Thursday, November 24, 2005

Google's culture

BW has a long article about Google. Quite interesting and a must-read for prospective MBA applicants. A passage worth reading:

The suits inside Google don't fare much better than the outside pros. Several current and former insiders say there's a caste system, in which business types are second-class citizens to Google's valued code jockeys. They argue that it could prove to be a big challenge in the future as Google seeks to maintain its growth. They deem the corporate development team as underpowered in the company, with engineers and product managers tending to carry more clout than salesmen and dealmakers.
Drummond rejects the accusations that Google is anti-businesspeople. He says Google has hired many MBAs and bankers and is constantly assessing its dealmaking strategy

Hum, it seems better to have a geek background than a banker one if you want to work for them...

French strike season

Even Libération is on strike

Monday, November 21, 2005

Depressed by the state of Europe?

According to The Economist, you should not. The paper affirms that the situation is better than it seems in the Euro-zone and gives some interesting statistics on growth and employment.

On a related subject, France is actually home of the largest IPO of the year: EDF has started trading on Euronext with a market cap of €7bn but the state still controls 85% of the capital. It's actually a great year for bankers working on the French market for IPO and M&A and the latest rumors of a possible bid of Thales by Alcatel will reinforce that trend, although it's not the first time that Thales is in play.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Can trees grow to the sky?

Google's share price has just broken $400 a share. Last August, I was predicting that at $280 a share, the company was at the correct price but now, some analysts are even targeting shares at $450.

I'm posting about Google since the company was on campus today for its recruiting event. Impressive presentation with a lot of dynamic people clearly passionated about what they are doing and the company they work for. Some of their openings in the UK are here.

A $100 laptop

At the UN summit on information and technology in Tunis, plans for a $100 laptop have been unveiled. They are running Linux, have wireless capabilities and a hand-cranck to provide power. Those laptops are aimed at bridging the Digital Divide (I would even say Digital Cayon) between the rich and poors countries. First shipments are planed in February/March to Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Nigeria.

This is great but then again, in some countries, wireless access are not widespread and still very expensive. On a trip to Congo-Brazzaville last year for a non-profit, I talked to many managers of Internet Café and I learnt that the subscription was as high as $600 per month for a lousy 64k connection. Yet this is clearly a step in the right direction.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A new week

This past week was quite busy with those World Economy essays to write, a finance case to finish and my work as an independent consultant. Next week looks quite busy as well with a job interview tomorrow for an associate position with a boutique consulting firm and another interview planned on Wednesday with my summer employer. I'm actually quite relaxed for those coming interviews since I already have an offer from one of the big name in management consulting. I haven't told them ‘yes’ yet so I’m still interviewing with other firms in case something better arises but in the end, there is a very strong probability that I will join them. The only problem: it's for one of their office in continental Europe and I was not too keen on leaving London after only 2 years there.

Consulting was not my initial objective when I joined the MBA. It was Venture Capital, in particular the funds investing in early stage in high-tech companies. It's a very small industry in Europe (may be 10 serious funds), each employing at max 20 people so their recruiting needs are quite small. After talking to most of them using introductions from the VCs who backed the startup I used to work for, I decided to expand my job search since I realized my chances for joining the VC industry, right after the MBA, were limited. So I applied for consulting jobs during the Milkround (that's what they call on-campus recruiting here) since I figured that after a few years as a strategy consultant, I will be in a stronger position to discuss opportunities with a VC. I still need to confirm that point with a headhunter but I’m quite convinced it’s right.

The Milkround is quite a stressful period at the School. It was stressful last year for internship recruiting and even more so this year for full-time. You need to be focused since you cannot go to all presentations but at the same time, you don't want to restrict yourself too much since it could mean missed opportunities. Yet, it really helps if you know broadly what you want to do: Consulting, Banking or Industry. Just an advice for the 2007 reading this blog: the Milkround for you start on the first day of the Spring term so during your Xmas holidays you should really prepare your cover letters and rehearse interviews. The first deadlines for applications will be mid-January so the earlier you are ready, the better.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A Boeing for Google's co-founders

You know you made it to the top of the corporate world when you have your own private jet and the 2 co-founders of Google clearly made it. They are going to fly in a refurbished Boeing 767 for personal travel.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

MBA salaries on the rise

In Wall Street at least. See the article from the New York Post here mentioning that MBA are starting between $100k and $115K a year for a job in financial services. I did not find any recent numbers for London or Europe in general.

This survey from Universum was interesting as well. It ranks the ideal employers for MBA graduates and no surprises: management consulting firms and investment banks are in the top rank with McKinsey leading followed by Citigroup and Goldman. This WSJ article discuss briefly the rankings.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Update on the riots in France

My post this morning was wrong. There has been travel warnings for France made by a range of countries. See the WP article here and extract below:

"The U.S. Embassy warned travelers against taking trains from Paris to Charles de Gaulle International Airport because of attacks on two trains last week. The Russian Embassy established a hotline for tourists after a bus carrying Russian visitors was set afire by youths last week. No one on the bus was injured, according to news reports. The Canadian Embassy said citizens "should be extremely careful" if they have to travel through the affected areas. Britain also has issued warnings."

So if you are coming by plane to Charles de Gaulle, you should consider taking a cab or the Air France shuttle that takes the highway from the airport to downtown Paris. Do not take the RATP bus since I believe it's going through the suburbs and could be an easy target.

May be we should send the army to secure the roads to the airport as the US military does for the Baghdad International Airport highway... OK I'm being a bit ironic here with this comparison but I believe there is a strong likelihood that the military is going to be sent to the suburbs to restore calm.

The French social model

It was to be expected that non-French people at the London Business School (and elsewhere) would turn to French people to get an update and some explanations of the problems in France. Media coverage has been so extensive in the past days that everyone knows there is something quite tragic going on there and some of my classmates are asking me if it is still safe to go to France next week. Yes it is still safe and France is not (yet) on the travel warning web site of the US state government but after 11 days of rioting, the situation just look terrible and my previous post about urban warfare was actually correct.

Saturday night: 1,300 cars burned in dozen of cities including 30 in downtown Paris. Sunday night: 800 cars destroyed, 30 policemen wounded and no visible end in sight.

Of course, for the land of the Human Right, so proud of its integration model, this comes as a bit of a shock and where Katrina exposed the inequalities of the US society, the French riots are showing to the world the failure of the French model when it comes to integrate its immigrants. The WSJ has its views about the situation, actually quite balanced even from this usually prone to French bashing paper.

In any case, the law and order must be restored in the short term before contagion spread to more cities, not only in France but in other European countries as well but what about long term solutions: positive discrimination, social housing spread posh neighborhoods... But is it the right way and is the French society ready for this?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

World Economy assignment

Our first paper for the World Economy elective, taught by Richard Portes and Andrew Scott, is due this coming Friday. We have to write 2 essays, of 750 words each, and we can choose subjects in a selection of 4. I've chosen the following:
  • "What are the two most important problems facing the economies of Continental Europe? In what directions do you see solutions?"
  • "Evaluate the monetary policy of the European Central Bank. Should the ECB listen to those who urge it to cut interest rates to ‘kick-start’ euro-area expansion?"
The two other choices were on the Japanese economic recovery and the US current account deficit.

Writing those essays is going to take some time given that I'm a slow writer and the questions are not that straightforward. The problem is of course that I don't have much time so I need to find a good balance between producing good work and limited time available. Clearly, "wasting" some precious minutes to write on this blog is not the best way to go! So back to work...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Urban warfare in Paris suburbs

The appropriate term is actually riots but after 6 nights of violence, the suburbs North of Paris are really starting to look like the ground floor of a guerilla... 69 cars destroyed yesterday only, cocktail molotovs thrown by group of youth to the CRS (anti-riot police). The mess started when 2 teenagers were electrocuted 5 days ago in an apparent attempt to escape police. Sarkozy is under intense pressure to restore peace but is being highly criticized for the words he used when refering to band of youth creating problems in the suburbs and his declaration of "war without mercy" on crime in the suburbs.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Chinese bid for Exxon Mobil

The Guardian reports that a bid could be made by a small Chinese company to acquire Exxon Mobil, in a deal valued at $450bn... Of course, this looks very much like a hoax as the newspaper accurately reports and the Chinese firm even mentioned that the "offer was subject to financing". Good luck with that! Yet could you imagine the response of the US government? They already went a bit crazy with the Unocal bid so this one would be World War III (as an analyst mentioned).