arrived a day earlier and was already on campus I had the opportunity to see the DSAS and EVC rapid response teams carpet bombing student mail boxes with reboot posters,

Strategically placing Reboot posters across class rooms and corridors

And doing selective exposure of the speaker to build up interest (who is this guy who is hanging around at school with Adnan and Sana and auditing Ed Freeman’s class on ethics)

The end result: A class room packed with great audience comprised of

bright entrepreneurs to be who asked great questions, laughed at my jokes, related to my failures and even knew who Zola Bud was.

Coming a few days after the Reboot chat at Columbia with an equally amazing group of students and a few weeks before the upcoming Reboot course at SP Jain, I was reminded again why I really liked teaching and interacting with high quality MBA and EMBA students.

The theme of questions this time was:

  1. How did I manage to handle immigration and visa issues as an international student?
  2. Is a simple idea better than a complex one? How would you go about testing the idea?
  3. How important is the funding, financing eco-system and does it outweigh the network effect of starting a business in your home town?
  4. Didn’t the business school education debt force my hand and push me to accept full time offers?
  5. What was I thinking? Should you be half mad before you consider starting a business with limited resources?
  6. Could you be a partime entrepreneur with a full time job?
  7. Do you really need funding to start a business?

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