Ildi Richter and GluteNo in New York City – CEU MBA (week #2)

#CEU, #MBA, #finance, #week2, #Funds, #VC, #differentinnovation, #inspiration

Week two in the Big City was all about Finance. It is kind of amazing how many people do nothing else but handle money. That is literally what they do. They create more money by handling money.  They are the players in the background which make businesses happen. These firms and people are the ones which help the ones who create something to actually do it. And then of course, use their extreme knowledge and experience to forecast, predict and multiply. There are big wins and big failures. However, under the line the wins seem to be bigger because otherwise how would they still be functioning…?

Again we heard many great people share their stories and knowledge with us. Paul Toldalgi, Chairman/co-Founder, BTAPartners, LLC gave us an overview of hedge funds, told us about the business model behind that; he explained the difference between a dealer and a broker, he mentioned the rulebook and long only deals…but he said two things which I found most important:

“Everybody is drowning in information so it is critical to question all information”

“The biggest thing that the CEE region is missing is that they’re still not tough enough on their feet.”

In the afternoon we went to General Atlantic. It was an exceptional experience to meet Matt Nimetz and hear about their way of looking at investment. Here I was very glad to hear that they not only invest in tech firms but their investments cover a wide range, including health and food&beverage. Maybe in few years GluteNo and I will go visit them and ask for investment for global growth

Day 2:

On Wednesday Bela P. Sandor, a Hungarian American working in consultancy, gave us much good advice. There were two things he put big emphasis on:

“Everybody wants business outcome.”

“This world is all about partnerships and working together.”

I very much enjoyed to hear what the cohort experienced the first week. The discussions during the group presentations were useful.

In the afternoon Aaron Foster told us about his career and work at Pfizer. I very much liked the fact that when they move to emerging countries they first see what is given, how it is functioning and then they check where and how to make changes to improve efficiency. He also said that in many cases Pfizer also gains knowledge from the new markets.

Day 3:

In the morning there was a company visit at Ernst&Young which gave great insight into the corporate consultancy world and in the afternoon Stephen Ibach talked about his journey. What I liked most about him was the passion and huge knowledge he had in terms of his profession. He spoke about finance as if it was his free-time activity. For this reason it was very inspirational to listen to him – even though the weather that day was beastly. The class was a melting pot;)

Day 4:

Zephyr Management – if someone would ask me to mention only one thing for what it was worth to come here for which it was worth coming here it would be this company visit. i am not sure if it is clear just how impressive the places we had  visited already during our time here in NYC were, but this company visit was perfect. Not only the way Thomas C. Barry and Stephen E. Canter welcomed us but their stories and openness were mind boggling. Just to mention a few  pieces of advice they gave us:

Stephen E. Canter:

“Actively build your career before you start it” – this was all about networking

“Have many mentors.”

“Develop area of expertise.”

“When you manage your career also manage your ego.”

“Read this book: Fooled by randomness (by Taleb)”

Thomas C. Barry:

“Only when you look back you can connect the dots” (he quoted Steve Jobs)

“Sustainability: job creation, skills development, local wealth creation.”

“Three rules: go where no one else is and do what no one else does, look carefully and always find the up-escalator, find your relative value (don’t try to be the absolute best because you’re not).”

The best part of this meeting was that it was honest. These two men created an atmosphere where great questions arose and they answered them. We got real answers to tough questions.

The afternoon session with Monty Graham, Founder, 350 Technologies, LCC was interesting from a different aspect. I found it astonishing that on one hand this world (the US) is investing all this energy into finding solutions for sustainability and green future when on the other hand so many questions are solved already; they work in other parts of the world. The statistics regarding awareness in terms of global warming were shocking. Here we did not really get answers to our provocative questions – which was an interesting thing to see. No matter how obvious it is that there are negatives in this world as well, people here would never start emphasizing those facts. It is part of the American culture to be proud of their country, of themselves and always strive to show this to the world. This is great. This is what makes the big difference. What lies in the background, the real facts and if that is always good as well, is another question…

My biggest outcome of this week if that I was reminded of what I always thought the Americans are one of the best at: never talking themselves or their nation down. No matter how tough the questions I asked, even when there was not a big chance of answering it in a way that the answer still rather favors the US, each and every speaker until now could react in a way that they did not speak badly about it.  If we only look at this question in small: if we do not believe in ourselves how in earth will we ever be successful? Why would anybody else want what we offer if we even say that it is not really good? If we really think it is not good, why are we doing it? I believe in our part of the world it is a huge value that people are honest – but this means we have to find what we really believe in and do it. Everybody talks about innovation and how important it is to be part of it but this week (surprisingly) showed that innovation can be so diverse. One of the most important parts is to realize the value. The biggest innovation can happen but if the inventor does not believe that it is special then someone else will and their will make it happen – we’ve seen many examples. Ideas are great but that’s just the very first step and there are many to come. One proof for this is the Zephyr Management example. The owners did not invent a big thing; they “simply” realized that there is no need to invent new things but find the places where their know-how is unique.

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