“So are you guys going to invest in the business?”
I wasn’t too sure. I had my doubts but I definitely understood the viability of the product. Is it truly a unique product, will the patent protection hold? What is the competition offering? Others in the room furthered the line of questioning: is the value proposition strong enough? Has there been enough testing on the target population?
Since I frequently purchase those supermarket products that give free samples merely because I don’t know how to smoothly move away from the product table, deciding whether to allow this business to continue or not, carried considerable import. Luckily the entrepreneur was not in the room.
There would be no battle of logic over neurosis however, because in reality I was actually sitting in my Entrepreneurial Finance class at Fuqua. Every aspect of the business was real – an entrepreneur had just pitched his real business using the same presentation he had used with various venture capital companies.
An implicit tradeoff of graduate school education is the time away from the working world. Subsequently, there is a risk of falling into the abyss of theory, so optimally the thin line between class and the outside is completely removed. Incorporating these real elements into the classroom creates the effective Miyagi-esque moral: “So this is why I’ve been painting the fence (debating discount rates) and washing the cars (investigating the potential market).” The firing of the synapses re-energises the occasionally fatigued student mind by reinforcing the practicality of the class work.
The ability to meld the two worlds leaves us better prepared to be immediately effective after graduating. Hopefully though the next time I get a free sample at the market they don’t ask me to buy their entire business.