Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need To Know About The Value of Investing In Talent

Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Value of Investing in Talent

When contemplating the pressures entrepreneurs face when starting a new venture, fundraising often springs to mind first. Tech talent, however, can be scarcer than capital and may, in fact, be the biggest issue businesses face. Securing funding is naturally the first hurdle but building a cohesive and knowledgeable workforce is the cornerstone for stable growth and not so easy to achieve.

Attracting investment, although a daunting milestone, remains achievable, even in spite of the chaos caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. 2020 is on track to be a record year for investment in European tech in particular, with an incredible $12bn was invested in SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) companies alone.

However, with nearly two thirds (65 percent) of technology leaders claiming that challenges around hiring talent are hurting the industry, the issues around skills shortages firmly remain. Demand for tech talent continues to grow at a pace unrivalled by any other industry: an issue exacerbated by an existing skills gap. And, while it’s predicted that this gap might begin to close as people retrain post-pandemic, it remains a significant problem right now. I’ve seen first-hand otherwise promising new ventures and start-ups struggle due to a lack of skills.

Moreover, as the Silicon Valley mantra of ”move fast and break things” persists on both sides of the pond, it’s increasingly important for businesses to take ideas from notes on a napkin to marketable reality in a matter of months. It’s vital, therefore, that companies find the personnel that can deliver – and deliver quality – at pace in order to help them stand out in a crowded marketplace.

We live in a digital age where speed is paramount to the success of businesses across all industries. Traditional operations must adapt to a digital-by-default model if they are to survive – let alone thrive. It’s clear, then, that entrepreneurs need to look beyond funding when building their business. In addition to fundraising, they should be surrounding themselves with the people that will help them to bring their ideas to life in the smartest, quickest time possible.

Expertise and experience.

But it’s not necessarily about taking on new personnel. Entrepreneurs can tap into a range of targeted communities in business and personal networks, which they can harness to open up access to entire ecosystems of expertise and experience. This is where early-stage accelerators such as Crowdcube, Founder Factory, and Y Combinator can really add value, connecting entrepreneurs with experience as well as fellow founders, so collective lessons can be shared. Online communities found on LinkedIn and Twitter shouldn’t be overlooked either: knowledge is power, but there’s no knowledge without people.

The guidance and counsel that these communities can offer could prove invaluable in enabling entrepreneurs to build and ship higher quality digital products – faster – while, at the same time, developing the skills of their existing employees. Building a community of experts with experience across the enterprise landscape enables companies to embrace digital skills alongside traditional models and grow their business, adapting to the skills and processes they need to succeed in today’s marketplace.

Interestingly, the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has expanded the size and scope of these ecosystems. With lockdown measures forcing most people to work remotely, they aren’t constrained by a typical nine-to-five working day in one set location, making more people accessible and available. What’s more, many of those workers who have been furloughed or, worse, made redundant over the last 12 months have taken the opportunity to retrain for new careers. Offering a mix of experience and capabilities, approaching this particular set of people can help bring a fresh perspective to an entrepreneur’s vision and new business proposition.

Tweaks to technology.

Making tweaks to the way a business employs technology can also go a long way to improving the speed and quality of its product delivery pipeline. Often, however, knowing which tweaks to make – and then actually making them – can be beyond the reach of a company’s existing skill set. Hiring in-house may be the right move for some, but founders should also seek out specialist third-parties whose technical expertise lies in the domains their business needs, such as software engineering, UX design, or delivery optimization. If time is of the essence (as it usually is), this can often be the quickest route to optimal outcomes. Where possible, make sure to pick a partner that helps to build your team’s skills whilst accelerating your delivery.

Sometimes, it’s just a question of unlocking the value of data you might already have. It’s no secret that most modern companies now generate vast quantities of data, but there is a very big difference between capturing raw data and translating it into decisive or predictive action, and competitive advantage. The right personnel or partner can prioritize actionable data to create a winning transformation agenda – from setup, to ongoing measurement and analysis.

And the benefits here shouldn’t just be reserved for early-stage startups or tech companies. Whether it’s a major high street bank, an iconic high street retailer, or a craft brewery, joining forces with a suitably skilled technical partner can help supercharge any organizations ambitions and delivery pipeline. Technology now plays a critical role in every business – perhaps more than ever during the current coronavirus crisis. The secret to creating a successful company is increasingly the way in which its businesses utilise technology. And while it’s important to raise funds to invest in the right technology, it’ll be for nothing if no-one within the business knows how to use it to its best ability.

For this reason, it’s in the best interest of entrepreneurs to ensure they’re surrounded by the best possible tech talent, whether they’re on the staff, part of a community of trusted advisors, or a third-party specialist. Embarking on new venture will produce any number of challenges. While funding certainly matters, taking care to find the right tech talent will help overcome many of these.

By: Paramjit Uppal CEO at AND Digital

Source: Beyond Funding: What Business Leaders Need to Know About the Value of Investing in Talent



This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Watch Sarah and Rich take us through their thoughts on what it means to be unbound, and how it can change your perspective on the potential around you.
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How This Entrepreneur Raised $1 Million and Is Leading an Energy Revolution Before Age 30

The path of the entrepreneur is a bold one. At every stage of the journey, you continually make bold decisions and take bold risks.

This has certainly been the case in my journey as a founder. We started a smart home company (in 2013) when everyone said we were crazy. We saw the vision and moved toward it in the face of uncertainty and risk.

When I was starting, I identified other leaders who were making bold decisions. It helped to feel like I was not alone along the path. I followed entrepreneurs accomplished their goals, and other young leaders blazing a new trail. I recently encountered an inspiring story that demonstrates just how bold we can be.​

Ugwem Eneyo is the co-founder and CEO of Shyft Power Solutions, an energy technology company that’s working to enable an energy revolution for underserved consumers in emerging markets. Eneyo, a graduate student at Stanford University, and a member of Forbes 30 under 30, has secured more than $1 million in funding from investors and participated in the 2019 Ameren Accelerator program. GreenBiz named her a 2019 VERGE Vanguard honoree to recognize her dedication to helping advance Nigeria’s energy infrastructure.

Personally, I feel inspired by Eneyo’s bold ambitions to create solutions in an emerging market with a nascent entrepreneurial system – especially in an industry as demanding as energy. I interviewed her to learn more about her role in energy, Shyft’s path to raising money and how accelerators can be a beneficial platform for entrepreneur success.

1. How did you get interested in energy technology?

Ugwem Eneyo: My family is from the Niger Delta, a region that suffered negative environmental and socioeconomic impacts as a result of the extractive industries. After directly seeing the challenges and how they affected my family and communities in the region, I became keenly interested in the nexus of energy, environment and development.

I actually spent years working as an environmental and regulatory advisor in the oil and gas sector, trying to mitigate the impacts and drive change from within the organizations. I eventually left to pursue my M.S. and Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, still focused on the theme. Shyft Power Solutions is a byproduct of my work at Stanford.

2. How was your experience in your industry different as a Nigerian-American?

Eneyo: There’s an increasing interest within the industry around solving energy challenges in Nigeria and, more broadly, emerging markets. The local knowledge is often an overlooked critical asset in doing so.

My previous work in the industry, and in emerging markets, shows that it’s often non-technical issues that cause projects to be delayed or fail. The intimate local knowledge allows for an understanding of people’s values, culture and thought processes, and that can better inform how we solve problems and how we deliver solutions. This has certainly been the case with Shyft Power Solutions.

3. What approach did you take when raising money for your business?

Eneyo: In the early stage, I leveraged grants and non-dilutive capital, given the longer and more capital-intensive development timeline for building industrial-grade hardware. We also raised traditional venture capital, as well as funding from strategic corporate investors.

The corporate venture capitalists played a key role in our fundraising strategy, as they often had more market knowledge and connections, which complemented the primarily U.S.-based traditional venture capital. And Shyft Power Solutions received $100,000 in seed capital through our participation in the Ameren Accelerator this year.​

4. How did your experience with the 2019 Ameren Accelerator program advance/benefit your business? What’s your relationship with Ameren and the accelerator now that the program has ended?

Eneyo: The Ameren Accelerator, alongside the Ameren employees who served on champion teams as mentors, provided important technical and business development expertise that offered valuable and unique insight into how Shyft’s platform can add value to utilities at scale. Part of our longer-term planning required Shyft to have better insight into utilities, and we were able to leverage Ameren in the process.

Although the accelerator has ended, my team and I have remained in contact with many of our technical champions, who still provide advice and references. Additionally, the accelerator program team has remained supportive, still introducing us to valuable startup resources.​

5. How do you see the energy technology industry changing? What changes would you like to make?

Eneyo: In emerging markets, there will be a leapfrog over traditional central energy infrastructures; instead, we will see digitization and decentralization of energy infrastructure that may work alongside whatever central grid is available. The flexible and intelligent use of distributed energy resources will be necessary to make this possible, and Shyft is developing the technology to do so.

I want to see clean, reliable, and affordable energy for all — urban and rural — and want to see energy demands being met by rapidly growing emerging markets. I’m excited to be leading an organization that’s at the forefront of this energy transition in markets like Nigeria.

By Andrew ThomasFounder, Skybell Video Doorbell

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Source: How This Entrepreneur Raised $1 Million and Is Leading an Energy Revolution Before Age 30

The Tragedy Behind The Death of Former Billionaire V.G. Siddhartha, India’s Coffee King

As young man, V.G. Siddhartha struggled to find the right path for himself. Perhaps the armed forces? No, no—a failed entrance exam to India’s National Defense Academy put the kibosh on that idea. What about community activism? “I was impressed by the philosophies of Karl Marx,” Siddhartha recalled a few years ago, “and really thought I would become a communist leader.”

After graduating from St. Aloysius College in southern India, he struck out into the provinces, eager to put Marx’s maxims to work raising the fortunes of the poor. This proved as impractical as military service. The countryside was rife with corruption and nepotism, impeding any progressive agenda. “India was so poor that there was no scope to become a Robin Hood,” Siddhartha said. “That’s when I realized that rather than being a wealth distributor, I should become a wealth creator.”

He did just that, founding India’s largest coffee-shop chain, Coffee Day Enterprises, a $572 million-in-sales business (with more than 10,000 employees) that persuaded a country raised on tea to consume something else entirely. It made him a wealthy man, one of the richest in India and, for a brief moment after Coffee Day’s 2015 IPO, a billionaire. Siddhartha came to represent everything India dreamed of becoming: a modern nation where entrepreneurs could brew new ideas, changing their lives and the circumstances of everyone connected to them as a result. That’s a radical notion for a nation constricted by millennia-old rigidity around class, structure and expectations. Siddhartha was fully aware of this. “If I was born 20 years earlier, I would have surely failed,” he said in 2011.

In death, Siddhartha, whose body was found Wednesday morning in the Netravati River in an apparent suicide, will likely also come to represent grimmer realities: the limits of the Indian economic miracle, the constraints of creating a business within a developing market, and the alleged harassment by government officials, which would have been not unlike the corruption that disgusted him in the first place.

Siddhartha was reared on coffee, his father’s family longtime plantation owners in. He resisted following tradition, though, and after college, in 1983, he took two busses from the countryside to Bombay, where he talked his way into a meeting with one of the country’s biggest stock-brokerage businesses. (He’d read about investing in a magazine and found it interesting.) To be more precise, Siddhartha charmed the secretary of the firm’s chief executive, Mahendra Kampani, and with the secretary’s help, showed up at Kampani’s office one day.

“The first thing was, I felt intimidated by the two elevators [at the Bombay office]. I had never taken an elevator in my life. So I climbed up the six floors,”  Siddhartha later described that first day. From there, he reached Kampani’s inner sanctum. “He asked me who I was. I told him that I had come all the way from Bangalore, and I wanted to work for him. … I had never seen an office as large as his. … He said he would take me in, but he had no idea who I was.”

Quickly Siddhartha proved to be a natural. “If I started with $1,000, I made a $3,000 by the end of the day’s trade,” he said. By his own estimate, it took him only a year and a half to learn the brokerage game and build up enough wealth to launch his own book back in Bangalore. He started funneling profits into coffee plantations, amassing 2,500 acres by 1992.

Around then, the Indian government pared back regulations on coffee growers. Before, they had been forced to sell to a national clearinghouse for 35 cents a pound, less than half what the beans could fetch overseas. As the rules fell away, prices for coffee began to rise. They hit $2.20 a pound in 1994 when a freeze in Brazil decimated that country’s crop. Siddhartha picked up the slack, fulfilling orders for 4,000 tons. The unexpected boom paved the way for another idea: a string of coffee houses, modeled on a similar idea he’d seen in Singapore. In 1994, Coffee Day Enterprises opened its first 20 stores. Siddhartha was “constantly thinking and creating, never happy to rest on his success,” says Nandan Nilekani, a friend and former CEO of Infosys Technologies, an Indian technology-consulting business.

Since Siddhartha owned coffee farms, he could cut away many of the middlemen who added expenses to his rivals; he even milled timber from his properties and turned it into furniture for his restaurants. Coffee Day really took off once he added computers with internet access to his locations, creating some of India’s first cyber cafes.

What Siddhartha loved more than coffee was working, and he celebrated New Year’s Eve 2009 in a Coffee Day, taking notes on how to improve service—and going behind the counter to see firsthand how customers treated his employees. “I was simply amazed how indifferent people are to those who serve. Three rich women came, ordered their drinks, did not once look at me, and settled the check, did not care to tip me, but worse, did not say a ‘thank you’ before leaving for someplace else where revelry awaited them,” he said. “It shocked me because it was New Year’s Eve. I thought people would be nice to others because they themselves were in such a joyous state of mind.”

His industriousness was getting noticed. The following year, a group of investors, including famed KKR, put $200 million in Coffee Day for a 34% stake. Revenue was then around $200 million, and sales nearly doubled within four years, the point when Siddhartha took his company public. His caffeinated kingdom extended across India, to 1,513 cafes in 219 cities. But to keep expanding, Siddhartha grew addicted to something that would, apparently, weigh heavily on his mind at the end of his life: debt financing. Coffee Day’s total liabilities blossomed from $189 million in 2011 to $758 million last year.

Earlier in 2019, Siddhartha began searching for a way to answer demands from his growing mountain of creditors. He tried, futilely, to talk Coca-Cola into buying a stake in Coffee Day and explored other asset sales, desperate to widen his cash stream. In a more mature economy, he might have secured different sorts of funding from the beginning—presumably the private equity investors he attracted in 2010 pushed him to load up on debt—or had the opportunity to borrow at less onerous rates. We’ll never know what would have happened had that been the case. But on July 29, Siddhartha switched his phone off, instructed his driver to take him to the Ullal Bridge over the Netravati River, got out of the car and was never seen alive again.

Purportedly, Siddhartha left behind a note, outlining the grief that drove him to his tragic end. He highlighted harassment from a tax official, prompting outcries from Indian politicians that the government has not done enough to boost entrepreneurs like Siddhartha and tamp down on corruption. Siddhartha also mentioned needing to borrow a large sum from a friend to stay afloat and, of course, mounting pressure from lenders. “My intention was never to cheat or mislead anyone, I have failed as an entrepreneur,” the letter reads. “This is my sincere submission, I hope someday you will understand, forgive and pardon me.”

The missive’s authenticity has not been verified. But its ending is certainly very Siddhartha, a cool-minded tabulation and twin insistences: that he hoped his assets would outweigh his liabilities and that, in the end, his family and business “can repay everyone.”

At Forbes, I cover the world’s wealthiest capitalists, as well as other entrepreneurs. For ForbesLife and Forbes’ lifestyle pages, I write about life’s greatest indulgences, including the finest chefs, food and booze


Source: The Tragedy Behind The Death of Former Billionaire V.G. Siddhartha, India’s Coffee King

OxyContin’s Sackler Family Will Get Millions From A Ski Resort Operator’s Sale

Vail Resorts, a publicly traded operator of ski resorts, announced on Monday it would acquire Peak Resorts for $11 per share, all cash, which is more than double its $5.10 per share closing price, one day prior to the announcement. Peak Resorts operates 17 ski resorts, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, including Alpine Valley in Ohio and Hunter Mountain in upstate New York.

One major beneficiary of the acquisition: the Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of pain drug OxyContin. According to Peak Resorts’ latest annual proxy from October 2018, its largest shareholder is CAP 1 LLC, a company wholly owned by Sackler brothers Richard and Jonathan.

The Sacklers’ nearly 40% ownership stake, which includes preferred stock and stock warrants, is worth about  $87 million based on the transaction. Some of the shares are owned by the charitable Sackler Foundation. The Sacklers became investors in Peak Resorts as early as August 2015.

Richard is the former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma. His brother, Jonathan, is a former board member. Nearly every state has filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and its owners, including eight Sackler family members, alleging the company caused a nationwide public health crisis around opioid addiction and opioid overdose deaths. One lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma had brought in more than $35 billion in revenues since 1995.

The Sacklers, worth an estimated $13 billion based largely on the value of Purdue Pharma, built their fortune primarily through sales of OxyContin, a highly addictive painkiller that has been called by the medical establishment one of the root causes for the nationwide opioid addiction epidemic.

Purdue Pharma owns the patent for OxyContin, and is the only manufacturer of the drug. According to Symphony Health Solutions, a healthcare and pharmaceutical data analytics company, roughly 80% of Purdue Pharma’s sales come from OxyContin. Due to the widespread rise in use of prescription and nonprescription opioids, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2017.

The family used to be known for being generous benefactors of museums and universities worldwide, but their moniker has lost its luster. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced in May it would turn down money from the Sackler family, though it will still carry the family name in the Sackler Wing. In July, the Louvre Museum in Paris reportedly removed the Sackler name from its Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities.

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Angel Au-Yeung has been a reporter on staff at Forbes Magazine since 2017. She covers the world’s wealthiest entrepreneurs and tracks how they use their money and power.

Source: OxyContin’s Sackler Family Will Get Millions From A Ski Resort Operator’s Sale

Meet The World’s Top M.B.A. Graduates This Year

Some of this year's top MBAs in the Class of 2019.

Aruna Sriraman doesn’t look like your traditional MBA. She wears a distinctive bow-tie with streaks of teal cascading through her hair. And she didn’t start her career as a banker or marketer, either. Chances are, you’re familiar with her work though. Before joining the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, Sriraman was gamer-turned-designer whose fingerprints are all over popular Zynga games like Farmville and Mafia Wars.

She describes her role then as “sneakily putting complex narratives into simple games.” However, it wasn’t Sriraman’s command of coding that made her one of Poets&Quants’ Best & Brightest MBAs of the year. Instead, it was her impact that rippled across the Class of 2019 – and beyond. For example, she led Rotman’s LGBT and Gaming clubs, platforms she used to launch a Diversity & Inclusion Case Competition in partnership with Bain & Company and the Bank of Montreal. However, her best moments came during coffee chats or quick responses to people struggling to find their identity, says Neel Joshi, who heads student and international experience at Rotman.

That doesn’t mean Sriraman shies away from the spotlight; she just knows when to pick her spots. “You are worth being a voice at the table,” she says. “I explained that I know the feeling of having to speak louder and perform better just to be recognized as an equal. I know that calling out toxic cultures and behaviors will likely come back to bite me. But I have realized that once I earn the respect of my peers, it is truly worth the negative consequences. I will never allow anyone to silence me again.”

You won’t find many “silent” students among this year’s 100 Best & Brightest MBAs. Like Sriraman, these second-years turn talk into action. They stood out among their peers, strong-willed self-starters who led by example, broke new ground, and ultimately brought out the best in those around them. This year, P&Q received 243 nominations from 67 MBA programs for inclusion in the Best & Brightest. The schools ranged from powerhouses like Stanford, Wharton, and INSEAD to upstarts like Babson College, McGill, and Wisconsin.

Candidate submissions were judged by P&Q editorial according to three criteria: extracurricular activities, academic and professional achievements, and the insightfulness of the responses. Overall, 56 candidates were women, with another 34 hailing from outside the United States. As undergrads, they majored in everything from Astrophysics to Political Science. Come summer, you’ll find them spearheading major projects at the likes of McKinsey, Google, JP Morgan Chase, and Boeing.

Their ranks include the Yale School of Management’s Nate Silver. Before starting his MBA, he worked in theater, even serving as the associate director for 2015 Tony-nominated play Disgraced – when he wasn’t managing the finances and operations for the Jackalope Theatre Company, that is. His classmate, Vito Errico, came to New Haven from the Pentagon, where he served as an assistant executive officer to the U.S. Army’s CFO and a special assistant to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. When Naila Kassam isn’t taking MBA courses at Ivey Business School, she is teaching medicine to physician trainees. If you’re looking for impact, Ohio State’s Neethi Johnson fits the bill…and then some. When she joined her family business seven years ago, it was generating $5 million dollars a year. After leading several acquisitions, the company recently topped out at $100 million dollars.

This year’s Best & Brightest MBAs didn’t shy away from shouldering real responsibility, either. Take the University of Notre Dame’s Charlotte Pekoske. In the U.S. Coast Guard, she was the Chief of Law Enforcement in the Key West sector, where her team rescued 8,100 migrants at sea. Compare that to Warwick Business School’s Sandhya Ramula. Starting out at Ernst & Young, she managed a team of 20 in Bangalore. In her first 18 months, she tripled her function’s business growth. Soon enough, she was leading three teams and 400 full-time employees!

Like those numbers? Here’s one you won’t forget: $100 million dollars. That’s how much MIT’s Janelle Heslop saved New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection on a long-term transformation project she led as a consultant. Working in crowdfunding, Louis Williams – a cage fighter outside IESE Business School – generated £10mn of capital for 20 start-ups. At the same time, Jennifer Bae will be re-joining Deloitte Consulting after graduating from UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. Why not? Before earning her MBA, she had developed a learning program that was rolled out worldwide in her practice.

That momentum didn’t stop when the Best & Brightest stepped onto campus. At the University of Florida, Chris Salinas, a partially-disabled veteran who helped to build Saudi Arabia’s equivalent to the Coast Guard, brought General Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the business school to speak about leadership. In contrast, Ashley Brown decided to leverage her classmates at Duke University. As President of the Black and Latino MBA Association, she partnered with the undergraduate Black in Business Club to provide mentoring and career guidance to their younger peers. MIT’s Eilon Shalev took this formula even further. Alongside four faculty members, he founded a campus-wide Blockchain Lab. Here, 60 students gained field experience on everything from software prototyping to AI algorithms by working on projects from top firms like the Boston Consulting Group and Fidelity Labs.

What made these Best & Brightest MBAs so successful? Many times, they had great role models. That was the case for New York University’s Lia Winograd. An entrepreneur with a thriving women’s apparel line, she learned from her paternal grandfather, who immigrated to Colombia to escape the Holocaust. Over the decades, he built a factory business that supported hundreds of Jewish families.

“I believe that most of the best entrepreneurs out there have to be immigrants like my grandfather,” Winograd explains. “When you have nothing and you step into a new country, your instinct for survival forces you to be creative and identify market gaps to find a place for yourself. His story inspires me every day, and I know even in the days when I’m financially challenged, I’ll push through and figure out a way to succeed.”

For Georgetown University’s Susi Eckelmann, her mom set the example. In elementary school, she returned to graduate school. The family quickly became “all hands on deck,” with everyone pulling extra weight as she commuted four hours to class. Her mother’s determination left an impression on Eckelmann as she pondered furthering her own education

“Education was a gift, and it took sacrifice,” she says. “Going back to graduate school may have felt disruptive and difficult, but I have an inspiring role model who made it seem possible.”

It may be disruptive, but it is also transformative. That’s how Marcus Morgan views the MBA experience. According to this Dartmouth grad, “If any of us leave here the same as when we arrived, we’ve all failed each other.” Based on the 180 degree turns made by many Best & Brightest, you won’t find many who feel they’ve failed.

For Wharton’s Medora Brown, the biggest change has been in how she approaches being a leader. “In the first couple months of school, most of my “leadership” involved herding large groups of classmates (i.e., I could shout louder than most people),” she admits. “However, over time, as I have taken on more leadership positions, I have begun to figure out what it means to organize, motivate, and lead by example (and not just by decibel level).”

On the surface, Geoffrey Calder’s epiphany may seem simplistic: Grit trumps brains. Over his time at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he saw this truth crop up time-and-time again – and it profoundly shaped his outlook.

“It has become clear after attending seminars with dozens (maybe hundreds?) of investors, entrepreneurs, and business leaders that what separates the “winners” from the “losers” isn’t intelligence,” he explains. “Rather, it’s passion and perseverance. It isn’t as romantic, but you’d rather be hardworking than smart. Set aggressive goals, seek feedback, practice, and push through adversity!”

For ESADE’s Frederick Gifford, the biggest takeaway can be summed up in one word: Confidence. “I’ve always loved ambiguity, but I think I saw certain parts of the business sphere as out of bounds for me. The MBA filled many gaps I had where this might have been true, but also shined a light on areas where this probably wasn’t true. It’s been transformative because I feel ready to tackle anything.”

To read 100 in-depth profiles of the Best & Brightest MBAs of 2019, click here.

John A. Byrne is editor-in-chief of, the leading website covering business schools. He is also the former executive editor of Businessweek and former EIC of Fast Company.

I’m the editor-in-chief of Poets and Quants, the most read and most popular provider of information on business programs in the world.

Source: Meet The World’s Top M.B.A. Graduates This Year

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