Can the Patriots Please Stand Up

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

To your British correspondent the last few weeks have provided perspective on a particular feature of American culture. Before the start of a Chicago Blackhawks game on February 9 the spectators rose to sing the national anthem, with a fervor and passion not witnessed before by this Brit. I was swept along in this display of patriotism and tried to sing along to words that I vaguely recollected…”Star Spangled Banner”. The stadium was decked out in red, white and blue; the huge American flag displayed proudly.

Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl. (Billboard)

Lady Gaga at the Super Bowl. (Billboard)

While I have never taken part in such a display before I was given a preview from the televised Super Bowl. If there is a moment where you can get professional footballers to weep openly in public, it is singing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. Again there was the gigantic American flag, members of the armed forces, hands on hearts, and the performer, Lady Gaga, decked out in red.

Although displays of patriotism appear more often in the US compared to the UK, patriotism still tends to be fairly quiet, bubbling under the surface. This is also true at Booth. There are not huge displays of patriotism, but there are moments: Indians at Diwali, Israelis for BoothRight, Asian communities for the Lunar New Year.

Red, white and blue at a Blackhawks game.

Red, white and blue at a Blackhawks game.

George Orwell wrote in his brilliant essay "The Lion and the Unicorn" that “One cannot see the modern world as it is unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty.” Yet we tend not to think of patriotism as a potent force that guides decisions. I am going back to the UK after Booth for many reasons and I would, quietly, admit that one reason is loyalty to my home country.

Yet there is a darker side to patriotism, which we have seen throughout the last century in Europe and which is starting to surface again, and which gives patriotism a bad rap. Thus, when we criticize radical policies and actions of some US presidential candidates, maybe these have less to do with their ideology, intelligence or empathy, but with their patriotism. Do they not love their country as much as anyone else -- or more fervently? One can be a patriot and a radical. Orwell understood this; he wrote the essay while “highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me...they are ‘only doing their duty’” and “who would never dream of committing murder in private life.”

In that narrow sense, then, Voltaire was right when he wrote "It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind." We see displays of patriotism in the news that please us, like in the sports games, and displays that we find distasteful. Understanding the power of patriotism -- seeing it, accepting it and shaping it -- will help us prevent a minority from hijacking it. Can the patriots please stand up?

Harmesh has been doing his duty to Britain by only drinking gin this quarter.

We Are So Small: A Year in News

Our outgoing news columnist reflects on the past year

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

If there is anything that can give us perspective it is that morass of the cosmos. And if any of us has forgotten about that huge unknown out there, we were reminded last week when gravitational waves were observed, heralding a new era for physics.

A century ago the coruscating mind of Einstein produced ten equations on relativity that are still obscure, but over time tests and data have proved many of his conclusions to be valid; the LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) test on gravitational waves is just the latest. As we think about what next will be discovered, maybe, one day, our daily conversations will be about “what planet?” or “what galaxy?” rather than “what city?” or “what country?”. We are so small.

Another conclusion developed by Einstein was proved valid with the discovery of gravitational waves.

Another conclusion developed by Einstein was proved valid with the discovery of gravitational waves.

Over the past year I have covered a range of stories from Booth and across the world, some as important as the recent discovery. Unfortunately, global news events have had a tendency to be negative. But the latest discovery has shown the unique capacity of humans to yearn, to learn, to understand, to innovate. It was Einstein who said that “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.”

Progress of history

Georg Hegel established the idea that history progresses with pendulum swings.

Georg Hegel established the idea that history progresses with pendulum swings.

Over the past year we have witnessed several international agreements, such as on climate change and the Iran nuclear program. These show that cross-religious and cross-ideological agreements are still possible. The Iran deal seemed unthinkable a decade ago, so can this give us hope for the future?

On the other hand two centuries ago, Georg Hegel, the German philosopher, established the idea that history progresses with pendulum swings. There is a “thesis” (an existing idea, political movement or discourse). Then there is an “antithesis” (a reaction to the norm). Finally, and hopefully, there is a “synthesis” (a resolution or a new agreement). With terrorist attacks and continuing civil war in many parts of the world we may be seeing an antithesis -- a reaction to the messy international consensus formed after the end of the Cold War. Disturbingly, if we take this theory as true, how intense should this antithesis be -- more violent, more widespread to achieve a synthesis?

The rhythm of Booth

At Booth the output of news follows a certain rhythm. New art is placed in the Harper Center every quarter -- often unnoticed. Professors continue to entertain (keep your quotes coming!). NVC is kicking off -- with no doubt many tales of success and sorrow to follow. This past year we have been fortunate to celebrate the 125th anniversary of UChicago, with special events abound across the university. We have seen faculty members leave and arrive -- shaping and keeping an eye on these trends will be important for the future of the school. There is a regular flow of great speakers who come to Booth, such as Lawrence Summers on Feb 18 2016, that we can almost take their presence for granted. We have seen more to Booth than meets the eye -- marathon participation, sports tournaments, cooking groups. The creation of a gender-neutral bathroom at Booth and the ROMBA conference in Chicago, partially organized by Boothies to great success, emphasize how much we have progressed with rights for the LGBT community over the past year. At a national level the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage in June 2015 and the majority opinion will stir the blood for generations:

Same-sex marriage was approved in June 2015.

Same-sex marriage was approved in June 2015.

“...It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Over the next year we will see the wind of change continue to blow through the Harper Center and across the world; we will see how much is out of our control; we are so small. This should give us perspective about our time at Booth; and how important it is to remember it.

Harmesh is heading into the sunset. It has been great. Thanks for your input, feedback and time.

Professorial Wisdom

Booth professors may vary in their teaching styles, but what they have in common is a way with words. Here are a few noteworthy quips from the past few weeks:

Devin Pope

"If I can't make what Eugene makes I at least want the office next to his."

Ata Baris

“I try to explain so clearly that it is boring. Based on the reaction I am getting it looks like I have succeeded in that.”

Luigi Zingales

“That’s textbook asshole right there!”

Kolver Cafe Review

By Harmesh Bhambra '16

At the time of writing we are in the midst of Chicago Restaurant Week where some of the finest and most overrated restaurants in the city are offered to all. There is something absurd about all the fuss and the marketing. However, last week I somehow went to a brilliant dinner in Wicker Park, with Restaurant Week offering a sweet $4 discount on the usual $48 prix fixe menu. I mean: I need to stretch my student loan as far as possible.

During my biweekly visit to Hyde Park I am not presented with a similar range of choice. However, there are some lovely offerings: Z&H on 57th and Robust Coffee Lounge on 63rd.

But a key insight from spatial competition, pioneered by economist Harold Hotelling, is that location is critical to sustainable competitive advantage, and so I find myself drifting to the Kolver cafe at the Harper Center despite my best instincts.

Kolver offers an eclectic range of food: sushi, mexican, salad, pizza, burgers, and probably other gastronomy offered on Monday or Friday when I refuse to be at the Harper Center.

The burger bar is my favorite part -- decent choice, made on-the-spot, cheap. And the service is a thing to behold: when I enter within a one-meter radius of the bar, the chef immediately understands my demand and places my order with a nod of the head (grilled chicken burger in a lightly toasted bun with sweet potato fries).

While wanting to provide a complete review of Kolver, I dodged the pizza, for the umpteenth time during my one and a half years at Booth. The pizzas lie there, furtive, sweaty, surprised. They just scream tasteless toppings and soggily textured meats. Each pizza has its own printed paper box, but it looks like someone has forgotten what’s going to be inside them.

Opposite the pizzas lies the salad bar. And while there is decent choice and kale, the items appear to have been cut by scissors. There are no combinations, just cubes of...things and the cost per pound is similar to Whole Foods. I caught a second-year who sighed and reminisced about a visit to Stanford GSB. “The salad bar was amazing. They even had fresh butternut squash.”

The atmosphere is convivial and exemplifies the benefits of the Harper Center -- having staff, students and faculty in one place. There is always a certain buzz -- and plenty of children. (Where do they come from?) But while there is a certain je ne sais quoi about the Winter Garden or Student Lounge, there is an aversion to sitting in the Kolver seating area -- it is overly functional and uninspiring.

In a city where the food can be inspired, can’t the Kolver cafe just be a bit better?

Harmesh can’t find a rating system that adequately reflects his disappointment with Indian food in Chicago.


Change at Kolver

  • The current caterers were chosen because they have the capability to cater every type of event, from large formal receptions to lunch-and-learns.
  • The contract for catering is put up for tender every five years. So if you want change for future generations of Boothies, submit feedback!
  • Feedback is generally sent to the Booth listserv email address and student feedback goes through the GBC. Facilities address feedback case-by-case.
  • Facilities is planning on making a few changes in the near future, to include moving the deli to a more prominent place, looking to improving traffic flow in some of the more congested areas and purchasing new, updated soda machines.

#BoothHolidays Photo Challenge

Over the holidays, the Booth Experience Team ran a photo contest to capture aspects of the Booth community -- its interconnectedness, its creativity, its diversity and its adventurousness. 

The Winners:

he Runners-Up:



Why We Write: The Future of Chicago Business

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16 and Aakash Degwekar ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Many of our positive experiences at Booth are serendipitous -- that class we didn’t want to take, but ended up loving; that event we were dragged to, but at which we established our closest friendships.

Aakash Degwekar '16

Aakash Degwekar '16

We stumbled upon ChiBus -- Aakash by writing a heartfelt story about identifying personalities based on how people load dishwashers and Harmesh by deciding to publish a motley collection of thoughts on the relationship between the US and the UK. But we can both say that since then, being involved in ChiBus as editors has been one of the best parts of our Booth experience. And as we look to choose the new editorial team we can reflect on its place within the Booth community and what it has given us.

The ChiBus motto is: “Professional, Playful and Provocative”. We -- the editorial team -- have sought to stay true to this motto by addressing the issues of the day, from terrorist attacks to race relations, and from Donald Trump’s White House plans to Justin Bieber’s lessons for MBA students. We don’t try to shield the student body from controversial topics and views -- we take our independent, student-led voice as an article of faith and believe that because of this we are making but a small contribution to the Booth community.

Writing for ChiBus has been liberating because it has freed us from the bullet-driven communication beaten into us from our years in consulting. We have had the opportunity to understand broadly the many parts of the Booth community in a way that few other student positions could offer. The weekly editorial meetings are one of the highlights of the job, particularly because of the engaging discussions led by people who love writing and who aim to reflect the interests, and views of the community. And, as much as we hate to admit it, the bi-weekly scramble of putting the paper together the weekend before we publish is something that we have come to love.

The Chicago Business archives date back to 1961.

The Chicago Business archives date back to 1961.

Our ChiBus experience has been enriching and we have developed skills over the past year that will be invaluable to our future in business: uncovering and understanding the facts to inform; gathering perspectives from peers and superiors (faculty), and quickly forming a conclusion; writing concisely and lucidly to entertain; having the strength of mind to critique and satirize; selling a product to a savvy market; and having the discipline to plan and manage a quickly turning product.

We are grateful to the previous editorial team for injecting a new lease of life into ChiBus, such as adding a new humor section and revamping the ChiBus website. In the end, ChiBus is a story of the Booth community (our archives date back to 1961) as well as a story of continuous improvement (we are constantly encouraged and surprised by our readership statistics and feedback). As we look to choose a new editorial team, ask yourself: do I want to be part of this story?

Harmesh is the current (and outgoing) Editor-in-Chief and News Editor, and Aakash was the Editor-in-Chief from Winter ‘15 until his graduation in Fall ‘15. ChiBus has made us writers.


Global Social Impact Practicum: Learning about Clean Energy and People

By Emily Haddad ’16

Emily Haddad '16

Emily Haddad '16

Last month, I spent seven days in India as part of a new Booth class—the Global Social Impact Practicum. The Global Social Impact Practicum is led by Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative (SEI) and supported by the Tata Trusts, India’s largest philanthropic organization.

Starting with the trip to India in December, my fellow students and I will then be working with the Trusts throughout Winter Quarter on a consulting project exploring how bamboo can be used in rural India as a form of biomass to generate renewable, clean energy and to create jobs.

I applied to the class with the aim of deepening my consulting and international development experience, and gaining exposure to the clean energy sector. As a joint student at Booth and the Harris School of Public Policy, I also was curious to see how my Booth peers, many of whom have primarily private sector backgrounds, would approach the policy issues inherent in encouraging the growth of a new market -- in this case, bamboo-based sustainable energy.

As I packed for the trip, I thought about what I might learn. I hoped to return with a better understanding of renewable energy in India and of the country’s unique development challenges, both of which were new to me.

Students in the Global Social Impact Practicum, led by Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative, spent a week in India learning about clean energy for a consulting project with the Tata Trusts.

Students in the Global Social Impact Practicum, led by Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative, spent a week in India learning about clean energy for a consulting project with the Tata Trusts.

During our week-long visit, we began to scratch the surface of those two topics. We visited sites that comprise different components of the biomass supply chain: a business that turns heaps of leaves and brush into small, dense bricks of biomass; a gasifier plant where machines turn those briquettes into power; and a village that could potentially benefit from that power, through irrigation or other uses. We learned about the particularities of the energy and bamboo industries in India, from solar energy policy to the variance in how well-suited a given region or village may be for bamboo-based power.

But, as I had hoped, what I learned extended well beyond content knowledge. More than any other class at Booth, I learned about people. The professional backgrounds of my nine peers vary widely, and more importantly, so do our personalities.

The GSIP trip to India was amazing! I got to get to know an amazing group of Booth students and see India in a way that I wouldn’t have, if I was just a tourist. For example, visiting the villagers in Udaipur was a completely different experience than just visiting Udaipur and seeing the palace there as a tourist. The best part is that now I’m excited to take on the GSIP course and see how our recommendations can be implemented.
— Hoda Gerami '16

We worked together non-stop in a country that was new to most of us and is as hectic as it is colorful. We traveled to three different sites across India, waking up a few times at four a.m. to make flights. Over this intense week, I observed my classmates’ distinct approaches to a question or situation and reflected on how my perspective fit with theirs. Stretching ourselves in this type of environment enabled me to learn about how I approach team situations. Over the short visit, we progressed from what seemed like a cacophony of ideas on day one to a supportive and cohesive unit by day seven, ready to tackle the project in the coming quarter.

Emily Haddad is a joint student at Booth and the Harris School of Public Policy. She interned this past summer at a Chicago-based impact investing PE firm and a Denver-based healthcare technology startup.

Harper Center Art Review: Peter Wachtler

By Professor Canice Prendergast

Professor Canice Prendergast

Professor Canice Prendergast

On the third floor of the Harper Center, overlooking the winter garden atrium, there is a video artwork by Peter Wachtler, a German artist born in 1979. It is an animation of a rat going through the routines of contemporary life, narrated by the artist. The action is repeated, not only through repetition of the animation, but also through the use of the artist beginning every event described by "How I....".

At face value, the piece is about the depressing routines of a contemporary life, where a sense of world weariness is etched through a series of memorable events. Wachtler is a keen observer of life, and the piece is well worth a view and listen for this alone.

Untitled video, by Peter Wachtler.

Untitled video, by Peter Wachtler.

Yet his interests are more complex than this. His ulterior interest is to understand how stories and plots are constructed through cliché and trope. This can be seen by the subject material of the piece: some of the events he covers feel personal to the artist, yet others are little more than tried and trusted tropes, seen in the media every day, to evoke emotional responses. The best example of this is at the end of the piece, where he sings "Down to the River" by Bruce Springsteen. This is both a sentimental and affecting end to a description of a modern life, and touching for that reason, while at the same time, it represents the most clichéd view of the working man. As such, Wachtler is probing not just a description of our times, but also how we construct tales.

For anyone who wants to learn more about this artist's work, he will be having a show on campus at the Renaissance Society, beginning February 7.

Professor Prendergast is the W. Allen Wallis Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth


Professorial Wisdom

Booth professors may vary in their teaching styles, but what they have in common is a way with words. Here are a few noteworthy quips from the past week:

Luigi Zingales

“If you apply Black-Scholes to crap, you get crap.”

“We put a man on the moon before we invented luggage with wheels.”

“It’s difficult to have a discussion that my p is greater than your p.”

Professorial Wisdom

Booth professors may vary in their teaching styles but what they have in common is a way with words. Here are some noteworthy quips heard in the classroom.

Erik Hurst

"If I had a poster of a recession on my bedroom wall, it would be the ‘82 recession. I love Volcker."

Austan Goolsbee

"You need to build a Donald Trump wall around your customers."

 

Harper Center Art Review: The Vagrant

By Professor Canice Prendergast

Professor Canice Prendergast

Professor Canice Prendergast

The newly installed video artwork beside the mail folders is called The Vagrant. It was created by Darren Bader, a young American artist. At face value, it is a futuristic animated episode describing how a multinational organization chooses to send artworks into space for posterity.

Its appeal is more subtle than this. First, its true focus appears to be a statement about the absurdity of how we govern through institutions and language, referencing an old strand of literature, where writers such as Gogol have used farce or surrealism to lampoon organizations or bureaucracies. This piece does so by using surrealism to comment on how we govern and make decisions: the portentousness of the UN official at the beginning of the work with its documented vote counts is followed by the bizarre lottery to make a decision on what to do. The humor of the use of the internet to get suggestions on what the sculptures should be, with the system becoming overloaded, makes fun of our modern version of democracy. The use of Spanish references how the UN translates into every language, giving it an even greater grandiosity, despite the triviality and idiocy of the decision that they are taking. The piece also touches on private/public funding we see all the time now, where it is private individuals who take up the project when funding runs out. This combination makes it a serious and biting commentary on governance, a topic of foremost interest here, at Booth.

The Vagrant, by Darren Bader.

The Vagrant, by Darren Bader.

A somewhat darker interpretation is that it is a commentary on how language has been so debased and corrupted by bureaucratic, scientific, political, and cultural structures, that it no longer has any coherent meaning and devolves into absurdity. We don't even know what to decide, much less how to decide.

To find out more about the art collection at the school, go to art.chicagobooth.edu. Comments and suggestions are always welcome. The next student art tour is on December 1 so watch out for the email.

Professor Prendergast is the W. Allen Wallis Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth


Five Chicago Booth Students Named Siebel Scholars

Booth scholars join elite group of students at the world’s leading graduate schools

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Five second-year MBA students at Booth have been named 2016 Siebel Scholars as part of an international scholarship program that recognizes exceptional students at leading graduate schools of business, computer science, and bioengineering. The Booth MBA student winners are Max Cohen, Yevgeniya Zhenya Kaliberova, Bradley Powell, Alon Shiran and Boone Williams. Each student will receive a $35,000 award for their final year of studies.

Siebel Scholars are nominated by the deans of their respective schools on the basis of outstanding achievement and demonstrated leadership. On average, Siebel Scholars rank in the top five percent of their class, many within the top one percent. A total of 90 Siebel Scholars around the world were selected this year based on academic excellence, leadership and ability to play a significant role in addressing global challenges.

Deputy Dean Stacey Kole with Siebel Scholars (left to right) Alon Shiran, Bradley Powell, Max Cohen, Boone Williams, and Yevgeniya Zhenya Kaliberova.

Deputy Dean Stacey Kole with Siebel Scholars (left to right) Alon Shiran, Bradley Powell, Max Cohen, Boone Williams, and Yevgeniya Zhenya Kaliberova.

On what being a Siebel Scholar means to Max Cohen ‘16, “On a personal level, it’s a recognition of the time and effort I have put into my studies and being a leader at Chicago Booth.”

“The Siebel Scholarship is unique from other scholarships at Booth because it focuses on building a community of scholars from different disciplines across schools,” says Zhenya Kaliberova ‘16. “As a Siebel Scholar, through the conferences and wider community, I am empowered to dig into unfamiliar topics, be it fashion or cyber security, and I am really excited to continue broadening my mind as well as get to meet the other scholars from around the world.”

“Chicago Booth is pleased to recognize this year’s five Siebel Scholars,” said Deputy Dean Stacey Kole. “As with each Siebel Scholars class, this group of talented students demonstrates the academic excellence, leadership ability and collaborative spirit necessary to affect positive change in the world. We are proud to send this group to join the 2016 cohort of Siebel Scholars that hail from many disciplines and institutions, as well as a robust alumni community of scholars, and expect that by leveraging this community our students will contribute to shaping a brighter future for us all.”

The Siebel Scholarship hosts many events throughout the year including the set-piece annual conference, with next year’s conference focusing on cybersecurity. Alon Shiran ‘16 is looking forward to the “Scholars dinners. Besides the great great food, since Siebel Scholars come from business, engineering and computer science backgrounds, the regional dinners are great opportunities to meet a variety of fascinating and successful people.” Boone Williams ‘16 further adds, “It’s a great opportunity to network with people who are working on interesting, challenging problems that I might not have otherwise had the chance to meet.”

Harmesh is News Editor for Chicago Business

Your Health @ Booth: Introducing a New Column

By Priyanka Karandikar ‘16

ChiBus is launching a new Lifestyle column called ‘Your Health @ Booth’ to answer your questions regarding student health, counseling and wellness services, and insurance at the University of Chicago. We will answer one question (anonymously) each week. The university staff members who serve on the Student Health Advisory Board and are qualified to provide answers to these questions will be doing so.

The Student Health Advisory Board (SHAB) is comprised of select graduate and undergraduate students, campus partners, an alumnus of the University, and Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS) representatives. The purpose of the board is to work collaboratively on issues concerning university student health, counseling, wellness, and insurance. During this academic year, SHAB will focus on patient feedback, communication, and education.  Students lead the work on each focus area within a subcommittee format.  Subcommittees work outside of the board meetings. Priyanka Karandikar ’16 is the 2015-2016 Booth student-representative on the board.

Please use this link to submit your questions via the anonymous survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TGC5GLX. You can also email your questions to priyanka@chicagobooth.edu

More information about SHAB and SHCS can be found at http://shcs.uchicago.edu

New Venture Challenge: Looking Back And Forward Twenty Years

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

The success of any program or institution at Booth can probably be measured by whether and how often it enters the consciousness of its students. And a staple of Booth student conversations this week is, “Are you entering into NVC (New Venture Challenge)?”, following the kick off of the competition last week.

On the eve of 20 years’ anniversary of NVC, ChiBus sat down with Professor Steven Neil Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and faculty director of the Polsky Center, to reflect on its successes and challenges.

Kaplan reminisces on how the competition was proposed by a student. “Jeff Meyer ’97 approached me in 1996 and said that we should have a business plan competition. I said, ‘Absolutely’. I wanted him to start developing the competition, and I promised to bring the money, judges and the network.”

Steven Kaplan, Faculty Director, Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago Booth. Photo credit: Chicago Booth

Steven Kaplan, Faculty Director, Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at Chicago Booth. Photo credit: Chicago Booth

“The competition has been successful from the beginning,” says Kaplan, but now ‘NVC’ encompasses much more than the original competition. The Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC) is the flagship competition, and three other tracks have emerged over the past decade: the John Edwardson, ’72, Social New Venture Challenge (SNVC) that focuses on start-ups with a social mission; the Global New Venture Challenge (GNVC) for executive MBA students in the US, European, and Asia programs; and the College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) for University of Chicago undergraduates.

For all of these challenges Booth is competing against a huge range of accelerators -- both university and non-university -- so why has the NVC been ranked as the number 1 startup university accelerator and number 4 accelerator in the country? “It’s all about the exits. Think about GrubHub and Braintree. If you look at the largest Y-Combinator startups, some of NVC’s biggest hits are close to Y-Combinator’s top five”, describes Kaplan. Many people focus on the GrubHub ($2.5Bn market capitalization) and Braintree (acquired by PayPal for $800M) but NVC has achieved a string of successes over the 20 years: for example, PrettyQuick, a beauty services app founded by Coleene “Coco” Meers, ’14, and Shreena Amin, ’12, that tied for third place in the 2011 NVC, was acquired by Groupon.

GrubHub, founded by Matt Maloney ‘10, is a $2.5Bn food delivery company, and won the 2006 NVC.” Photo credit: Chicago Booth

GrubHub, founded by Matt Maloney ‘10, is a $2.5Bn food delivery company, and won the 2006 NVC.” Photo credit: Chicago Booth

We all know that the probability of having a successful exit in the startup world is small, but was the continued hosting and success of NVC also improbable? “We had some thin years; 1999 and 2002 were disappointing. But we take each year at a time and we have been getting better each year.”

NVC’s focus on rigor and experience-based learning is striking, particularly when compared to some Silicon Valley “unicorns” that are short on profitability but long on having premises that house baristas and other “amenities”. “We introduce our teams to customers and partners. When the teams present in class in April, they will get brutal but constructive feedback. Many take this feedback on board and then have significant engagement with customers and start selling, and the plans for the finals generally are much better.”

On the challenges for the NVC over the next 20 years, “The process is as good as it gets, and the mentors and advice get better each year. After the dot-com bust a lot of universities closed their programs. The challenge for us is to keep going when the current bubble deflates and ignore the noise.”

Harmesh is looking for a team to reach out to him for his participation in NVC

Professorial Wisdom

Booth professors may vary in their teaching styles but what they have in common is a way with words. Here are some noteworthy quips heard in the classroom.

Erik Hurst

On the heavyweight battle of Kevin Murphy versus Thomas Piketty: "It's going to be fun. It will be like watching a lion and a lamb"

Email to class:

"All

Some quick thoughts on the Nobel Prize in Economics announced this morning.

1. It wasn’t me

2. It wasn’t a growth economist like I predicted."

“When I want to buy shoes they won’t take my Star Wars figurines. I have a few.”

“I’m certainly not risky. Tenured job -- I’m not going to be fired, they can’t even cut my salary.”

Austan Goolsbee

“We can waive at a magic beanstalk and the beans will grow.”

“I’m assuming that distracted people are probably friends with distracted people.”

“Spying on your ex-girlfriend is called a search activity.”

Also Heard in the Winter Garden

“So today in my Financial Statement Analysis class our professor Michael Minnis opens up the class with a photo of three people in gloves and hair nets at a trash heap. ‘These are your quizzes,’ he says.”

 

“He proceeds to tell us how the quizzes we'd taken in the last class session were left in a box in the classroom for his teaching assistant to pick up, but the janitorial staff took them off to recycle first.”

“So he and his assistant tapped into the security cameras to figure out when they were taken, followed the trail to a recycling center on Halsted, and found all the quizzes intact.”

Boothies ROMBA To Success

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

The 17th annual ROMBA conference for the LGBT MBA community was held in Chicago from October 8 to 10. Kati Karottki, a second-year MBA student and a co-chair of OUTreach at Booth, was part of the Chicago conference organizing committee.

[Harmesh Bhambra]: What is ROMBA?

[Kati Karottki]: ROMBA stands for Reaching Out MBA. It is an organization that educates, inspires, and connects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) MBA students across business schools in the U.S. and abroad. The organization is anchored largely by, and is best known for, the annual ROMBA conference, which attracted 1,400+ attendees this past October. ROMBA, however, is engaged in so much more, such as Fellowships for students (Chicago Booth backs the ROMBA Fellows program) and Career Treks.

ROMBA organizing team including Phillip Hue (‘16), Melissa Liu (‘16), Kati Karottki (‘16) and Jordy Freeman (‘16)

ROMBA organizing team including Phillip Hue (‘16), Melissa Liu (‘16), Kati Karottki (‘16) and Jordy Freeman (‘16)

[HB]: The ROMBA conference was held in Chicago this year?

[KK]: Yes. Last year the conference was hosted in San Francisco and a group of us, knowing that it would be in Chicago this year, pulled together -- four Boothies, two from Kellogg and two from Cornell to form a bid team that would eventually serve as the organizing committee. We chose our theme to be ‘Intersections of Diversity’. The thinking being that we get caught up in talking about communities in silos or isolating select topics when in fact communities and conversations are far more fluid in nature.

[HB]: What was the goal of the conference?

[KK]: With the conference we tried to bring the organization's objective -- ‘educate, inspire and connect’ -- to life by providing ample networking opportunities; having experts share content to inspire young adults to pursue a unique career path; and fostering panel discussions and programming to inform, and mobilize people about the issues young professionals face today.

[HB]: What was your specific involvement in the event?

[KK]: I led the development of the women’s content and kicked off the session titled, ‘(Run) Like a Girl’, interviewing Kate Fagan (ESPN writer) and senior executives. The discussion centered on how it became acceptable to reference girls in a demeaning manner, and how strong female role models who defy negative perceptions helped change that conversation -- empowering the current and next generation of young women to view themselves in a more positive manner and impacting their confidence early on. Inspired by my Booth experience with NVC, I also led the Entrepreneurship and VC content.

[HB]: What was most memorable about the conference?

Keynote speaker: Laverne Cox

Keynote speaker: Laverne Cox

[KK]: There were a handful of great moments. But the consensus was that Laverne Cox’s speech brought down the house. I think many people expected her 60 minute speech to focus largely on her fame as a TV star (Sophia Burset from Netflix’s Orange is the New Black) through the lens of a proud, transwoman of color. The truth was she spent all of two minutes on her stardom. Instead she spoke deeply about her childhood and the challenges she faced, and the opportunities she gained by moving to NYC and pursuing her passion of dance. And it was that unique and very authentic story that resonated with people in the audience on so many different levels.

[HB]: What were your key takeaways?

[KK]: First off, everyone on the organizing team wanted not only to have an impact on the community of today but also to ensure that the ROMBA legacy continues. Second, it was very affirming to have executives on our panels, sponsors and most importantly current MBAs and perspectives share their positive feedback and enthusiasm for the weekend. Finally, the four of us from Booth couldn’t have been more proud to have played a role in such an event being hosted in Chicago. We are very thankful to the Chicago community and Booth alumni for their support. In post event wrap-up, the Chicago Booth community had the highest turnout among MBA programs, and that is a tribute to the current and growing community of LGBT students and alumni who simply continue to ‘pay it forward’.

Harmesh is News Editor for Chicago Business

 

 

Booth Team Ties For First Place At Inaugural Chicago Investment Competition

By Nancy Cheney ‘16

Nancy Cheney ' 16

Nancy Cheney ' 16

Twenty teams from Booth and Kellogg came together on Saturday October 17 for the Chicago Investment Competition.

This was the Chicago Investment Competition’s first year, organized by the Investment Management Groups at Booth and Kellogg. For the competition, all teams went through one round of stock pitches, with the top two teams presenting in a final round to all participants. A jury of distinguished investment professionals acted as potential investors and listened to each team’s pitch, ultimately selecting the winner based on their analyses over the two rounds of presentations. The firms represented on the judging panel included Northern Trust, RBC Global, Wells Fargo and William Blair.

Booth First Place Team: Matt Richards (’17), Chris Cruickshank (’17), Ryan Mays (’17) and Brian Keenan (’17)

Booth First Place Team: Matt Richards (’17), Chris Cruickshank (’17), Ryan Mays (’17) and Brian Keenan (’17)

Crowning a winner proved difficult for the judges with the vote split equally between the the two finalist teams. Unable to reach a majority, both finalist teams were awarded the top prize and were commended by the judges for a sound assessment of key investment drivers with financial projections corroborating their positions. Booth students Chris Cruickshank ‘17, Brian Keenan ‘17, Ryan Mays ‘17 and Matt Richards ‘17 claimed the first-place title alongside a team from Kellogg.  The Booth team recommended investors to sell Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR), citing the accelerating development of private labels, saturated and slowing growth in the single-serve coffee market as well as product innovation failures. The team presented compelling financial valuations in addition to outlining the company's degrading fundamentals that supported their recommendation. The winning team from Kellogg was bullish on Spirit Airlines (SAVE), paralleling the company’s trajectory to Ryanair in Europe and arguing it to be undervalued in the current market.

As an award for first place, the Booth team will be attending the seventh annual Invest for Kids Conference held at the Harris Theater Chicago on November 4.  With individual prices for the conference tickets selling at $600 - $1,200, this gives the winning team a great opportunity to hear from leading investors, such as Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell and Barry Sternlicht from Starwood Capital Group. The group was also invited to a pre-conference lunch with Ricky Sandler of Eminence Capital.

The Chicago Investment Competition was created to provide a fun and intellectually rigorous experience, preparing first-year students for the recruiting season and external stock pitch competitions later in the fall. The IMG co-chairs hope the competition will continue next year and continue evolving into an annual Booth-winning tradition going forward.

Nancy is a second-year IMG co-chair and Chicago native. She is still depressed by the recent Cubs loss and their failure to reverse the curse


Spin Doctors And Central Bankers

By Harmesh Bhambra ‘16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Harmesh Bhambra '16

Alastair Campbell was Director for Communication and Strategy for Tony Blair, the former UK prime minister, between 1997 and 2003. He was the Labour government’s master of spin, famous for enforcing “message discipline” throughout government. After leaving government he has turned into a prolific writer. As part of this second life, he visited The University of Chicago on October, 8 to promote his new book, ‘Winners: And How They Succeed’.

At the interview with David Axelrod, Campbell mentioned that he thought he knew how to win -- he helped guide the Labour party to three successive election wins. And politicians think they are at the “height of leadership and strategic thinking”. But in carrying out research for the book, he came to conclude that leaders in other fields “do better than politicians” and they are winners for longer periods of time.

Winning with Strategist Alastair Campbell. Credit: Institute of Politics

Winning with Strategist Alastair Campbell. Credit: Institute of Politics

Campbell focused on the value of data in how politicians and business leaders can learn from sport. “Politicians use data for confirmation bias”, whereas in sport data is used to “drive change and innovation”. This approach has been made famous by David Brailsford, former performance director of British Cycling, who obsessed over data to find “marginal gains”. In politics, “people think they are doing well and are scared to know whether they are doing badly”. Alastair Campbell for Managing in Organizations professor?

Campbell described the importance of winners overcoming weaknesses. He first pointed to Diego Maradona, the former Argentinian professional soccer player, who visualized victory and would practice his victory lap before a match. Campbell rubs his fore finger and thumb together in pressured situations. He used this technique when testifying to the UK Iraq inquiry -- “You are taking control. The guy intimidating you doesn’t know that you are doing it”.

Quantitative easing: another book on the financial crisis

A week later in downtown Chicago, Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve from 2006 to 2014, was interviewed by Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times. Bernanke was also in town promoting his new book ‘The Courage to Act’.

Ben Bernanke with Martin Wolf on the Global Financial Crisis Credit: The Chicago Council

Ben Bernanke with Martin Wolf on the Global Financial Crisis Credit: The Chicago Council

Bernanke mentioned that the talk was the “second most popular event this evening’, alluding to a certain sports game further north. Martin Wolf, known for his belief in Keynesianism, fired questions at Bernanke with a notable liberal edge. He proclaimed the importance of Bernanke’s leadership of the Fed throughout the financial crisis “without which we would be in the second Great Depression’, which earned Bernanke a resounding round of applause from the audience.

Bernanke insisted that he wrote the book for himself. To experience the “day by day” and “the fog of war”, and his account, in his view, has advantages over other books due to the sheer length of time he spent at the Federal Reserve.

Bernanke gave a spirited defense of his decisions during the financial crisis as Martin Wolf challenged him about the Fed’s controversial actions, such as quantitative easing
— Nick Anderson '16

Bernanke is renowned for his research on the Great Depression. So Martin Wolf stated that he was perfectly prepared for his role during the crisis. Bernanke mentioned the monetary policy failings during the Great Depression and only when “orthodoxy was thrown outside the window”, then the economy started to turnaround.

“Bernanke gave a spirited defense of his decisions during the financial crisis as Martin Wolf challenged him about the Fed's controversial actions, such as quantitative easing”, as mentioned by Nick Anderson, a second-year MBA student who was in attendance. Bernanke stated that the Fed was aware of house price inflation and subprime exposure, which “did not constitute a meltdown.” Instead, Bernanke believed that the Fed missed the short term funding fragility of the financial sector.

In general, Bernanke reiterated the standard arguments: it was unavoidable to let Lehman Brothers collapse because there were no buyers and TARP had not yet been approved by Congress; QE has not reinforced inequality because “creating jobs is the best thing for the middle class”; and “the Fed had to do so much” since the crisis because of no help from fiscal policy.

Thus, it is not clear whether the “the fog of war” has truly dissipated. The full set of lessons from the financial crisis will take time to emerge.

Harmesh is News Editor for Chicago Business