Tag: venture consulting

Guest blogger: Sabrina Alexandre, Glazer Global Learning Scholarship Recipient, visited Hungary in May as a member of the Venture Advising Consulting Course. She will also be studying abroad next Spring in Scotland.

A Visit to the House of Terror
“Americans are united by a shared image of the future, but Hungarians are united by a shared image of the past.”

We were all sitting around the conference room table for our first day at the firm in Budapest when our professor stated those words. He was close to wrapping up a PowerPoint on Hungarian history when he started to share his past experiences living in the US. He shared a long list of differences between the two countries but he wanted us to understand how powerful a nation’s shared vision can be. For Hungarians, the past was something too fresh in their collective memory for them to escape.

One place we visited brought that vision of the past to life: the House of Terror. Something with the name “House of Terror” almost seemed villainesque, like the lair of the evil doer from your favorite cartoon as a kid. Everything about the outside felt grand and dramatic and it built up a lot anticipation. You could spot the building from blocks away in all directions. It was this tall gray fixture at the end of street. The neutral color did nothing to camouflage the building among its neighbors because one look above and you can see giant steel plates plunging out of the building with the letters RORRET meticulously carved into them. When the light shines through the letters, the word gets flipped and along the side of the building in big, bold and glowing letters to spell out TERROR.

The House of Terror is the museum that holds the shared Hungarian vision. Inside that building is the story of the country under both Nazi and Soviet occupation. Until recently, the people of Hungary were under the strict control of the Soviet Union and before that, they were occupied by the Nazis during World War II. Generations of Hungarians were held captive in their own homes.

The House of Terror was split down the middle. Half of the museum was dedicated to the atrocities of World War II and the other half showcased the terrors of being under Russian rule. Imagine one room, but one side there’s a Nazi Uniform and videos from World War II and on the other side there were Soviet uniforms and videos from their occupation. The displays blended the two eras to form this continuous memory of oppression.

Some rooms had pictures and videos, some showcased testimonials from survivors like any other museum, but others displayed the original cars of the eras. We even toured the secret jail cells in the basement.

As you’re walking through the galleries you are reminded of the many Hungarians, like our professor, who still have first hand accounts of these events because they are so recent. I couldn’t handle being in that building for more than an hour, but so many Hungarian citizens live with those memories everyday. You can see the city healing, but the scars are only now starting to fade away.

The tour of the House of Terror had left me completely drained. The building was designed to present visitors with a nonstop feeling of dread, and I felt it. After being inside for an hour, I wanted to escape. As I watched old men on the screen recollect their lives under Nazi and Russian rule, it dawned on me that they had to survive both eras of oppression. The fact that this could happen, but remain relatively untold by our history books, is depressing. I had to travel halfway around the world to understand the fate that the people in Eastern Europe were dealt.

To be honest, I could have been presented with a documentary from the comfort of my home and it would not have had the lasting impact that each exhibit had. It’s one thing to read it or even watch it on television but it’s another to stand inside the actual prison cells and think, how can anyone ever do this to another human being? Physically being in that space was too much to process in the moment. It was eye opening.

The people I met in Budapest were so happy and inviting and I find myself appreciating their hospitality even more after my trip to the museum. I can’t imagine living with those memories of oppression, but choosing to rise above them and still be so warm and welcoming to strangers.

Top Photo by Sam Whitfield  and Creative Commons License

Other photos provided by guest blogger

Student teams in the Venture Advising Consulting Course taught by Clifford Holekamp, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship, spend 10 days in Budapest, Hungary immersed in the startup community and working on specific projects with founders. They also learn about Eastern European history and culture. Each team in this year’s course will submit a blog post about their experience and consulting project.

Szia from Budapest! Over the course of our intensive, onsite week in Hungary, we worked with a local education company that wants to expand a new kind of study abroad program to students throughout Central Europe. Our client, Milestone Institute, helps Hungarian students get into and succeed at highly selective Universities in the UK. They also look to bring these students back to Hungary to build the future generation of business and community leaders. Milestone asked us to suggest strategies to build an international presence.

Milestone Institute Mission: Our mission is to act as a national centre for nurturing, launching and bringing home talent. Rather than strike out on their own, we seek to create a community of bright young minds who want to broaden their horizon by studying abroad. Our hope is that they will return, so that Hungary as a whole will benefit from the experience and skills they have gained. In the last four years, we have thus prepared nearly 300 students for leading English-speaking universities.

budapest1AA lot of our work in the education market has been informed by our experiences around Budapest. The country is relatively small, with only 10 million people. However, as Hungary is a member of the European Union, it has much stronger ties and relationships with neighboring countries. The country sees itself more as a key stakeholder in the Central European Region. This worldview impacts the value we see Milestone can provide, as their services could prove highly beneficial to other local markets.

Monday: On Monday, we got a personal perspective on Hungary’s history. Hungary is a country which shares its history with the Roman Empire: Roman Law and Roman Catholicism. However, there are cultural differences as well which encompass a free people mindset, primarily branching out from German philosophy. During the 19th century, Hungary and Austria formed the Austro-Hungarian empire, creating a melting pot for people from different cultures, which can still be seen today through the art and architecture in Budapest.

BUdapest1CTuesday: On Tuesday we had the privilege to meet with two of the founders of Milestone Institute. The founders had so many ideas about what to do and how to best support Hungarian startups and NGOs, while at the same time encouraging Hungarian students to study abroad.

Having a strong vision, Milestone Institute will help to put Budapest, Hungary, on the map as a leading force in the study abroad educational market as well as improving economic prospects for startups.

Wednesday: On Wednesday, We prepared for our first presentation and got advice from David, our project leader, on how we were doing. Professor Orban taught us to use a MECE tree structure to test hypotheses and formulate the problem in its entirety. We spent most of Wednesday developing this model and fine-tuning our understanding of how to tackle this project going forward.
Thursday: Our day began quite intensely, as we presented our approach for the summer to Professor Orban. Afterwards, we stopped in at our clients location for further clarification and to discuss an action plan for the summer. Following this, we continued with more preliminary research for our final presentation in Budapest.

We look forward to continuing our work over the summer and have taken much different perspectives from our time in Budapest!

By Anish Agrawal, Adam Clark, Sawyer Kelly, Lauren Rogge

Top Image: Budapest Heroes Monument, Giannis Arvanitakis, Flickr creative commons

This fall, the InSITE Fellowship, a premier entrepreneurship fellowship for graduate students, partnered with Washington University in St. Louis to establish a local chapter of the organization. InSITE, which stands for Investments from Student Interaction with Technology and Entrepreneurs, pairs teams of graduate student “consultants” with early-stage startup companies.

Over the past decade, St. Louis has become an emerging hub for entrepreneurship, technology and venture investment. With numerous startup companies, accelerator programs, incubators, and co-working spaces, St. Louis was the ideal place for InSITE to expand its programs.

After a competitive selection process, twelve inaugural St. Louis InSITE fellows were selected from a pool of approximately fifty applicants. The group consists of graduate students pursuing MBA, JD, and PhD programs at Washington University.

This semester, the fellows will complete strategic consulting projects for three promising technology startups located in the St. Louis region:

  • Better Weekdays, an online platform designed to make university career services more efficient
  • CrisisGO, a mobile app that helps educators and staff keep students safe during crisis situations
  • Tallyfy, a mobile app that makes it easier to execute, track and improve business processes

The St. Louis InSITE chapter has already started building its brand in the local community. On October 23, 2015, InSITE hosted Gloria Kimbwala to speak about the company culture at Square, a global financial technology firm.

Square ReaderSquare is the company behind the Square Reader, the bite-sized credit card processor loved by artisans and established businesses alike. This wildly successful mobile payments company has many ties to St. Louis. Founders Jack Dorsey (also the Co-Founder and CEO of Twitter) and Jim McKelvey are both St. Louisans, and the firm recently opened a new office in St. Louis’ innovation district. With the creation of 200 new jobs over the next five years, St. Louis will become home to Square’s third largest global office.

Throughout the coming year, the InSITE Fellows will have the opportunity to engage in networking breakfasts, educational workshops, and nationwide events. Most importantly, the students will drive impact for local startup companies through high-quality consulting engagements each semester. Needless to say, the InSITE Fellowship is already making a mark on the St. Louis startup community!

After a 40 minute drive out of the city, the team arrived at their destination in Etyek, Hungary, Korda Studios. Korda Studios is a high-tech studio with the third largest sound stage in the world surrounded by the beautiful vineyards of Hungarian wine country. While touring the facilities the team went from 16th century Rome to the surface of Mars, to a war-torn Brooklyn. As the tour proceeded, we asked questions about the studio and the industry, using the answers to frame a complex business problem.

Borgia Set

Renaissance city “set” at Korda Studios

Guest blogger: Max Byers, MBA’16, is a student in Cliff Holekamp’s Venture Consulting course. Student teams travel to Budapest, Hungary to meet with companies to research a consulting project they will complete over the summer.

Using a framework championed by the consulting firm McKinsey, we evaluated the goals of Korda, what the obstacles to achieving those goals are, and how to overcome or eliminate those obstacles. By using the MECE framework, meaning “mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive,” the team developed hypotheses about how to overcome or eliminate Korda’s obstacles.

The main questions the team focused on were “What factors contribute to U.S. and U.K. companies filming overseas?”, “What are Korda’s competitive advantages?”, and “How does Korda market to U.S. and U.K. decision makers?”. These questions will be used to guide our project throughout.

Along with the questions guiding research, these questions can be broken down even further, and the answers have helped us gain knowledge about the film and big budget TV industry. For instance, tax incentive schemes for attracting film production vary around the world. Hungary has a 25% “soft-money” scheme that is a tax rebate of 25% of the expenses spent in Hungary, while other countries like the United States offer tax incentives on a state by state basis.

One of the more surprising things we learned is that catering is a big deal in pleasing a movie production once it has decided to film there. According to one interview we did, about 20-25 people in Los Angeles are highly influential in filming decisions, and that there are multiple bids made before a studio is selected in most cases. The film industry can be considered a “word-of-mouth” industry, meaning that studios like Korda must be accommodating and easy to work with.

Overall, using MECE and having those questions guide our future research will help us arrive at a plan for the main question, “How does Korda attract more films to its facilities and Budapest?” The trip to Budapest was very beneficial in framing the project and gaining initial insights.

The project my team and I have been assigned to work on is centered around the growing eBike market in Europe. GPS Tuner, our client, is a big player in Europe in providing GPS navigation to bicycles. GPS Tuner wants us to explore an entry into providing software and GPS to the eBike. In addition, our Hungarian professor Kristian Orban taught, and we successfully applied, a Mutually Exclusive and Completely Exhaustive (MECE) framework for the project. That framework allowed us to come up with hypotheses that we will test over the summer to give GPS Tuner the best recommendations when turning in the final project.

Guest Blogger, James Bierman, MBA’16, is a student in Cliff Holekamp’s Venture Consulting course. Student teams are currently working with startups in Budapest, Hungary.

The introduction to the project was very interesting. The CEO of GPS Tuner, Tamas Nagy, made quite the impression when first meeting him. You could tell that he was decisive and strategic. He was a natural salesman and a leader. You could tell that his staff looked up to him. His leadership style reminded me of some of the best styles that I had seen in construction. He might challenge one of his staff. However, he didn’t do it as a commandeering boss, but rather as a way to challenge them to be better. He was leading our team in the same manner and he really inspired us to do a good job.

However, the best part of the project was learning the critical thinking taught by Prof. Orban. I really liked how he focused on the framework to solve all the projects that the teams are doing. It forces us to actually use a formalized framework to solve a problem. Our team actually used the MECE framework and combined it with a “Pick-axe” method taught to us by Prof. Jackson Nickerson. While it seemed less productive at the time, when we were done, we had broken the project into manageable chunks, and we had done so in a completely exhaustive way.

For me, this project and the CELect course have put case studies into perspective. I’ve come to learn from working with these companies that the reason that case studies are so important is because CEO’s have to constantly be solving things analogous to case studies. Strategy can largely consist of addressing these projects as they come up in the company. The projects are the pivots, or the problems that need to be addressed to keep a company growing or accelerating its growth. One day I hope I am the CEO of my own start-up company and what I’ve learned from Professor Orban and Tamas will serve me well.

Pictured above, left to right: Elise Miller, Micah Northcutt, James Bierman, and Charlotte Jones in Budapest.  The first three are MBA students, Charlotte is a BSBA rising senior.  They are posing with an e-bike which is navigated by GPS Tuner software (their client).