Sunday, September 25, 2005

Time-challenged? You are not alone

Business Week has a great cover story on long hours at the office. The article explains some of the reasons why the productivity gains of the last decades did not translate into fewer hours at work and what can you do to reduce the workload.

This article was interesting in the light of my shadowing experience that ended up last week. My manager was clearly experiencing some the of issues listed in the article such as "communications -- voice mail, e-mail, and meetings -- nearly or completely unmanageable". The inbox of my manager had up to 500 unread emails at some point during the day!

The shadowing experience was positive from a networking point of view and gave me some exposure to the inside of an investment bank but from a educative point of view, it was useless. In my opinion, spending 4 days following a manager, not matter how senior he is, is an incredible waste of time and learning management skills by observing is preposterous. You learn this by doing, not observing.

The shadowing project has been highly criticized by the MBA 2006 and the MBA office seems to acknowledge this since the project will be under review. My advice: make this an optional project. Some students with no management experience or strong motivation to discover a new industry or country could still find the project useful. For many others, it's just useless.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

MBA rankings

The Economist Intelligence Unit (a sister publication of The Economist) has released its latest MBA ranking. The London Business School ranked poorly with an appaling 23rd position. The top MBA is the one from IESE in Barcelona and it's the first time a European school is ranked first against the US schools. The next 4 are Kellog, Tuck, Stanford and IMD.

The Economist discusses the ranking and the methodology used by EIU and notes that neither Wharton nor Harvard have participated to the ranking. The Economist rightly points that:

"There are now so many business-school lists that they, too, probably deserve a ranking. Any top ten would include the EIU, the Financial Times, Forbes, US News & World Report and the Wall Street Journal."

The Wall Street Journal released its rankings two days ago and London Business School fell 3 places to number 5. IMD ranked first followed by ESADE. About the London Business School, the article mentions that: "The international student body and faculty are the key attractions of LBS," says Hedde Draper, who works in investment banking at Credit Suisse First Boston in London. "And in terms of faculty, research and relationships with the main financial institutions, it should be regarded as one of the very best finance schools."

Clearly, it's not possible to rely on a single ranking when estimating a School. With so much disparity in the results, they are becoming less relevant for students and for recruiters but it does not mean that they should be dismissed. In any case, nothing replaces talking to current students when applying to a program since it will give you information directly from the source. Or as the article from The Economist mentions:

"The listings, and the information that they distil, can help a student with that choice. There are plenty of things, however, that they cannot convey. None of the EIU's criteria, for instance, captures the distinctive culture of IESE. The institution is run by Opus Dei, a controversial Catholic order founded in the last century, and its professor of business ethics is a Roman Catholic priest."

In my opinion, an in no particular order, the top 4 MBAs in Europe are INSEAD, IMD, IESE and the London Business School.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Next venture

After making some nice money from his stock options, a former Google employee has left the company to start a new venture... Familiar story in the Valley except that it concerns the former Chef of Google who is opening a restaurant near Stanford. Read about it here.

More seriously, it's easier now for start-ups to raise money from VCs who are loaded with cash. They are all saying that they learnt their lessons from the last market crash... We'll see!

Monday, September 19, 2005

ROI on Skype

According to Financial News, the returns on Skype have been fantastics for the VCs who have invested in the firm (see my post earlier). Bill Draper, a partner at Draper Richards has invested $250,000 of his personal money for a 5% stake, when Skype was valued at less than $2m. He has made more than 1000x times his investment!

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's getting busy

I though September would be relax but actually, I have quite a lot of things to do. The bulk of my work is to write the second year report. It's quite painful but I'm just glad to be over with it quite soon. My recommendation to the 2007 is to try to combine the second year project with the summer internship like I did with the other intern. It should save us quite a lot of time this year.

Then, I'm still struggling to schedule observation days with the manager I'm going to shadow. He is travelling most of this month so we managed to find only 2 days of observation in September and 3 days in October. The problem is that the MBA office does not want to give any extension to the deadline of September 30 so I'm a bit stuck here. I don't know yet how to overcome this but there is no way I'm putting some pressure (and I don't really see what kind of pressure I could apply here…) on my shadowee because of internal deadlines at the School. The guy is a very senior executive at one of the largest global investment bank that does recruit extensively at the School and he is doing his best to find some time in his agenda where he does not have confidential meetings. He is trying to be flexible so the School will have to be too!

Otherwise, I'm also probably going to work as an independent consultant for a small consulting firm who needs some help. The first project could be planning the MBO of a virtual network operator and prepare a due diligence for potential private equity investors. This should be quite interesting and besides, making extra money can't be that bad.

And finally, we are really thinking about creating a company with Guillaume. We just miss the idea, the money, the business plan and the time but we'll manage something :)

eBay to buy Skype for $2.6bn

The deal is worth $4.1bn overall since a $1.5bn additional payment is planned later if target are met. Read all about it here and here. It will create "an unparalleled e-commerce and communications engine".

I don't know how many shares did the two co-founders had but my guess is that they will enter the Fortune 1000 list next year. Well done!

Friday, September 09, 2005

EU VCs will be boosted by a Skype exit

If the rumors are proven to be true and if Skype is bought by eBay for something like $3bn to $5bn, the VCs (Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Index Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners and Mangrove Capital Partners) who backed the company are going to make some impressive returns.

If successful, this exit should impact the European VC industry in a positive way since two of the original investors are Europeans. That actually is the main problem of the industry: how to exit a European company at an attractive valuation? In the US, a startup can IPO on the Nasdaq but in Europe, listing a small firm on the stock market seems quite a hassle. Although the London AIM is gaining some traction, it's still a long way from being a European Nasdaq.

Now that strategic buyers seems to be back and ready to pay hefty prices, I think LPs (ie: the funds who put money in the VCs) are going to have a more favourable view of this asset class and it will hopefully be easier for the European VCs to raise their funds.

Then, with no lack of ideas and entrepreneurs in Europe, VCs should be able to make some great investments. Even the FT thinks that the Sillicon Valley has shifted to Europe and Asia!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Skype is in play

New rumors on Skype being targeted by eBay for a deal value at $5bn. This comes after speculation of News Corp making an offer for the VoIP company last month. I could see eBay offering Skype services to its users interested in asking live question prior to a bid on an auction but otherwise, synergies could be limited... Or am I missing something here such as eBay becoming a generalist portal such as Yahoo! Anyway it's interesting to see how hot is VoIP within the industry.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New tech bubble?

Great article from the NYT about inflation within the VC industry. The article mentions one of the lastest deal from Accel Partners: $12.2m invested in Facebook, giving the company a valuation of $100m. I can't believe this company, started less than 18 months ago, is worth that much of money! Clearly, web sites providing social network are increasingly popular within VCs (and web users). I'm still a bit unclear about the revenue model besides adverstising but I guess they can start to add premium services at some point.

If that's motivating you and you are thinking about creating your own venture, then it's worth reading this article from Business 2.0 which lists 11 ideas that VCs would finance.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Airline safety

There has been another crash of an airplane, in Indonesia this time. That's the 6th in a little more than a month. This really has been a black summer for airlines and I guess it's time for regulators to seriously look into that industry. Margins have probably been compressed too much, with some companies starting to compromise on safety and using planes at their maximum capacity.

Countries such as France or Belgium have started to publish their blacklists which is a step in the right direction but too little too late. What is needed is an international list available to the public so that travellers could make their own decision prior to flying.

I can start my own list :-) and the first winner would be Euro Service airline from Congo Republic: I had the scariest flight of my life last year on one of their Antonov 24 from Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire, with smoke coming inside the cabin while we were flying. When I asked the Russian pilot about that, I realized he did not speak English nor French but he managed to reply a "da da normal..." Hum, look at the pictures and tell me if that looks normal!

(2 more pictures available here)

In any case, you can still check web sites such as AirSafe to check if there has been some recent accidents with a carrier you intent to fly with.

Update: Libération has a full set of articles on the future EU airline blacklist

Friday, September 02, 2005

Internship done

We've performed our final presentation early this week and that was it! The last days were quite intense but we managed to deliver a good and clear presentation to about 20 people located in the US, Switzerland, France and the UK. I believe we made specific useful recommendations on how the company is to enter that new market and thus, we have avoided the MBA syndrome - ie. a lot of analysis but few recommendations if any!

The internship was very interesting since I was able to really put into practice some of the learnings from the MBA (5-forces, NPV...) in a completely new industry for me. I now have to get ready for the shadowing but my shadowee is on business travel almost 99% of his time so I think this will be painful to organize.

The 2007 have arrived on campus and you have a great number of posts from the 2007 Bloggers on their various experiences. Welcome to London guys and get ready for a though first term...

And finally, a link of my girlfriend's blog who has just started blogging as well (in French).