When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Joshua Rahn, BSBA ’94, co-founder & general partner at Oceans Ventures.
Given the pandemic, what compelled your company to get involved with this program?
I am an alumnus from 1994 who got my entrepreneurial career kickstarted at Wash U, as I was an owner of one of the University trucking companies. That experience set the groundwork for my 25-year career in tech and start-ups.
I am also a believer that karma works, and I wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of graduates. Couple that with my recent dialogues with Doug Villard and Ted Manion, and I was excited to engage with Wash U’s student body as soon as I could.
What is your project about?
We are building a social network/sharing operating system for early stage investors. In essence, we are building a platform to reduce friction in a very old system.
How have you found working with Olin’s students?
Working with these students is awesome. They are itching to be exposed and engage with tech forward companies and we are loving working with them.
What advice would you give students on the cusp of graduating at this time in history?
Take internships. Take all opportunities presented to you. Learn. Ask questions: lots of them. Add value. Get experience. Become irreplaceable.
Shares of JOANN Inc. jumped nearly 5% on their first day of trading after the arts and crafts retailer raised $130.8 million in an initial public offering. The fabric and craft retailer is led by CEO Wade Miquelon, MBA ’89.
The company is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol JOAN. It announced its intention to go public in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing on February 16.
Although the company suffered from declining revenues before the pandemic, a rise in at-home crafting and sewing has prompted a 38% growth in sales since May 2020.
Miquelon told Forbes magazine that the pandemic is not the only contributor to the spike in sales. He said the company has been able to play into “solid trends” of “more do-it-yourself, a lot more personalization, and major movements on market exchanges like Etsy and Shopify” that have been building over the past few years.
He also mentioned JOANN’s success in offering curbside pickup, supporting its online purchase options. According to Marketwatch, the company announced IPO terms on March 4, indicating its plan to offer 10.9 million shares at between $15 and $17 a share.
Although JOANN’s recent growth has been impressive, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business, the question for potential investors could be whether Joann can can successfully convert growth to net income, whether the market will keep growing, and whether the company will continue to drive down its debt.
However, JOANN’s transition into public offering is an opportunity for investors to gain a foothold in the craft and sewing market. Hopefully, consumers and investors alike will be able to capitalize on the recent rise in sales for JOANN, and enjoy reconnecting with at-home projects like sewing and crafting during this isolated time.
The company had 855 retail locations as of January 30 and a database of more than 69 million customers.
Russ Shaw, BSBA ’85, was one of three people the Queen of England recognized as a commander of the British Empire in 2021. Shaw received the honor for his contributions to technology and business in London. Here, he describes how his Olin education helped him get there.
My Olin education covered four years, receiving a BSBA and majoring in accounting and receiving minors in economics and Spanish. I also participated in a number of extracurricular activities, with a particular highlight being a student representative to the Washington University Board of Trustees.
I certainly used the knowledge gained in my coursework in many aspects of my career. Some of the standout courses for me were macroeconomics, statistics, finance, marketing and a great course in leadership during my senior year.
My days are never the same as founder of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates. I meet with many startups, scale-ups and investors across many tech hubs around the world. I talk to journalists and do media interviews frequently, and I am in contact with various UK government agencies.
Many tech hubs
Through Global Tech Advocates I have travelled to many tech hubs both large and not-so-large, meeting amazing entrepreneurs with great visions and aspirations. I have hosted tech events spanning from San Francisco and New York to Shanghai, Bangalore, Tokyo, Singapore, Paris, Bogotá, Madrid, Shenzhen, Milan, Stockholm and, of course, London.
A key part of my role is to put the spotlight on critical issues that impact tech ecosystems. This includes issues around talent, diversity & inclusion, digital skills, infrastructure and access to funding.
I was honoured to be recognised by the Queen in her New Year’s Honours list as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). This is one of the highest levels of recognition in the United Kingdom by Her Majesty. The CBE has been awarded for service to business and technology. I was honoured to meet Queen Elizabeth several years ago when she and Prince Philip hosted a technology reception at Buckingham Palace.
In terms of advice as students embark on their careers, I always say that there are two components that are integral to any career journey: reputation and network of contacts. Both need to be nurtured and developed throughout a career. I also encourage students to travel and see the world, to keep expanding their horizons and to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking.
When the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn caused internship cancellations, WashU Olin and the Center for Experiential Learning stepped up to provide summer learning opportunities for students while supporting St. Louis-based businesses. We’ll be sharing their stories on the Olin Blog. Today, we’ll hear from Akio Yahiro Korte, MBA ’21, who worked on competitive landscape analysis for Capacity.
Over the 2020 summer, I worked on the CEL summer project, a seven-week consulting opportunity to help a client with their business needs. In my case, the client was a privately held startup company that wanted help with its competitive landscape analysis. Capacity, our client, was really excited and passionate about sharing information with us, so we could give them the best recommendations possible.
This project sharpened my project management, planning and coordination toolkit. From a technical perspective, this project has refined my competitor analysis and marketing skills. I also helped the team using my finance background when appropriate.
Our team lived on a weekly cycle. Weeks started with a one hour class on Monday. Client meetings occurred every Wednesday afternoon. Client meetings were earmarked for one hour, but we always went over due to great client engagement.
Since team members were working virtually across three different time zones, we sporadically set up team huddles to address timely needs. Typically, a team member would spend several hours a week working on a specific function (think deep diving a competitor’s entire marketing strategy).
From a team leader perspective, it’s always great to work with new and diverse teams. I worked with a healthy blend of graduates and undergraduates sprinkled with different business disciplines (finance, entrepreneurship, consulting, marketing). I worked with five other students—and I was thoroughly impressed with each of them.
Particularly thinking about the undergraduate students on my team, there were people who hadn’t had previous work experience. So for the first time, they were talking directly with business owners and leaders—and they really stepped up to the plate, asked detailed questions and shared their expertise. It was a huge win for those students—it wasn’t an experience you could get anywhere else.
Client interactions were a big win. Capacity went above and beyond by letting us talk with different business leaders. Even though this was a marketing project, we talked with leaders in finance, sales, and execution. We even got the opportunity to talk directly with the CEO, David Karandish, BSCS ’05.
Not only is David a WashU alum, he also sold the parent company to Answers.com before starting Capacity. David had some very cool stories to tell, everything from writing a text-to-speech app around his high school years to being on “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart.”
In addition to answering questions to help the team with the CEL project, he had some parting words of wisdom for future leaders: keep morale up by being transparent, keep one foot in present reality while keeping another in future potential (be the bridge between the two realities). We were honored to spend this time working closely with the client, learning from their perspective and providing recommendations.
This has been a very interesting experience from a project management perspective. The project’s scope shifted several times, another team merged into mine, not to mention working virtually across different time zones always poses unique limitations. But the team successfully adapted to meet these challenges head-on. This resilience is a hallmark of the quintessential Olin business student.
This is the second successful team project that I have led while at WashU. Given the great experiences both projects and teams have been, I am contemplating doing at least one more this coming academic year.
A new WashU course, Innovation for Defense, will give students a chance to define and solve problems facing the US intelligence community starting in spring.
An inter-disciplinary entrepreneurial course, Innovation for Defense is open to students from McKelvey School of Engineering and Olin Business School. The class (consisting of roughly 10 Olin students and 10 McKelvey students) is co-taught by Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship at Olin, and Peggy Matson, professor of practice, Sever Institute, McKelvey. The course brings together people from the Olin business community and the McKelvey School of Engineering.
Exploring current problems—like moving people and supplies through checkpoints in a secure way, helping pilots quickly acclimate to a variety of aircraft and reducing technology downtime by using IT data to create proactive solutions—will be a driving force behind the student’s learning.
Each class problem has a dedicated sponsor from the Department of Defense who will be regularly engaged with the team. Student teams will learn to use the Lean Startup methodology and Mission Model Canvas, made famous by Stanford University, to iteratively cut through the complexities of these issues.
The Innovating for Defense course is building on the partnership with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), and includes the recently awarded National Security Academic Accelerator grant which seeks to launch new ‘dual-use ventures’ from the University’s existing intellectual property.
Jake Laktas, university program director at WashU, representing NSIN says, “This course’s model is unique because it can be an equally valuable learning experience for DoD partners as it is for the students. University problem solvers who are unencumbered by existing thought processes can lend brand new approaches and unique contributions to our nation’s most difficult technology and security challenges.”
It is interesting to note that a student does not have to be a citizen of the United States to take this course and none of the DoD problems are confidential.
“None of these business problems are classified. It is not innovating for war, or something secret; it is innovating for large organizations. It will teach students what the DoD is, how to interact with it, how to support it, and how to ultimately support the economy,” Villhard said. “It’s almost like a mirror of the commercial market when you consider how many different things there are to do within the DoD.”
The course was created to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to students and introduce the concept of interdisciplinary teams. These students will gain hands-on experience that can be useful in any work situation in the future and will look excellent on their resumes. It teaches how to seek out problems, find solutions, and consider monetization.
Find the original post on the Innovation for Defense class, from the Skandalaris Center, here.