Category: Alumni Profiles
Staying healthy in India isn’t easy: the country is ranked 167th in the world for health care expenditure and 163rd for life expectancy. A grim diagnosis. Like many things in the world’s fourth-largest economy, that’s changing—and fast. And much of it has to do with Analjit Singh (BSBA’77, MBA’79).
In the 1980s, he built a company worth millions, then broke it up to do something that many others (the US government included, some would argue) have failed to do: deliver quality, affordable health care that treats all patients like VIPs. The hospitals he built don’t even smell like medical institutions: he put coffee shops, wafting a clean scent of roasted beans, in the lobbies. In doing so, Singh created a demand that no one knew existed.
The chairman of Max India Limited, Analjit Singh (BSBA’77, MBA’79), recalls that one of the first lessons he learned in Economics 101 was “demand creates supply.” But Singh, who has transformed health care services in his native India, believes that John Maynard Keynes got it wrong. “My view is that supply creates demand,” he says. “If you come up with a unique product or service and there’s a market for it, you’ve got a demand.”
In other words, if you build it, they will come.
Domenic Armano Helps Analyze and Reduce Energy Usage at FirstFuel
Domenic Armano (PEMBA’12) has his dream job in the field of energy efficiency at FirstFuel, a Lexington, Massachusetts-based energy analytics firm, and he attributes much of his success to his Boston University MBA experience.
Armano was running engineering services in the energy services business of the New England region at Johnson Controls (JCI) when he enrolled in the Professional Evening MBA (PEMBA) program at Boston University in 2006. (He took an 18-month leave of absence around the midpoint of his program, and then graduated in 2012.)
In PEMBA, he was a strategy concentrator and took two classes with Finance Professor Nalin Kulatilaka, Wing Tat Lee Family Professor in Management. “One was clean energy finance. The second was a directed study sponsored by JCI. Nalin was one of the people co-founding FirstFuel at the time and introduced me to Swapnil Shah, the CEO.”
When he met Shah, Armano was managing a sizable engineering team at JCI, and thus had numerous people pitching him with products and services. One of the most persistent, he says, was Shah.
“FirstFuel is a service that identifies the energy efficiency of a large portfolio of thousands of buildings really fast, which you couldn’t do before,” Armano explains. “The ‘old world’ of energy auditing involved going building to building with a clipboard. At JCI, we ended up being one of the first customers, because we saw its benefits.”
Armano says he continually provided insight into the product and how to make it better. He became such a fan, he helped FirstFuel make a sale to another company. “And then I realized: I have to join them. It’s a product I love in an industry I love. It’s a game-changing technology in terms of auditing and identifying energy efficiencies.”
In April, he came in as the tenth employee. Today, he’s director of customer solutions, where he handles the deployment of new sales as well as sale presentations. With only about 40 employees, he wears a lot of hats.
Using just building addresses and electric usage interval data (a meter reading every 15 minutes) and running it through the company’s proprietary algorithms, Armano says, “We know if a structure is heating or cooling too late in the day or if usage is more occupant-related. If it’s weather-related, it’s probably the heating and cooling/ventilation system. If it’s people-related, it’s probably lighting. We pull back layers of the onion and watch how the building responds. Once we know that, our customers can take action.”
Armano says, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this MBA.” In addition to Kulatilaka, he cites influential classes with Executive-in-Residence and Strategy & Innovation Lecturer Paul McManus, and Associate Professor and Dean’s Research Fellow Nitin Joglekar of operations & technology management, as well as numerous conversations with Managing Director of the Office of Technology Development Vinit Nijhawan. “The insights, the connections, and the mentorship from the whole team here were invaluable—I just wish I had done it sooner.”
As part of the FirstFuel leadership team, Armano says his strategy concentration directly comes into play. “It helps me assess a new market or a particular customer. I can better identify the competitive threats and opportunities. It’s changed my thinking to a more regimented focus, and helps me identify the facts that help substantiate decisions. Together that’s really helped me grow as a business leader.”
Kulatilaka says, “Dom was a significant contributor to my course even during his leave of absence from the MBA program. He developed a total of four student projects involving business issues at JCI that greatly helped the experiential learning of our MBA students. Such projects are an important part of our planned energy and environment sector specialization. He’s a great asset both to the School as an alumnus and as a member of the FirstFuel team.”
Executive Vice Chairman, Benetton Group, S.p.A.
What is the involvement of family members in Benetton today?
The Benetton Group is a company with strong management in which the Benetton family members work as active and committed shareholders in mapping strategic growth. We have strict rules of corporate governance, and, thanks to these factors and contributions from everyone – shareholders, employees, and commercial partners – we are developing the Benetton of the future. Today Benetton is writing a new chapter based on some essential company cornerstones, such as quality products at affordable prices, an extensive and flexible system of distribution based on a network of top-rate commercial partners, and a proven strong financial standing. We will continue to lead the way toward constant innovation; it’s part of the Benetton DNA.
What did you learn about business from your father and aunt and uncles?
We are a very close family and have always tried to place emphasis on true values, such as respect for your own work and that of others. In particular, I have inherited from my father a vision of the world, and of life, based on determination, sense of responsibility, and a posi tive outlook.
After college and graduate school, you did not directly join the Benetton Group. When did you decide you would join the business?
After completing my studies I embarked on an independent professional career, setting up one of the first private equity companies in Italy, called 21 Investimenti. I definitely did not envisage working with the Benetton Group at that point. But when my family asked me to take responsibility for the future of the company that bears our name, I accepted with great excitement and enthusiasm.
Today you are executive vice chairman at Benetton. What other roles have you had in the company?
I became a member of the Benetton Group Board of Direc tors and Executive Board in 1998, later becoming vice chairman in 2005 and executive vice chairman in 2007, responsible for corporate strategy and management support. As of 2009, I am also a member of Edizione Board, the family holding company that supervises all the diversified activities, from catering (Autogrill) and motorways (Atlantia), to airports (Aeroporti di Roma and Sagat) and financial and property investments.
How many others of the extended Benetton family are involved today?
My father, Luciano, continues as chairman of the Benetton Group, while my aunt and uncles Giuliana, Gilberto, and Carlo, respectively, are members of the Board of Directors. No other member of the family is involved in the operational manage ment of the company.
What are the strengths of a family business? The special challenges?
I would like to stress that our company is not really a family business in the traditional sense. The corporate philosophy we adopted from the outset (in the 1960s) growth, creation of value, internationalization, partnerships, and creativity is nowadays ap plied to a more modern corporate environment. Our management and functions work with considerable independence and yet follow firm guidelines laid down by the share holders.
You graduated from BU School of Management in 1988, and various family members attended from about 1985 through 1994. What was the family’s attraction to Boston University?
The highly-respected tradition of the University, along with its international prestige and reputation, were the factors that drew us. Boston University represents one of the most renowned educational institutions in the United States, established in New England, the cradle of American culture. For me, it was also the quality of its finance and economics courses, the field I expected to enter.
What main lessons from your School of Management education do you see yourself applying in your professional life?
Constant evolution and the ability to strive for excellence, always!
Were there any classes, projects, or professors who left a particularly lasting impression on you?
All my professors and classes were impressive. But to single out one in particular, finance professor Allen Michel helped lay the foundations for my professional life.
How would you describe what clothes mean to a well-dressed Italian? Is it different from other cultures?
Fashion is joy, and color is a way of communicating with other people, of representing our way of life and thoughts. Our aim as an Italian fashion company has always been to create and consolidate a democratic brand able to convey an idea of dialogue and tolerance. We have done this with our prod ucts, our communication, and our stores in a word, with our ideas.
What makes Italian clothing designers distinctive?
Creativity, enthusiasm, obses sion with detail. These may, how ever, be the distinctive features of every good designer, but it has been said that there has always been a wealth of extraordinary design ideas and initiatives in Italy. For a long time,
Benetton Group has extended beyond clothing to social issues in its advertising and magazine. Can you describe what motivated that approach?
Benetton has always worked with organizations actively involved in social issues, from the UN and the World Food Program to the Red Cross and many other nonprofit organizations. In 2008, we have also launched the Birima project with the Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour to contribute to the support and promotion of microcredit for financ ing work in Senegal. At the basis of our communication philosophy is the promotion of freedom of speech and visibility for causes that might otherwise be overlooked on an inter national scale.
What would you say have been the company’s biggest challenges in the long term?
There are many decisive factors that have contributed to making Benetton what it is today, including innovation, a vision of the future, and the truly unique ability to build up strong links and relationships with hundreds of entrepreneurs all over the world. Today we are focused on expanding the boundaries further to continue to grow respon sibly, even at a taster rate in some kev areas such as the former USSR, India, China, and Central and South America.
What have been the company’s greatest successes?
Becoming a world brand with strong local connotations. Today, for example, we are the first Western brand recognized by consumers in India who perceive it as a brand close to their own culture and their own way of thinking.
How is Benetton leveraging technology in the various aspects of its business?
Here is a specific example. In the coming months we are to inaugu rate an ultra-modern platform for logistics and the handling of the packs of our products based on laserguided machines that move at high speed. With zero positioning error, it will handle over 120,000 packs per day. This technology has enabled the handling volumes to be tripled, effectively halving times and costs. Speed, zero errors, a sharp rise in efficiency, and a sharp drop in costs, these are the basic areas in which technology has to help.
What is it about your work you enjoy most?
I enjoy meeting new people every day, coming into contact with international situations that are always different, travelling, and understanding how fast the world is changing.
What is your most difficult challenge as a manager?
Guaranteeing 40 years of future successes for a company with 40 years of past successes.
How would you describe your personal management philosophy? Your management style?
Determination, balance, and speedy decision-making.
What advice would you give to students thinking about a career in clothing manufacturing or clothing retail today?
When my father set up this business in the 1960s, everyone considered the textiles and clothing industry dead, and some countries, traditionally strong in this area, had abandoned production some time before. But Benetton triumphed over these gloomy forecasts, and technol ogy, ideas, creativity, and an entre preneurial spirit have constantly renewed the company. I believe that a young person can still come up with winning new ideas in the world of clothing and fashion.
By John Dicocco
Excerpts from Builders & Leaders Spring 2009
A Policy of Unity
Nao Valentino (SMG ‘04) came from New York City to Boston University School of Management as an undergraduate in 2000. She graduated four years later summa cum laude after an active career at the School that included volunteering as a Dean’s Host and LOCK tutor, and working as a teaching assistant. After graduation she crossed the Charles River to Harvard University and earned a master’s degree in public policy, simultaneously working for the government of Dubai. At the same time, she created a social entrepreneurial venture in Afghanistan to help female entrepreneurs start businesses—a project that won the Pitch For Change competition at Harvard Business School’s Social Enterprise Conference in 2006. After working at a consulting firm in Washington, DC, Nao headed back to Dubai to establish an Entrepreneurship Center at the Dubai Women’s College in a joint venture between the United Arab Emirate’s (UAE) Ministry of Higher Education and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation.
B&L: Why did you choose SMG?
Nao: Compared to other institutions, SMG was the only accredited program that guaranteed students world-class, tangible skills upon graduation, and this was the major draw for me. Also, a very influential mentor of mine, Mr. Glenn Brooks, SMG ‘85, was a testament to the quality citizens the School produces. Surpassing its promise, SMG more than prepared me for what was to come after graduation.
When and how did you develop interests in social change and business?
The relationship between public service and private enterprise has always been of interest to me, but my interest grew stronger as SMG opened my eyes to the extent to which the two sectors are interdependent. At Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, my SMG education helped me bring the business perspective to policy discussions in the graduate classroom and better understand just how business impacts the public sector, and vice versa.
How would you explain the relationship between business and social change?
Public problems cannot be solved in a vacuum by governments alone. Inviting private enterprise to participate in tackling some of the greatest issues facing humanity today is a win-win solution, and social entrepreneurs are increasingly harnessing the power of business resources, know-how, and innovation to improve lives all over the globe.
Why did you choose to work for the Dubai government?
I was eager to find a role that allowed me to employ private enterprise to achieve public gains. In managing the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Entrepreneurship Center in conjunction with the UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology, I contribute to the social and economic development of the UAE and the Middle East/North African region by assisting budding entrepreneurs to launch commercial and non-profit ventures. These small enterprises are in essence the engines fueling growth in a region plagued with a number of economic and social problems, especially extreme unemployment of the large youth population.
Helping entrepreneurs succeed involves not only consulting with them to navigate the ins and outs of business licensing, start-up management, financing, and feasibility studies, it also involves advocating for small business-friendly public policy and legislation, forging relationships within the business and government communities, and creating opportunities.
How did your time at SMG help prepare you for your future career plans?
The skills I learned and the mentorship I received during my time at the School have proven invaluable in any role, inside or outside of the business community. I had many influential mentors during my time at the school, in particular Dr. David Weil, who continues to support me to this day. I walked out of SMG with the tangible and critical thinking skills necessary to successfully navigate any situation.
By Alissa Mariello
Featured in Builders & Leaders Fall 2009
Veterans Up and Running.
There’s just something so satisfying about overcoming a challenge. And it wasn’t any different for Shannon Varney (CGS ’03, SMG ‘05), founder of a nonprofit program called Veterans Up and Running.
Laid off from Goldman Sachs in the fall of 2008, Shannon was frustrated by his untimely unemployment and a difficult job search. But he found satisfaction in the structure of training for the Boston Marathon, which he’d run three times before. This time, though, he realized that the discipline of a distance running program could help others facing similar frustrations in their own lives.
“When you’ve never run 15 miles before, you spend the rest of the day feeling like you need a hip replacement. But the accomplishment of finishing what you started out to do is what keeps you coming back. It keeps you motivated to fight through the pain you meet along the way,” says Shannon.
The idea of starting a nonprofit for veterans based on this feeling of accomplishment wasn’t at all like the investment management he learned from Professor Scott Stewart during his undergraduate days at Boston University, or the financial analysis he did at Goldman Sachs, though Varney credits both for preparing him for his new venture.
“At Goldman Sachs I had two mentors who were both Naval Academy grads who went on to become officers in the Marines. Through them I became enamored of the military culture. Although I had never served, I really admired the type of people they were. They inspired me to become serious about creating a running program for a population in need.”
From the beginning, it was homeless veterans Varney focused on.
“From my initial dealings with the homeless veteran community, it soon became apparent that a lot of these guys are going through the most difficult time of their lives, often turning to drugs and alcohol to deal with issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, and eventually ending up homeless. But they’re still proud of serving their country and associate their time in the military with better times when they were good teammates and good leaders. At Veterans Up and Running, we try to reintroduce the same level of structure and discipline that was part of their military experience. By providing this type of environment and adding positive reinforcement, we work to help homeless Veterans successfully reintegrate back into their civilian lives.”
For that reason, Shannon’s running program mirrors veterans’ experience with basic training. It helps them become healthier both physically and mentally by getting them active and building their self-esteem. But Shannon doesn’t just teach; he leads by example as well. He trains with the veterans three times a week and runs competitive road races right alongside them.
The homeless veterans who choose to join Shannon’s program also earn the chance to earn scholarships from the organization. In the first stage of the program, participants are asked to train for a minimum of two months and show up for training at least 85% of the time. At that point, they are asked to identify a specific race to run. Once they’ve finished, they become eligible for grants and scholarships for vocational training and professional certificate programs.
One major success story since the organization’s founding in March 2008 is AJ Jenkins. A 50-year-old homeless veteran, Jenkins participated in the group’s first race event this past summer. He received a medal at the finish line and was excited to tell his kids he was featured on the front page of Spare Change magazine. Recently, Jenkins, a team leader in Veterans Up and Running, accepted a job offer he found through the organization and is on the road to independence.
As far as his business model goes, Shannon purposely doesn’t provide shelter or food to the veterans he serves. Veterans Up and Running focuses on motivating veterans who live in shelters to improve their situations and helps them build up the confidence to do so. It also encourages them to take responsibility for their decisions while also acknowledging that they can change.
“I break my job into two parts. The first part is the business side, including capitalizing the organization, setting up sponsors and donors, and managing the volunteer personnel. The second part is managing the core programming, which the guys are ultimately participating in, such as building the principles of what the program is going to be about, keeping people engaged, and teaching some things along the way.”
Veterans Up and Running has come a long way in a short amount of time. Having made the organization his full-time job, Shannon hopes to expand the program, and already has interest from similar groups around the country for partnerships or mergers.
“In the future, I want to leverage the experience I’ve gained here and use it to start something else, whatever that may be,” says Shannon.
By Alissa Mariello
Featured in Builders & Leaders Fall 2009
The Business of Learning
The United States faces an education crisis. State and local education associations and professional educators and foundations have been addressing the challenge for years, but there is still a long road ahead, made more daunting by reductions in federal and local funding for education.
Missing the Bus.
- 70% of American eighth graders can’t read at grade level and most will never catch up.
- 1.2 million students drop out every year.
- 44% of dropouts under age 24 are jobless.
- America’s top math students still rank 25th compared to the top students of 30 nations.
From The Broad Foundation’s website.
Kristen McCormack (MBA ’92), executive-in-residence and faculty director of the Public & Nonprofit Management MBA Program (PNP), says, “School leaders are asked to do far more today than ever before, in educational organizations that have become more complex. Duties formerly handled by superintendents now fall on the shoulders of principals. Principals have become de facto CEOs, in charge of budgets, hiring and firing, and operations. And while much of that is good in terms of direct accountability, it also makes the principal’s job tougher than ever. It calls for management skills more than ever before.”
Hardin Coleman, dean of Boston University School of Education, says, “The environment has changed dramatically in the past few years. Increasing numbers of our students who want to go into educational administration are taking courses in management. And MBA students who want to manage community nonprofits are taking courses in our school as well.
“A principal needs to supervise,” Coleman continues, “which means watching, spending time with teachers, coaching them. In many schools, he or she gets pulled away because of managing the physical plant, the cafeteria, etc. Business managers usually supervise perhaps 6 to 10 reports. But most principals may have 25 to 30 people to supervise. It calls for a special type of person.”
School boards need to address what has changed in schools as the economics have changed, says Coleman, and be open to new ideas. “We need people who will innovate in organizations rather than just enter and serve the existing system. Sometimes you get innovation from people outside schools of education because they’re doing research which leads them to insights about education.
“We see it as a good thing that we have more educators learning management skills,” Coleman adds, “and more nonprofit management people taking courses with us on topics including school and society, policy issues, school law, and program evaluation.”
PNP Grads In the Field.
We talked to a few recent PNP MBA graduates and one current student who found satisfying careers on the front lines of education management. Hopefully the skills and talents they bring to the front lines of the field will help to remove obstacles and promote progress in American education.
“We see it as a good thing that we have more educators learning management skills and more nonprofit management people taking courses with us on topics such as school and society, policy issues, school law, and program evaluation.”
Jagdish ‘Jug’ Chokshi (MBA ’99), joined the Neighborhood House Charter School (NHCS) in Dorchester, Mass., in 2004 as CFO after serving in other positions, including a stint at Citizen Schools [founded by PNP alum and School of Management Lecturer Ned Rimer (MBA ’95)]. Chokshi serves on the strategic planning team, and leads or participates in all financial functions, facilities management, real estate development, HR, and management leadership. He also works directly with two related entities—the NHCS Foundation and the Project for School Innovation, an offshoot of the charter school.
“We’re always evaluating how our programming affects the kids and families in our programs,” says Chokshi. “We have external measures such as the MCAS [the Massachusetts state-wide student competency exams], but we’re continually evolving and working to make sure we’re focused on the mission all the time.”
Funding is always a challenge, he says. “As a semi-public entity, we receive state funding. But not everyone is a fan of charter schools, so we must be aware of our public image. And we also need private money, which puts us in competition with many other causes.
“Without my classes in marketing, strategy, and operations, I would never have been able to address the problems we face with the same kind of thought process. What seemed ‘nice to know’ in class became extremely useful when we faced real situations in planning. My professional experiences were excellent. I had good training at PerkinElmer, and some consulting experiences, but my BU education helped in every area.”
As a side note, Neighborhood House was founded by Kristen McCormack in 1995 and was the first full-service charter school in the state. “Full-service” means it provides education for K-8, plus pre-school and after-school care, as well as medical services, eye care, and even literacy training for family members.
Missy Longshore, MBA ’05, is Director of Operations and Special Projects for the Stuart Foundation. She applies her analytic and project management skills to various Stuart Foundation program areas including internal communications, operations, technology, and process improvement. The Stuart Foundation is a family foundation in San Francisco that provides funding and program support to improve public education and child welfare systems in California and Washington.
Previously, she was projects manager at the Broad Center for the management of school systems. Longshore, like most of the alumni we contacted for this story, started out working in nonprofits, but as she rose through the ranks, discovered that both she—and the organizations—lacked the skills needed to move the organization forward.
“Today, I use my PNP degree almost every day,” says Longshore. “I help manage a 20-person operation and report directly to the President. I need good judgment and analytical skills, plus the teaming and organizational parts have been very helpful.” Without her MBA skills, she says, “I can’t imagine doing my job.”
Longshore notes that MBA graduates may be interested in the Broad Residency, a two-year program to prepare them for leadership in education. Participants are placed in a relevant organization, and attend sessions at the Broad Center four times a year for training. (For example, see Carrie McPherson Douglas, MBA ’07.)
Sheilah Kavaney (MBA ’01), COO of KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) Austin, in Texas, says she “absolutely loved my time in the PNP program.” Several years before, Kavaney co-founded the YES (Youth Engaged in Service) charter school in Houston, but knew she needed more skills to make a meaningful difference.
She discovered a love for change management, and a mentor suggested she pursue an MBA. She was accepted to the BU MBA program, and opted to attend on a part-time basis, while she worked days at the Cambridge-based Breakthrough Collaborative charter school.
After graduation, contacts in Houston eventually lured her back to Texas to grow the YES program. That, in turn, led her to KIPP, a public charter school system with 99 schools across the country, where she now oversees KIPP Austin.
Kavaney added “With my MBA, I was able to clean up accounting, HR, and benefit systems that were set up by others who didn’t have those skills. Just as important, I had a new vocabulary in finance, so I could talk to our board of directors in a way that they could better understand our needs.”
At KIPP, Kavaney says, “I’ve tackled finances, budgeting, and operations, and sometimes you find small things that make a difference. The biggest obstacles we face are resistance to change, and a lack of people with management skills. Today, when I look for someone on the operational side, I give preference to MBAs.”
Mike Wasserman (MBA ’12) is a current PNP student, attending part-time and expecting to graduate in 2012. He is also the director of development at Bottom Line, an organization in Dorchester, Mass., that helps low-income and first-generation college students get into college, providing multifaceted support for them once they get there.
Mike’s undergrad degree from Brown University is in public policy. In his role at Bottom Line, he’s focused on the long-term sustainability of the organization where he works with the board of directors and major donors, and engages in grant writing and marketing.
“I felt I was missing some skills and experience that would be helpful. I wanted exposure to a broad range of business and financial challenges that I knew would be helpful here and later in my career. The coursework here at BU, both in hard skills and case analysis, are exactly what I was hoping to find.”
Carrie McPherson Douglas (MBA ’07), who participated in the Broad Residency, served her two-year residency at Aspire Public Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was then hired as director of human resources at Aspire, and most recently appointed director of talent strategy. In her new role, Douglas leads the College Ready Promise Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Effectiveness Grant, and talent initiatives including leadership pipeline, recruiting, performance management, and compensation and retention.
Prior to her Broad Residency, Douglas worked as a financial consultant for a number of public and nonprofit organizations in the Boston area, including the Boston Public Schools, EdVestors, Outward Bound, the New Sector Alliance, and the Neighborhood House Charter School. She began her career as a teacher in Portland, Oregon, and then moved to Boston as a volunteer teacher with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, eventually teaching high school science at Cristo Rey High School in Cambridge.
Douglas says her MBA experience is invaluable, both to herself and the people with whom she works. “Educators don’t get much exposure to spreadsheets and PowerPoint, so I’ve brought a lot of that to our group. The same goes for complex project management, budgeting, working in teams—all skills I brought with my MBA.
“When I first came to Aspire, I was in human resources, and all my time was spent with litigation, compensation, and benefits. I wanted to help build our people’s talents, and fortunately was able to create the position of developing our human capital. Today I’m in charge of recruiting, teacher/principal performance management, professional development, and retention strategies.”
Whether in public, private, or charter schools, the application of proven management skills to the field of education will improve outcomes for students, teachers, and the society that depends on their success.
Fueling Hope For College.
Gene Miller (MBA ’84), is chief operating officer of the Boston nonprofit Families United in Educational Leadership (FUEL), founded in 2010.
FUEL educates families in underserved communities about the college process and encourages them to save for college through a matched savings program. It requires participating families to save a fixed amount of money each month, which is then matched by FUEL. Families are also required to attend mandatory financial literacy meetings called Savings Circles and participate in after-school educational programs. More than 300 families are now participating in three cities: Lynn, Chelsea, and Boston.
The organization has multiple Boston University connections. The Founder and Executive Director of the program, Robert Hildreth, is the chairman of BU’s Board of Overseers. Project manager Yiming Shuang (COM ’09), and Director of Research and Evaluation Joe Doiron (SED ’11) is currently working toward his EdD and is also a Glenn Fellow and adjunct professor at BU.
Interns answer phones and deliver messages, photos, and coffee. Overheard conversations center on scheduling stars, studios, directors, set builders, and prop suppliers.
At the Sony Screen Gems sound stage office, corkboards are everywhere, covered with head shots of Jennifer Aniston, Katherine Heigl, Anne Hathaway, Kate Beckinsale, and more under the title “female lead.” Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Colin Firth, and like contemporaries are tacked up under “male lead” or “male support,” and the photos repeat across many of the boards as proposed films enter the early stage of juggling who may be willing and available to help turn an approved concept into a real project. There are similar lists of directors. And piles of scripts waiting for an educated eye and the right person to give his or her blessing. And that’s just the start. Someone has to find locations, music, special effects suppliers, and then money.
Imagine being a risk manager in this place.
When it comes to making a movie, it’s not an assembly line. It is a unique item each time. It’s project management to the nth power, herding egos, suppliers, weather, budgets—and even after the movie is completed, there’s the distribution battle: how many movie screens across America can we get to make the first weekend a blockbuster? Basically, it’s an insane endeavor that requires guts, insights into the market, a huge amount of subjectivity, and very deep pockets.
The closer you look, the more you see that moviemaking is a microcosm of all management tasks. What’s unique is that it can involve anywhere from $1 million to $200 million+ and the result is always one single product. Perhaps more amazing is that the process is shared among many collaborators: different entities select the actors, handle the financing, find locations, shoot the film, process the film, find the distribution channels, create the music, etc, etc. No single company does everything. Nor do you get exactly who you want—this actress is too busy; this director is already committed; the ideal state just changed its tax codes; and on and on.
Plus there are funnels of frustration all over Hollywood: thousands of scripts vying for attention; thousands of actors seeking just one role; thousands of support personnel from sound professionals to caterers, just hoping to get the next gig. And once the movie is made, millions of critics, including you and me, help judge whether anyone (or at least the investors) gets paid in the end.
Thanks to our large alumni network and the fairly new LA internship, Boston University School of Management alumni play numerous roles in the entertainment industry. We had the privilege to interview several who accomplish different functions in a very complex matrix. We are all familiar with the end product. These conversations give us a look at the management challenges in getting there.
JEFF COLVIN, BSBA ’90
Senior Vice President, Manager, Comerica Bank Entertainment Group
Jeff Colvin grew up in Los Angeles. He went to BU because he wanted an urban university that had both a film school and a business school and wasn’t in LA. He’s been at Comerica since ’93.
Please describe what you do.
At Comerica, I manage the entertainment group. We provide project financing for the production and distribution of films, television, and video games as well as providing corporate credit facilities to companies across the entertainment industry.
What’s a typical deal look like?
For a typical film that we would finance, the budget might be around $25 million. Our clients are producers and sales companies. They go to the various film markets, such as the Cannes Film Festival, with a script, a director, cast list, and a budget. At these markets they sell rights before they make the film. They then come to us and say, “I need $25 million. I sold rights to distributors in various countries including Spain, Italy, France, Germany, etc.”
So it’s a lot like a contract receivable, where the contract would say, “When you complete this film, as long as it meets these very objective criteria, such as a running time of between 90 and 120 minutes, starring the identified cast, with certain technical specifications, we will pay you $1.6 million for the rights to distribute the film in our country.” After the film is completed, those buyers pay for the film and exploit it in the theatres, video, television in their territories. And hopefully it’s successful. Our loan, though, is repaid upon completion of the film.
How do you value that?
We analyze the credit-worthiness of who they have sold the rights to and value the rights that are left to sell. So, they say, “We haven’t sold the UK or France or the US. We, the client, think those rights are worth another $10 million.” We do our own analysis of what we think the rights are worth and we’ll lend a percentage of that amount, maybe 50 percent of the unsold estimated rights.
And just because the business is so difficult, in order to finance films, good producers are shooting in locations that have incentives—Michigan, Louisiana, New York, Canada, Australia, where they’re able to get upwards of 35 to 40 percent of their budgets back from state/country tax rebates.
We also analyze the tax credits or rebates and lend against those. Looking at all of our collateral, we’ve come up with the total number that we think we can lend. And it may be that the full amount of the budget is a little bit short, and they have to put in some equity. So that’s the basics of film finance.
Some films are made directly for video or digital distribution, right?
Yes. There are only so many available slots in the movie theaters, and it costs a significant amount to support the marketing of a film. So unless it’s a film that you are very confident will be able to attract box office, it’s not worth spending all of that marketing money. It is more efficient to go straight to the next mediums where the film would be distributed, such as home video, and then video on demand and then cable television.
But it’s worth it just for that market?
Yes, if you’re producing at the right budget. You couldn’t produce a film like Iron Man and expect to do okay doing that. But with smaller films ($10 to $15 million budgets), you can sell the foreign rights for 60 to 70 percent of the cost. Certain genres translate better overseas.
Is Comerica a specialist? Or are several banks competing for what you do?
There’s probably a small handful in the states, then a few overseas. Part of what we also do is put together larger credit facilities and sell pieces to other banks. On a $200 million loan, Comerica might want to hold just $40 million for risk diversification. So we’ll sell $160 million to a group of other banks that we work with.
What are the rewards and the challenges of your work?
The rewards are watching and helping some of our clients grow, through starting smaller production entities to becoming significant film production distribution companies.
The challenge is that business changes so quickly. And so much of the revenues are generated from around the world, so that it’s not just keeping an eye on the business in the United States. We’re affected by changes in the business globally. We try to identify those trends and protect ourselves from downturns.
What should a current student do to prepare for a job like this?
Learn as much as you can about the entertainment industry. Also, a business degree or a law degree would be very helpful due to the level of financial modeling and contract negotiations that are part of the job.
BRETT PAUL, BSBA ’84
Brett Paul came to BU from Miami. Following his BSBA, he went on to earn a JD from University of Miami Law School in ’87.
What’s your day-to-day like?
I am the top business-side executive of Warner Bros. Television, reporting to the president, Peter Roth. I oversee direct reports in physical production, business and legal affairs, financial affairs, administration and operations. I’m closely involved in a wide range of business-side activities, the most significant of which are the high-level license negotiations for the first run of our shows on the network, the high level cast renegotiations and/or budget and forecasting processes.
So much of what we teach at the School involves teaming. I assume almost all of your projects involve teamwork.
Yes, in this business, there is a lot of consensus building and a great deal of collaboration between internal departments that drives the overall effectiveness of the studio. There is also quite a bit of consensus building between our executives and our producers and, in turn, with our broadcast partners. Paradoxically, our industry is built on an inherent conflict in its very name: “show business.” There is the “show,” all the creative elements required to develop and produce entertainment programming, and there is the “business,” the financial and operational elements which make it possible to fulfill a creator’s intent. Our goal is always to honor, support, and realize the creative vision, keeping in mind that there are the legitimate restrictions that come with being involved in any commercial enterprise. I genuinely believe that the creative process can be shaped in positive ways by the business parameters if everyone is working towards a common goal.
You’re creating and producing shows. And then you license those shows to the networks?
So if they buy it, if they pick it up, you’re still going to produce everything?
Yes, as long as the business model is sustainable. We work very hard to ensure that it is. We usually know that in advance. As a studio, our creative team is constantly out in the marketplace looking for talent, ideas, and writers. We canvas our buyers (the networks) by looking at their broadcast schedules and identifying opportunities—based on existing need, network demand, or new roads we pitch them to explore—for our programming that fit with their brand or to expand it.
The ABC Network, which has its own ABC Studios production unit, wants to buy as much of their own programming as they can. The same is true for the FOX Network and its 20th Century Fox Television Productions, the CBS Network and CBS Television Studios, and the NBC Network from Universal Media Studios. What makes us compelling at Warner Bros. is that we can be everyone’s number one supplier, after their own in-house group. We align ourselves with the best talent and offer them broad opportunities across the entire television marketplace, not just tied to one network. That’s been a successful strategy for us.
When we sell something, we usually develop a pilot idea for a particular network, working in concert with them. Our writers pen the script; we pre-negotiate a lot of the licensing terms; and the network decides whether or not they want to order it to pilot production. If they do, we start the process of casting and staffing the show.
If a pilot is ordered, we produce it, usually during the traditional pilot season (January through April). Next, the networks review all the pilots they have purchased and decide which ones to order to series. They announce their fall schedules in May, when we find out which of our returning shows are coming back and which of our new pilots are going to be picked up as series. Networks show the pilots to advertisers who then start to place their advertising buys during what is known as the “upfront” process. Most of the commercials you see on television in the fall are bought in May during the “upfront.”
Who finances the pilots?
That is done jointly by the studio and network. The networks pay a licensing fee, which usually covers a portion of the total production budget. We put up the rest ourselves. It’s the same on scripted series, where the license fee typically covers only a portion of—but not all of—the full production costs. It’s evolved to that structure over many years.
“I genuinely believe that the creative process can be shaped in positive ways by the business parameters if everyone is working to wards a common goal.”
Keep in mind, it’s very different for the reality show side. But for scripted programming, we have a certain bundle of rights which enable us to exploit the show at various windows along the way. The most lucrative of those windows, once we’ve amassed a certain number of episodes, is to take those produced episodes and then resell them, domestically, to another broadcaster. This is generally known as “offnetwork” syndication. An example of this is The Big Bang Theory which currently airs new episodes on CBS, while rebroadcasts of prior seasons will begin this fall on TBS and on the Fox-owned television stations.
In licensing the show “off-network”, we comply with the original broadcast network’s very specific exclusivity provisions, which are highly negotiated, and which spell out what times during the day a show can run off-network or at what point in the show’s life cycle we can sell it off-network.
You mentioned there may be other new windows.
Yes, the hot topic right now, with all the digital options for exploitation, and Netflix and iTunes popping up, is how the studios and networks manage who controls those various windows, and whether or not those windows should fall within the networks’ exclusivity requirements.
These rights have evolved, often times based on the idea of whether or not the rights grantor is the owner or renter of the programming. Home video is most often controlled by the owner.
We’re very conscious of evolving viewing habits, of time-shifting, and various options for watching programs, and we work very closely with our network partners on that. We want the networks to remain very healthy and to be able to deliver quality offerings to their advertisers, the foundation of which is a great-looking, well-acted, well-produced show. And, frankly, we want them to have the money to be able to pay us to do it well. So, we strongly support their efforts in the advertiser-supported model.
Warner Horizon Television is the unit that produces scripted programming for cable, and reality programming for both network and cable. So The Bachelor, which is a reality show on ABC, is produced by Warner Horizon.
The business units are separated by the probable venue?
Not exactly. They are separated because there is a different business model in producing for cable than there is for network. Basic cable outlets don’t typically pay the same license fees as a network, because cable generally provides a more limited universe of viewers, although some of the most popular series—including The Closer and Rizzoli & Isles, both of which we produce—deliver network-style ratings for original episodes. And the off-network market which exists for cable shows is generally not as robust as the off-network market for network shows. So, we adjust accordingly. There are differences in cable productions to account for the lower costs of production in terms of the number of days you shoot, the number of cast members you have, etc.
And because the universe of network and cable is sometimes inhabited by some of the same people, some creators develop series for both broadcast platforms, so it’s important to delineate which shows are going to be cable and which are for broadcast, to eliminate confusion.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Seeing the end product—the television show—is amazing. It’s so difficult to put all the pieces in place to make that happen. When it finally does, it’s very gratifying. The creative and business process always offers exciting challenges. This business is personality-driven. You’re dealing with very creative people and no two situations are alike. Unlike so many other businesses where the margin of a successful product can often improved by creating manufacturing or marketing efficiencies, that doesn’t necessarily exist in television production. If I had to pick one thing, I’d have to say it’s the people. Working with the talent, both in front and behind the camera…for me, that’s the most rewarding.
What advice would you give somebody who’s looking into the field, who wants to end up doing what you’re doing?
I’ve always said try to be as good as you can be, in whatever it is you are doing. And align yourself with the best mentor you can find, with people who are best at doing what it is that you want to try and do. Watch them. Learn from them.
I’m going to sound like a book of euphemisms here but they’re based in truth. You can’t always dictate what exactly your path will be. Leave the door open. Sometimes you have to seize those moments rather than waiting for the perfect one to come along. And in life, you continue moving. If you find that you’ve made a choice that’s not suiting you, then reevaluate where you are, and make another choice.
A good career is a long endeavor. And it’s definitely not a straight line upward. It has peaks and valleys. You can learn from both. Sometimes even more in the valleys.
Make sure that you are doing for your boss what your boss needs of you. Don’t be lazy. That’s the worst. Try to be selfless about things. Anticipate. The cream always seems to rise to the top, even though rarely overnight. Point yourself in the general direction of entertainment. Never give up. There is always room for good people.
ROB CARLSON, BSBA ’88
Partner, William Morris Endeavor (WME)
Rob Carlson grew up in Metuchen, New Jersey. He chose BU because his father was an alumnus and he was attracted to the curriculum and the work of the School’s professors.
Please tell us about your work.
I’ve been at William Morris for 22 years. We merged two years ago with Endeavor and became WME. I’m a partner and senior agent in the motion picture department. There are a number of partners worldwide who make strategic decisions about the company and the direction we are going.
So tell me what a day is like.
To simplify, my main goal is to career-manage clients and to help them find films or television projects. I give them guidance in terms of choosing jobs and making sure that each one is a building block to their career. We also focus on building their business beyond film and television. A lot of my clients are entrepreneurial and want to be involved on the Web, writing books, or maybe theatre and live concerts.
We also look beyond traditional entertainment, whether it’s owning a clothing line, or water, or vodka—you name it. Branding on the entertainment side is very important. And a lot of companies outside of the business are looking to be connected to the entertainment business. I worked very closely with General Motors when they were a client and helped put them into the Transformers movies. It was good for GM, Michael Bay (the director), and Paramount.
So you work on that side too?
Yes, I spent ten years as a television packaging agent and then moved into the film business. Because of that background I have a different perspective than an agent who was trained just in film. Hasbro is also a client of mine. We put together the entertainment initiative for Hasbro and helped launch their film division—which includes Transfomers and G.I. Joe.
WME is a large company. We touch every part of the entertainment business—film, theatre, television, music, and books. In addition we have offices in Nashville and New York and London. This depth is very attractive to me as an agent, as well as my clients.
What are the rewards and the challenges of your job?
The greatest part of the job is when you sign someone new, and then watch them grow and become successful. It’s a great feeling to look back on someone’s career and know that you had a big impact on their life. It’s no different than any relationship or marriage, where you put that time in—you go through the good stuff and the bad stuff together. You achieve something, and you’ve gained a lot of ground. That’s what I love most about it.
How do you break into a place like WME? I understand you started in the mail room.
Everyone starts in the mail room, for at least a couple of months. Then you wait for a training desk to open up where you interview and compete with other trainees to become a secretary. You work at that for a couple of years, and then hopefully get promoted to agent. This is the way it has been done for the last hundred years.
What’s new in the field? What are the new issues that are coming up?
There’s definitely a big guild issue regarding digital rights and how artists are going to get paid for streaming, etc. During the last writers’ strike, that was a touchstone issue, in terms of usage and everything else. I think the biggest thing affecting the business has been the collapse of the home video/DVD market
“Everyone starts in the mail room… This is the way it’s been done for the last hundred years.”
On top of that, companies started going out of business. When I started, there were probably 24 buyers, and now maybe there are seven. United Artists has gone out of business. MGM is emerging from bankruptcy. It’s a really dramatic shift in terms of how many movies are being made compared to five years ago.
It’s like a game of musical chairs. There are only so many director jobs out there every year, so when the music stops, you better have one of those chairs. I went through it personally. William Morris was around for 112 years. We merged with Endeavor but had to cut an enormous number of people from our overhead. The business can’t support the structure that existed a decade ago. You will probably see more changes as well.
We’re dealing with a contracting business and fewer people. But it’s no different than what other businesses are going through, too. So now we’re looking at the next kind of revenue stream that’s going to come about that’s going to invigorate it again. And there always is one.
BERKELEY REINHOLD, BSBA ’90
Head of Music Business Affairs, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment
Berkeley Reinhold came to Boston University from New York City. Following a senior year class in business law with School of Management professor Jeff Beatty, she went to Whittier College School of Law in Los Angeles to earn her JD.
What brought you to William Morris?
When you’re in Los Angeles in law school, you’re exposed to internships in all aspects of entertainment. I interned at Paramount Studios in the Motion Picture Music Soundtrack Division, and that piqued my interest in the movie and music businesses.
After I graduated from law school, I was lucky enough to find an opening at William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills.
You skipped the mailroom part?
Yes. I was hired directly into business affairs as a music attorney. So now I run the business affairs of WME Music.
How big is the music side?
Pretty big. The music department has offices in Beverly Hills, New York, Nashville, Miami, and London. There are lots of different genres of music that we cover, such as contemporary, adult contemporary, country, urban, and electronic among others.
Tell us what you do.
I wear a lot of hats. I’m a music attorney and an agent. When I started here, the business I handled was primarily contracts for live concerts. Then, the industry began evolving by integrating sponsorships, endorsements, webcasts, digital rights, distribution, and other areas. It’s very different and much more exciting now than it was when I began at WME.
What do you see happening now and in the near future?
When I started there were models already established for all different kinds of deals. People had been in the business for a long time doing the same types of concert deals, record deals, publishing deals, etc. And now as the music business develops, we are creating our own deals and inventing our own models.
This keeps it fun and interesting.
You deal more with record labels?
Generally for concert touring you’re negotiating with the promoter or someone could put together an idea, like, “I want to have an event in the LA Coliseum. And I want this singer to come.”
They would call the artist’s agent at WME, and ask if the artist is available, and then we negotiate the deal.
Do you—William Morris—create or produce any events of your own?
There are some things that we do own, some events. But generally, we’re an agent representing the artist. However, the business is evolving so much that there are lots of opportunities to think outside of the box.
What have been the rewards of the career, so far?
Coming out of a negotiation and really feeling that both sides came to an agreement and are happy with the terms of the deal is a great feeling. You don’t want to be in a negotiation where one side feels like they were taken advantage of because in a sense you’re a team. You all have the same goal: that the deal you’re working on together becomes a success.
You do deals with the same people over and over?
Absolutely; it’s a small community. Chances are, if you close a deal with somebody now, you’re going to be working with them again in the future. So it’s always best to leave the table where everybody is happy. So the next time, you have a foundation to build on.
“It’s always best to leave the table where everyone is happy.”
What would you recommend to a student who is thinking about getting into the business?
On campus, try to get some experience with the people who book concerts for the school. Try to find a project or event where you can work for the school in the capacity of a promoter. That’s the first step. Even the little bit of experience that you can get on the ticketing side, or negotiating with an agent, or getting an idea of how it all comes together, is really valuable.
Any particular skill sets that would be helpful?
I think that anyone who has the passion and the determination and ability to be flexible and learn different things, can definitely do it. But they have to have patience, because, especially if you want to be an agent, you generally start in the mail room. And you really have to have the patience to wait it out.
What’s the job market look like now?
It’s very difficult because the field is shrinking for the traditional music related jobs at record labels and there are not that many positions available. However, there are other possibilities. For instance, you can become a manager or attorney for the artist, or a business manager, if you’re interested in accounting. There are the record labels and music publishers. You can work for a merchandise company, a digital online music company, or as a promoter.
ERIC PAQUETTE, BSBA ’89
Senior Vice President, Production, Sony Screen Gems
Eric Paquette chose BU because he thought he’d like the city of Boston, even though he’d only been here once in his life.
Please give us an overview of what you do here.
I’m the senior vice-president of production at Screen Gems, a division of Sony Pictures. And that job, here or at virtually any studio, is essentially looking for properties to make movies out of. So we use development scripts to a point where we can get a filmmaker and actors onboard. And then, our physical production department compiles budgets, supervises production, works with the filmmaker to address any editing that needs to be done beyond that time, and helps with music.
And the creative side, which is what I do, is charged with finding the stories. They come from producers, agents, every stone that you look under—script or book or comic book or video game.
“The more well-rounded you are, the better you’ll be able to overcome post – college challenges.”
You find the talent as well?
Yes, at the same time. You have to be aware of the next wave of up and coming writers, filmmakers, actors. You’re constantly watching movies, reading scripts, meeting with actors, writers, and filmmakers. And I also meet with a lot of editors and directors of photography. It’s different, because with writers and actors in film, you want to know the next wave of people who are going to really have an effect on the business in years to come. But editors and DPs, you want to know who the best are right now.
They’re the ones that can have an immediate impact on your films today.
So, how would you define Screen Gems?
We generally make movies that cost between $10 million and $60 million. They’re usually concept-driven: action, thrillers, sci-fi film, and occasional comedy, where the concept is generally the star in the movie. In a bigger film, that movie is not getting made without Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt.
What trends do you see?
Young adult novels are becoming a very, very popular source of films. And certainly, the best example of that is Twilight. We have one called Mortal Instruments. And Lionsgate has one called Hunger Games.
Any time you can make a film that has a built-in awareness, you’re ahead of the game. Plus with the Internet and social networking sites you can really build your brand in a way that doesn’t really cost you any money.
What are the rewards of the job?
Some of the rewards are being able to work with incredibly smart, creative, and talented people, in front of and behind the camera. And virtually 100 percent of the people that are in the motion picture business love movies. The Social Network, True Grit, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, they’re all compelling stories that move people. And knowing that I get to somehow be involved in a portion of that every day, is really exciting. I can do it 24 hours a day, it doesn’t bother me.
What are the challenges? What are the tough parts?
Well, any job that you can do 24 hours a day—it’s a double-edged sword because you can literally be working all the time. My family is the most important thing in my life and I’m the most important thing in their life, while balancing demands of a profession that requires you to spend an awful lot of time to be successful.
Do you have any BU students here?
We’ve had many over the years, absolutely. We’ve employed production assistants, paid PAs on movies. I have worked a lot with COM’s Professor Bill Linsman, who oversees the Los Angeles internship program. Every semester, I hire interns. And, if I’m shooting a movie, they come on the set and meet the director.
What would you tell a School of Management student wondering how to get into the field?
They should minor in English. I think everybody should be able to have broad knowledge and have a concentration in reading and writing. If you have only this singular focus on something based on your very limited knowledge of the world, it’s not going to really benefit you down the road.
The more well-rounded you are, the better you’ll be able to overcome post-college challenges. If you’re very, very interested in something, then minor in that. Double minor, even. You shouldn’t necessarily spend your entire time having an absolute tunnel vision on one thing.
The most important thing you can do, if you want to get into the movie business or television business, is to just get into it. That’s why this program is invaluable, because there are kids that are here that are doing it.
You can’t replace the relationships and the contacts you make working in the business. So I’m a huge fan of Bill’s. And I’m a big fan of the BU LA program.
By John Dicocco
Lou Volpe (MBA ’78) has contributed a great deal to the School of Management over the past 10 years, donating his time, talent, and funds in support of entrepreneurship education at the School. After actively engaging at the executive level with three successful technology startups in the Boston area—ArrowPoint Communications, GeoTel Communications, and Parametric Technology—he wanted to give back by helping other entrepreneurs get started.
Volpe shared his story and advice for graduates as the keynote speaker for the GSM commencement this year.
A judge for the Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship & Commercialization’s (ITEC’s) annual $50K New Venture Competition since 2000, Volpe is an important part of the ITEC mission. He also contributes regularly to the Office of Technology & Development’s Ignition Awards, guiding Boston University faculty members toward commercialization of their products, and gives special lectures and guest appearances at the School as a mentor to those interested in following the entrepreneurship path. “It’s important for me to share the advantage of my experience with others to help both the School and the entrepreneurial community to prosper,” he says. “Boston University does a great job at that too, so they make it easy.”
Volpe moved from the entrepreneurial side to the venture capital world in 2000, when he became a managing partner at Kodiak Venture Partners. As an investor looking at new technology ideas every day, Volpe says the most important factors for him in choosing what to fund are the entrepreneurs themselves: their passion, their knowledge, and their understanding of the market.
In 2008, Volpe received the Harry Morgan Award for his generous contributions to the School’s ITEC program, and in 2009, he received the SMG Distinguished Alumni Award. “I love the thrill of entrepreneurship,” he says, “and feeling like every morning you can wake up and make an impact on the company you are running.” We are grateful for the impact Volpe has made on Boston University through his continuous support of entrepreneurship.
Volpe’s most recent contribution was serving as the MBA Commencement speaker on May 20.
By Alissa Mallinson, May 2011
Alum founds EverTrue, responds to MassChallenge
On Oct. 24th, Eric Carlstrom (MBA’09) and his team at EverTrue won the gold medal and $50,000 in MassChallenge, arguably the largest start-up accelerator program in the world. The EverTrue team was one of only 17 winners from the MassChallenge pool of 700 applicants.
Carlstrom is co-founder and CTO of EverTrue, a Boston-based start-up that provides customizable content platforms for organizations, including universities, high schools, corporations, and nonprofits, to connect alumni through a suite of interactive modules.
“We’re reinventing the alumni directory through our simple search interface and geo-location technology,” Carlstrom said. “Schools can aggregate content from their alumni magazine, school newspaper, social media, and other sources into a single stream of well-organized content alumni can enjoy.”
Thus, the award from MassChallenge will serve Carlstrom’s EverTrue well. “It’s a real honor to be named a winner,” Carlstrom said. “It not only further validates our business opportunity, it accelerates our business.”
EverTrue’s participation at MassChallenge was not the only accelerator experience for the company this year. They also participated in TechStars, where the company raised over $1 million in seed capital, Carlstrom said.
“2011 has been an amazing year for our company,” he said. “We’ve grown from two co-founders to a company of 10. We’ve launched over a dozen clients, with dozens more in the queue.”
On the heels of these successes, Carlstrom said, “While it’s been a great year, we think it’s setting the stage for an even better 2012.”
By Lauren Dezenski
Jeremy Zizmor is the director of financial operations at Rue La La, an invitation-only online destination for private sale boutiques, each open for just a brief window of time, offering premier brands at special sale prices. Zizmor is an original member of Rue La La’s startup team, helping to grow the company’s membership level to 1.2 million in 18 months. Prior to joining Rue La La, Jeremy worked in the construction industry at Constar International and began his professional career in the public accounting industry at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in the Operational and Systemic Risk Management Services practice.
The greatest truth in management: Empower those who directly interact with customers and vendors.
My first job was: Landscaping and painting houses.
The last book I read was: Why We Suck by Dr. Denis Leary.
I’ll retire when: There is enough money to support my non-professional initiatives.
No one has influenced me more than: My grandparents.
The moment I knew I didn’t know it all was when: I got my first paycheck.
I wish when I was in the School of Management: I had taken more written communication classes.
My last meal would be: A big juicy steak, potatoes, and a bottle of Pinot Noir.
The easiest part of my job is: Talking about Rue La La. The energy is contagious.
If a film were made of my life, I’d be played by: Sacha Baron Cohen
Ambition is: Best when it’s tempered with experience.
The most difficult part of management is: Balancing process improvement with the resistance people have to changing the status quo.
When I was 10, I wanted to be: A television sports broadcaster.
Most people don’t know that: I was born in a military hospital.
Every day I make the time to: Create and prioritize a list of all the projects I would like to accomplish the next business day.
Running a successful organization takes: A high-functioning team with complementary pieces.
The soundtrack of my life includes: Anything that gets my heart pumping.
Nothing tells more about a person than: What they do in business when they think nobody else is watching.
My guilty pleasure is: A large cup of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee every morning.
If I could change one thing about the world, it would be: Getting rid of all of this ridiculous reality tv.
I’m happiest when: My work and personal lives are in balance.
What’s changed most in business is: The importance of social networking.
The wisest investment I ever made was: Getting a hands-free phone in the car to keep everyone a little safer.