EntrepreNguyen!

How I Learned to Stop Studying and Love the Blog

After a great disorientation weekend, I return to LA facing three finals between me and my diploma.  Friday, I have Market Demand and Sales Forecasting, next Monday, Entrepreneurial Finance, and finally Tuesday, Branding Strategy.  However, this weekend I also have a wedding in Vancouver which would severely cut into my study time, if not for my grand plan to study from Tuesday to Thursday for every one of my finals.  I even woke up at 7:45 this morning to see this plan through.  But now I find myself sitting on a futon late tonight, having not yet reviewed a lick of Branding Strategy.  Where did the time go I asked myself?  Well, let’s recap. 

As I mentioned, I set an early alarm with hopes of going to the school gym.  These hopes were dashed.  I ended up checking email and read a number of Guy Kawasaki links that have nothing to do with any of my finals.  Hopefully tomorrow is the day he tweets about “THE ULTIMATE MARKET DEMAND AND SALES FORECASTING STUDY GUIDE FOR YOU, QUANG.”  Side note: I just Google imaged “market demand and sales forecasting.”  There are 59 results including this one.

I sure hope this is on the test.  Moving on, I decided to put on Toy Story 3 while I talked to my business partner about when I was free to meet with some potential developers for our ideas.  The answer was: I’m always free, because I never get invited to things.

After that, for one reason or another I stumbled onto TechStars New York and a couple other incubators.  Looking over the companies that have come out of TechStars was pretty motivating and inspiring.  Many great ideas, one of the most interesting of which to me was Star Street, a sports stock market.  Then I started to think about the now defunct ProTrade and found myself on co-founder and house bringer down, Jeff Ma’s wikipedia wondering if I’ll ever be asked to consult for a sports team in my future.  I decided this was unlikely, unless for whatever reason a sports team needed to know something about Entrepreneurial Finance and thus needed someone who owns the textbook.  In that case, I’m their man.  Because though I didn’t buy the textbook, I know some people who did. 

Around here is when Toy Story 3 ended and I had to choose between watching the last halves of National Security or Valentine’s Day or turning off the TV and hitting the books in silence.

I wasn’t in the mood for silence nor a romcom and chose the buddy copcom that I’ve already seen at least five times already.  It played in the background while I finally signed up for a Quora account and then spent 30 fruitless minutes trying to figure out how to get a custom URL.  I was totally stumped.  So I’m stuck with quang-nguyen-1, while quang-nguyen gets all the best questions and followers.  Anyways, I plan on repeatedly asking quang-nguyen obnoxious questions (“Hey, what are we doing this weekend?”, “Where are the best places to go eat where you live so I can go there, get kicked out, and get our name on the do not serve list?”, “What’s your favorite movie?  Mine is Face/Off.”) pretty much until he finally deactivates his account and lets me swoop right in and takeover, to the chagrin of my question askers worldwide.

At around 1:30 I started getting hungry, so I walked to Chipotle.  The plan was to get two orders of tacos so I wouldn’t have to leave again for dinner.  I ended up eating five of six tacos while watching the last 3/4 of Death at a Funeral, my second consecutive Martin Lawrence movie of the day. 

My partner then emailed me again about potentially meeting a local VC.  Having never really spoken to one yet, I thought it was a great opportunity even though it would be more informational.  We sent him an email and then I looked him up on LinkedIn.  Quite impressive.  He’s a Harvard MBA and also a Masters in Management Science & Engineering from Stanford.  Seeing this, I looked at Stanford’s graduate computer science program and talked to a friend, who has a Masters in Human-Computer Interaction, about whether I should pursue a Masters in CS.  He quickly talked me out of it and gave me some other, cheaper classes that would help serve the same general purpose without pushing me further into debt.  Of course, maybe my friend is just a Masters of CS hipster.

Next up was playoff basketball and I considered signing up for about.me.  I eventually decided to hold off until after I had more to say about myself and after I actually pass my finals.  I figure that could be pretty embarrassing.  So instead, I spent 3 hours looking at jobs through Quora and GrubHubbed sushi before just now stopping to type all this up to tell my five followers about the inane details of my studyless day.

Which brings us back to the futon.  Sure I don’t know anything more about any of my classes than I did yesterday, but somehow, I felt much more productive than usual.  Which I think is just as important.  Ask me about tomorrow!

Last Day of Classes

As of right now, I, along with many of my classmates are entirely and unapologetically classless.  Yep, after about 18 months of class, tests, group meetings, group projects, individual projects, individual tests, group class, and test meetings, we’re near the end of our business school stint.  As such, the class of 2011 has flocked to the Book to declare things like “Last class ever in my life!”, “It’s over!”, and “FREE!!”

I guess everyone is pretty certain they’ll pass their finals and will not be asked to retake any classes over the summer.  Though I suppose hubris is preferable to the latter.

Hubris or not, everyone is rightfully very excited for their futures.  Their futures in which they do not have to see me everyday anymore.  Joke’s on them, because guess who is going to be totally abusing the Trojan Network to crash on couches on random weekdays. 

To the point, for all intents and purposes it is indeed my last day of class, for the time being.  Kind of bittersweet but also very exciting.  Who knows what’s next for any of us.  Except for those with jobs who know that income and benefits are what’s next.  But me, I’m still trying to figure things out.  Interestingly, last night Lloyd Greif, he of the entrepreneurial center named after him, explained to our business plan class during our pitch competition that “figures lie and liars figure.”  I suppose this means I will lie until I get a job and then lie until I eventually start my incredible and well-dressed company.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much else to add which is chief among reasons why I don’t get to say anything during graduation. Marshall friends, I’m sure I’ll see you in Vegas for DisOrientation, on a boat for the boat cruise, in a classroom for any of my three finals, or sometime else when our paths should cross and I call out your name and you walk quickly away from me.

Anyways, good luck to the class of 2011 worldwide, whatever you do and wherever you go.  Except those of you who are pricks, I wish you average luck.

C4C Weekend 2011: Stanford & (Mad)sen

Bay Area, here I am!  Why?  Obviously because it’s the annual Challenge 4 Charity Sports Weekend, where 9 west coast MBA schools (Berkeley, Pepperdine, Stanford, USC, UCLA, UC Davis, UC Irvine, USF, and Washington) descend upon Stanford’s gorgeous campus to square off in a number of events.  

Among these events are golf, dodgeball, basketball, football, a spelling bee, trivia, and bocce ball.  It’s like field day in elementary school, except now we’re all much more out of shape and have smartphones and beer bellies.  This sports weekend, along with each school’s volunteer and fundraising efforts will determine the ultimate Charity Challenger, or whatever they call the winner.  Last year, we tied for first and celebrated well into the night.

For me, this year, I’m the last man off the bench on Men’s B Basketball.  The human victory cigar.  Which should be pretty exciting, considering I am woeful at basketball.  Luckily, no other schools know that.  But enough about me, the most interesting subplot of this weekend is a single Stanford first year.

Mark Madsen.

Yes, the former 2-time NBA Champion is a 2012 MBA Candidate, something I find very impressive. I’m sure Mark has made his fair share of loot, so it’s nice to see him not resting on his laurels, which is what I assume rich people call their expensive beds.  I don’t know why I find this so fascinating.  Does he get every job interview?  What’s he like in class?  What clubs did he join?  Does he have a backpack or a messenger bag?  What were his admission essays like??

He’s just like the rest of us!  He has a FacebookLinkedIn, and tweets!  Unlike the rest of us, though, his previous employers were the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves, who don’t even have a picture, and his title at both companies was “Professional Athlete.”  What a world.

If you can’t tell, I’m pretty excited.  But that’s not going to change the fact I’m going to heckle him senseless during Men’s A Basketball.  Because as much as this is kind of neat, I prefer chanting USC victoriously again in a mob with 200 of my best friends.  And that was after a tie, imagine if we actually win!

Well, time to stop talking and start doing.  If you need me, I’ll be the one following Mark around yelling, “Hey!  It’s Slava Medvedenko!!”

What we can learn from Kemba Walker

In my entrepreneurial finance class on Monday our teacher asked, “Who’s rooting for UConn?”  I was one of four students to raise my hand.  Well, that makes sense, I thought to myself; it is the same class that finds it extremely difficult to efficiently pass around an attendance sheet.  Why wouldn’t they root against the most logical thing?

Honestly, there are legitimate reasons to have cheered for Butler.  I’m sure the underdog story is pretty compelling and Brad Stevens is an adorable and affable coach.  But a sports blog this is not.  So you’ll just have to accept that I am an enormous Kemba Walker fan while also accepting the fact that you can’t spell Kemba without… the MBA.

That seems like a loose enough connection to elicit the following 500+ words.  So with that said, here are three things keMBA “The Businessman” Walker’s tournament run taught me that I could apply to my life as a business student and entrepreneur.

1.   Under-promise and over-deliver

In Vegas for spring break for the first weekend of the tournament, I was given two opportunities to bet on Kemba.  First was a 10-point line against Bucknell.  The Huskies won by 29 and led by as many as 41.  In the next round, UConn was 3-point favorites against Big East rival Cincinnati.  They won by 11 and we carried our friend, a Connecticut alumnus, out of the sportsbook on our shoulders.  The rest of the tournament was more of the same as they ultimately covered five of six games, only narrowly missing by a half point against Arizona.

The lesson?  Set realistic goals, beat them, and then reap the monetary rewards for doing so.  That goes for all of you, never under-deliver.  Go above and beyond.  And always be yourself.  That’s what’s really cool.

2.   Be fearless

Kemba is generously listed at 6’1” and 172 pounds.  Well, I’m not sure if it’s generous or not.  I just like when people describe dimensions as generous.  Like how my GPA is generously listed at 5.5.  The point is, as far as basketball players go, he’s not one of the taller ones.  Yet despite that, he attacks the rim aggressively and as a volume shooter, he isn’t afraid to shoot or miss.

This is definitely something we entrepreneurs can relate to.  Don’t be afraid to fail and never back down.  Also, just like Kemba, and Jimmer for that matter, don’t be scared to pull up from way downtown.  I’m not sure how that applies to me yet, but I think I’m going to start sitting in the very back row of my classes as far away from the teacher as possible and ask abrupt and ridiculous questions.

3.   Burn that midnight oil

Even before the NCAA tournament started, UConn had to get out of the Big East Tournament.  They won five games in five days.  To contrast, I haven’t been to class in five consecutive days all year.  After that exhausting run, pundits thought they would be too burnt out to make any serious noise.  Six wins in a more reasonable 19 days later, they stand atop the college basketball world thumbing their nose at the rest of us.

The road along the way might be tough, and it might not be the most efficient way to get from point A to point B, but keep at it.  In any business, there’s no substitute for old-fashioned hard work.  Be persistent.  If you take enough little steps forward, you’ll eventually reach the peak.  And if you don’t, blame Kemba for making it seem so easy.

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Overall, it was another great tournament.  Yes, some would describe the championship game as “ugly” or “the worst championship game I’ve ever seen.”  The best team of the field of 68 may have not won; but the winning team definitely executed the best, which is something most entrepreneurs can appreciate. 

So here’s to CEO Walker, the Most Outstanding Player of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.  And more importantly, here’s to us, may we all eventually become The Most Outstanding something of something in our future.  Especially me, the future Most Outstanding Repayer of School Loans Thanks to Betting on College Basketball.

Last Official Spring Break

Yes, today is the first Monday of my last spring break.  Before that, I had a midterm week, which is like spring break, except instead of having days off I have tests worth 40% of my grade and projects and papers due.   But, that’s now behind me and it’s time to look forward to the next thing, the last spring break of my life.

Every year, 30+ of my friends and I migrate to Las Vegas for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.  Though this year I guess it’s the 2nd and 3rd rounds.  Luckily, USC’s spring break falls right in line with this trip.  Luckily for my grades, I should clarify.  Because there’s no chance of me ever missing this trip, it’s way too much fun.  Kind of like Breakfastables. the fun and convenient pre-packaged breakfast!

And actually, it wasn’t even that lucky to begin with because a big draw of going to USC was how each year our spring break coincided perfectly.  Joke’s on them.

But even in the midst of the LAST SPRING BREAK EVER, I can’t help but keep thinking about business ideas and the excitement of starting my own thing.  Right now, we’ve been really exploring the mobile gaming space and I actually just bought a MacBook Pro last weekend ready to cook up some ideas and at least get to the point where we I understand what I need to learn next. 

Overall, I feel like I’m building a lot of momentum and getting a full head of steam behind me.  It’s pretty exciting, especially in light of the fact that according to my resume I am largely unemployable so I really have no other choice.  

But with that said, my entrepreneurship goals, for this week, are a great plan B.  Plan A: bet small to medium sums of Sallie Mae’s money on college basketball games and lose my voice in the process until it’s time to revisit plan B.  

Spring break!

A Belated Twiistup 8 Review

Two weeks ago I got the chance to volunteer at Twiistup, Los Angeles’ Best Technology and Startup Event, their words not mine.  You can find the agenda here and also below with video courtesy of TechZulu and slide decks if I could find them.

Much of my morning was spent at registration.  So unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to listen to any of the early speakers, but I did get a chance to check people in, give them name tags, and smile pleasantly.  And honestly, you can’t practice smiling enough.  How else am I going to sell people on the genius idea that is Breakfastables.

After lunch, I was free to roam as I pleased and caught a few presentations, which I enjoyed as they were very relevant to my area of focus: presentations about things.  But more seriously,  ”Opportunities in the Future of Email” by Matt Blumberg, “Gamification 101: Designing the Player Journey” by Amy Jo Kim and the “Freemimum: Business Model or Marketing Tactic?” Panel were all particularly insightful.

I had a flight to catch early evening so the last thing I got to see was “Celebrities as the Value Drivers for the Consumer Web” featuring Eliza Dushku and three people who weren’t Eliza Dushku yet still probably more important than I’ll ever be. 

Whenever I mentioned that Eliza Dushku spoke or was speaking at this event, people gave me a quizzical look, as if they thought they should know who she was.  Then I tried to jog their memory, “You know, Eliza Dushku?  From ‘Bring it On,’ ‘The New Guy,’ ‘Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.’”  This would elicit continued stares.  Which prompted me to go on, “‘Tru Calling?’  She’s dating Rick Fox?  That one episode of “That 70s Show’”  And finally, they got tired of hearing a bizarre list, and just told me, “I’ll probably recognize her when I see her.”  This happened at least six times that I can remember.  Which told me I know too many useless things.

Overall, it was a great and motivating experience especially for someone with entrepreneurial aspirations.  I see why it’s the self-proclaimed “Los Angeles’ Best Technology and Startup Event.”  I almost wish I had something to complain about just to not seem like such a Twiistup Homer.  In fact, I think I’ll make something up now.

Ahem.

Overall, it would have been a great event if not for the fact I met too many interesting people and listened to too many good presentations about the tech startup community.  LA’s best technology and startup event?  More like 2nd best, behind QuaangUp 1, which will begin immediately, as I surf the internet.

Speaking of which, this is the google result from “LA’s 2nd best technology and startup event”

Huge opportunity.  And plenty of room on the QuaangUp bandwagon.  Your move, Twiistup 9.

Sales people are often good entrepreneurs. Good entrepreneurs are always good sellers.
Thomas O’Malia - Business Plan, Wednesday, February 16, 2011