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Mar 18

InSITE Fellow Benjamin Sesser publishes an essential guide for wannabe entrepreneurs

http://bznotes.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/helpful-tips.jpgBenjamin Sesser, an InSITE Fellow and MBA student at NYU Stern (class 2012), has recently published an invaluable guide for aspiring entrepreneurs.

You can read the full guide below or in his blog.

Ben has worked in strategy, corporate development and investment banking, and is currently working on a venture in the health and wellness space that is “like LearnVest for fitness and wellness”. In his words, “I can’t say enough about how important InSITE has been for me.  I came back to Stern and knew I wanted to do either VC or work with tech startups, and InSITE did more to make that a reality than anything else I’ve done”.

Here Ben’s tips:

NYU, New York City, and business school in general is becoming a better place to launch into the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Here is Ben’s ‘cheat sheet’ for how to take full advantage of the opportunities that the city offers, both for students at Stern and other business schools and aspiring entrepreneurs in general. Ben’s hope is that this list makes the process more efficient for others. It is not a comprehensive list, so check out Ben’s blog for updates.

Summer Reading:

Mandatory

Books

Blogs:

Websites:

For Non-Technical People

Especially for the Aspiring VCs

Optional

Books

For Non-Technical People

Other blogs I like:

Other websites if you have time:

  • The Economist (no better way to come up with business opportunities than to understand trends globally)
  • Industry-specific sites depending on your areas of entrepreneurial interest (e.g., I read Paid Content because I care about media)

People to Follow on Twitter:

Newsletters to sign up for:

Professors to know at NYU Stern:

  • Evan Korth (computer science professor, co-runs HackNY)
  • Glenn Okun (teaches a bunch of the Stern MBA entrepreneurial classes)
  • Hilary Gosher (teaching a night class, Partner at IVP, awesome)
  • Larry Lenihan (teaches “Ready, Fire, Aim” for undergrads, MD of FirstMark Capital, great NYU friend)
  • Cynthia Franklin (adjunct professor, helps run the Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship)
  • Jeffrey Carr (Executive Director of the Berkeley Center, teaches several courses focused on entrepreneurial marketing)
  • Norman White (information science professor at Stern, teaches a web and mobile application development course, has servers students can use)
  • Adam Penenberg (if you’re interested in media)
  • ITP professors (I could have done better here)
  • NYU-Poly (I really could have done better here)

Other people to meet in NYC:

  • Frank Rimalovski (runs NYU Innovation Venture Fund)
  • Jason Finger (founder of Seamless, super super smart and nice guy)
  • David Tisch (you should know who he is)
  • Ryan Jacoby (new NYU EIR, just met him, awesome)
  • Rob Fassino (the other NYU EIR, co-Founded XO group, probably awesome)
  • Trevor Owens (started Lean Startup Machine, kick-started entrepreneurship at NYU for undergraduates before leaving school, works out of Dogpatch)
  • Dawn Barber (founder of NYTM)
  • Owen Davis (always around NYU events, runs NYC Seed)
  • Brian Cohen (good friend of NYU, Vice Chairman of NY Angels)

Events to go to in NYC:

  • New York Tech Meetup
  • Every single free talk from real entrepreneurs at Stern
  • Demo days for every incubator and accelerator you can get into (many take place at General Assembly)
  • ITP Winter and Spring Shows
  • At least 1 or 2 relevant Meetups in verticals you care about a month
  • Lean Startup Machine (at least once go to the New York program, contact @to2 for details and potential student discount)
  • HackNY Hackathon
  • Tech@NYU DemoDays / Hackdays

Places to hang out:

Groups to join at NYU Stern:

  • TANG
  • EEX
  • Potentially a club that is in a vertical of interest to you
  • LABA (for the parties)
  • Tech@NYU
  • ACM (if you write code)

Classes at NYU Stern:

  • Foundations of Entrepreneurship
  • Managing Growing Companies
  • Entrepreneurship in the New Economy
  • Designing and Developing Web and Mobile Applications
  • Competitive Strategy in the Marketplace
  • Brand Strategy
  • Accounting (multiple accounting classes if possible)
  • Venture Financing
  • Greg Coleman class if he teaches again

Semester 1:

  • Email second year MBAs who have started companies or are involved in entrepreneurship groups, ask them for advice on all the things above (in case they have other suggestions).
  • Apply for InSITE, a Fellowship program for graduate school students interested in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and technology.  Not easy to get accepted (still not sure what they were thinking) but one of the best things I’ve done.  Well worth the time and effort.
  • Meet with recent grads working at startups in NYC for coffee, ask them about what they did at Stern, know more about their companies than 99% of people out there, make good suggestions.
  • Start hitting all the events listed above.
  • Learn the basics of writing code and treat it as an extra and more important class.  You don’t need to be fluent, but you need to speak the language.
  • Download Evernote and start storing interesting articles, ideas, and other stuff in one place.  Go back and read it from time to time.

Semester 2:

  • Look at the recently funded companies from investors like Lerer Ventures, SV Angel, IA Ventures, RRE, etc. across the first semester.  Figure out the one with the most potential (in your opinion, not according to TechCrunch).  Think of 3-4 ways you can add immediate value to their business and aggressively pursue an unpaid internship for the semester.  (When I was a first year this company was GroupMe, and David Lee told me so.  Whoops, should have done this…)
  • Keep up the networking like crazy.  Skip class if you have to, but get out and meet people in NYC tech.
  • Pick a few verticals or types of businesses you think are interesting and do some real deep dives.  You can afford to spend time knowing more about certain areas than most of the pundits and bloggers that never get more than Twitter or blog-level deep on this stuff.  Go really deep.  (Forthcoming blog post on this.)
  • Go to SXSW or San Francisco.  Or both.  Set up some casual coffee chats with NYU alumni and just people from cool companies.  Go out on the town.

Summer:

  • I’d like to say take a startup internship if you can get it.  But sometimes you need to pay the rent.  I worked in TMT banking.  Personal decision and depends on whether you can find a paid internship in tech and how many fixed expenses you have (FYI: East Village can be expensive…).  Google and other big tech companies have internships that are paid though.

Semester 3:

  • Try to start a business.  At least test some potential business ideas.  (You can also start this in year 1).  Business school offers time and access to unique resources.  No better time to try to launch a venture.  Playing the student card when conducting research goes a long way.
  • Enter the business plan competition.  Don’t let it get in the way of real progress, but throw your hat in the ring.  $75k with zero dilution can be worth the time if it doesn’t hinder things you would do anyway.
  • Good tools for the effort: GoMockingbird or Balsamiq, Unbounce, monthly subscriptions to Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (30 day free trials), free survey software from Qualtrics from Stern Apps, the NYU business resource library, and classmates (for ideation partners, survey respondents when appropriate, and partners).
  • Try to TA an entrepreneurial class for undergraduates.  You will meet some great young entrepreneurs.  One of my better decisions.

Semester 4:

  • Don’t freak out because you don’t have a job lined up.

You can learn more about Ben here: http://linkd.in/poXOA1

And follow him on Twitter here: http://bit.ly/zkuxsa

Post written by Ben Sesser (MBA Stern NYU) and Lila Pla Alemany (MBA Columbia Business School).

About The Author

The InSITE Fellowship is a highly competitive leadership development program comprised of exceptional graduate students at top universities. InSITE Fellows and alumni make up a global network of entrepreneurs and leaders in technology and venture capital.

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