Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Kelley Direct students help launch a start up to cap off their studies

By Kelley Direct Programs

Most graduate students have to write a thesis to complete their degrees. A recent group of Kelley Direct students helped launch a company.

As their capstone experience, a group of six students embarked on a two-phase consulting project for Covinia—a technology start up focused on enterprise social business software.

First, they developed a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM), including a detailed market and competition analysis, a risk analysis, and financial projections.

Next, they initiated the first round of funding, contacting venture capitalists, angel investors, and others who would be interested in financing Covinia.

And they did it all virtually.

“Our team was not only spread from coast to coast across the U.S., but we had a team member serving in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well,” said Ron Gicka, project manager. “But we turned the spread-out nature of our team into a strength. When necessary, someone could be working on the project almost 24 hours a day!”

Shari Abbott, president of Covinia, was very happy with the results.

“I was very pleased with the caliber of the students on our team. I like to think they were excited that they were not only learning, but doing something real,” she says. “The work they’ve done for us will actually help the company get up and running. That’s pretty cool.”

That, says Phil Powell, faculty chair for the Kelley Direct MBA and MS Programs, is the whole point.

“Capstone projects like this allow students to roll up their sleeves and get working, using all the skills they’ve learned at the MBA level to solve a problem,” he says. “ It solidifies the development of their management acumen . . . the only way to learn this stuff is by doing it.”

Gicka agrees. “This project has been an excellent way to end my time at Kelley Direct. The project was real, the customer was real, and most importantly, the deadline was real—this wasn’t a case from the Harvard Business Review,” he says. “I don’t think I have ever been more proud of earning an A in a class as I was in this one.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kelley Direct Online MBA Students Explore Emerging Markets in South Africa

Phil Powell, Faculty Chair of Kelley Direct

Africa offers opportunity, and that is why I am here with Dean Ash Soni, Professor Jamie Prenkert, and Kelley Direct’s executive director Terrill Cosgray, and 17 online MBA students from our program.  I teach MBA students to look not just at, but beyond the horizon, and in twenty years, Sub-Saharan Africa will be booming like China and India. 

For two days, we have had great sessions led by faculty from GIBS (University of Pretoria’s award winning business school – briefing us on the peculiarities of business in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Ethnic diversity, political risk, and selling to markets “at the bottom of the pyramid” are topics of special emphasis in these emerging markets. 

Tomorrow we head to Alexandra Township to help family enterprises identify small improvements they can make in their business models.  The township is a poor community scarred by the racial discrimination of Apartheid, but it is full of new public investment and private entrepreneurship.  The consulting experience will make real the challenges and opportunities of small business in South Africa and hone the executive mindset of our online MBA students.

This trip marks a renewed emphasis of Kelley Direct on executive leadership education and management literacy within emerging markets.  Such an opportunity would not typically be associated with an online MBA program, but thirteen years of online MBA teaching experience place Kelley Direct as a global market leader in curricular innovation.  As Kelley Direct’s new faculty chair, I am proud to help lead this charge.     

- Phil Powell, Faculty Chair of Kelley Direct