Jul 2015

Tips for LGBT MBAs Interested in Entrepreneurship

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Angulus won the LGBT MBA Startup Pitch Competition at ROMBA 2014

Guest blog by Kati Karottki, MBA Class of 2016 at Booth School of Business

One of my reasons for going back to school was to explore entrepreneurship a bit more deeply. Among its peer disciplines entrepreneurship at my program had been flying under the radar to outsiders but the approach and thinking combined with accelerator opportunities and strong VC network appealed to me. For those LGBT MBAs and other graduate student attendees of the 2015 ROMBA Conference, particularly those who are preparing for the LGBT MBA Startup Pitch Competition (sponsored by Capital One with judges coming from StartOut), I want to share just one point of view as you take the plunge into entrepreneurship. I’ve sifted through to summarize and share what I’ve found to be most valuable both theoretically and practically speaking. These stem from my coursework as well as real-world experience and participation in an accelerator as a member of my team’s new venture. While not comprehensive, the below provides some thinking for those new (and not so new) to the space;

  • Thinking about how you think: Entrepreneurial thinking leverages effectual reasoning while managerial thinking leverages causal reasoning (or even creative causal reasoning). What’s the difference? With the former you’re imagining new outputs (or ends) based on current but rapidly changing means (i.e. who you are, your idea, your network). The exact end-goal is not usually clear and you’re, in fact, very comfortable with that. Working with what you have you test what does and doesn’t work as you “go”. In the latter, you have clearly (pre)defined end-goal(s) backed by tons of data and historical insights. You think through how to leverage and maximize established resources to obtain a pre-defined goal. Prof. Sarasvathy at Virgina’s Darden School of Management writes about this extensively in a paper “What makes entrepreneurs entrepreneurial?”. If, as an MBA you fall into the latter (pretty common), think about partnering up with someone who thinks like the former.
  • The pieces to the puzzle: You think you have a great new idea or a way of making an existing product or service even better. Where do you start? What are the areas you need to think about as you build out your idea? Understanding the components of a business model framework is important in this regard and a great resource for that is Business Model Generation, by Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur. To quickly (albeit inadequately) summarize what Osterwalder & Co. outline, they are: Customer Segmentation, Value Proposition, Channels, Customer Relationships, Revenue Streams, Key Resources, Key Activities, Key Partnerships, and Cost Structure. Working through these components will essentially build the rationale for how your venture creates, delivers and captures value.
  • The Pitch: No matter how good the idea, how hard you have worked, and how “connected” you are, you need to sell-in the idea and stimulate interest. To use the analogy of dating, a pitch is like a coffee-chat. You’re simply trying to earn a follow-up invite for a more serious dinner date. So, make a good first impression, tell a compelling story and save the granular details for (hopefully) round 2. Guy Kawasaki lays out a nice framework for a pitch deck and Hyde Park Angels provides a great step-by-step guide to building a compelling story for your venture.
  • When the idea comes, get ready to sweat: Ultimately, remember that innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration (someone said that…). Simply put, when the idea comes about, get ready to sweat and work your butt off. You’ll soon find out just how passionate you (and members of your team) are about the idea. More importantly, it’s through a lot of hard work, coupled with a great idea, that you’ll ultimately be rewarded.

Good luck and go get it!

Kati Karottki is a member of the 2015 Reaching Out LGBT MBA & Business Graduate Conference organizing committee and obtaining her MBA from Chicago Booth. She enjoys exploring entrepreneurship, both with startups and larger Fortune 500 companies looking to drive disruptive growth. Her team’s food+tech venture, Maestro, won the 2015 New Venture Challenge at Chicago Booth (a #4 Accelerator in the country and with previous winners including GrubHub and Braintree). 

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