Venture capital crash course

This year European Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) took place in February in Barcelona. ESMT team performed great and was 2nd among top tier business schools such as London Business School, Oxford, HEC and Bocconi.  It is the best result of ESMT in this competition and we, as a team, are proud of it.


The Team included Daria Markova, Julia Odegova, Didier Goepfert, Daniel Abel and Jose Fuquen. Our main goal was to understand the rationale behind Venture Capital investment decisions.

Since we didn’t know where to start, we started with reading. Blogs and articles gave us tons of information, but it was way too theoretical. The next step included interviews with VCs. Here we faced the first challenge: cold-calling VCs seemed to be a rather ungrateful job. To our surprise nobody told us “We, financial gods, don’t talk to mere mortals”. In the end, we had great talks with Mihai Streza from AQAL Capital, Rodrigo Martinez from Point Nine Capital, Thorben Rothe from Capnamic Ventures and Philipp Hartmann, former analyst at Index Ventures. From those we extracted detailed practical information about assessing entrepreneurs and business plans. Based on this we developed a draft term sheet and our own framework for business plan evaluation. However, we also understood: many VCs, many minds.


We still lacked practice in communication with real startups. So our preparation culminated with a mock day at ESMT. This was the most important stage of our training. First, we managed to invite real entrepreneurs who are looking for pitching to VCs. Among those were Coyno, Elopay, Grabafruit and Keydock.

Second, we had a great jury that showed us how to improve: Christoph Räthke (GTEC), Olga Steidl (Inbot), Junayd Mahmood and Andreas Dittes (Talentwunder). Each of the jury members had his/her own unique style, which contributed not only to our learning experience, but also to the startups.  They had a possibility to rehearse a meeting with a VC and check their own performance in an extraordinary situation. We hope that expert recommendations they received will help them on their way to success.

VCIC-mock-1 copy

We were glad to put in practice all the theoretical knowledge and get expert feedback on our performance. Junayd Mahmood and Andreas Dittes were concise and looking deep into the startup challenges. Olga Steidl showed us the chair-on-fire tactics, shooting the entrepreneurs with simple but burning questions that drilled into the very core of the value added (or not added). Christoph Räthke representing GTEC was rather tough and critical regarding our startup evaluation. He noticed that our questions had a prepared structure and advised us to be more oriented on the concrete startup we were talking to. His “commonsense” approach included personalized questions to yourself: “Do I (not an average citizen, not Mr. Black, not some imaginary friend of mine) like this idea?” “Can I feel the pain of the target customer?” “What kind of person is the target customer?” We also appreciated how much energy and time Christoph and Andreas spent with us: they stayed until late discussing all the possible evaluation strategies.

Last but not least, the mock day was also an enriching learning experience for the audience, mostly students of the full time MBA and MIM programs at ESMT.

The mock event played a crucial role in our preparation. ESMT team took the second place in VCIC and was very close to winning. Probably the best part of the competition day was the feedback session with the judges, experienced VCs from all around the world. They praised our knowledge and realistic approach. The main reason we didn’t take the first place was that we didn’t sell ourselves well enough. Great, there is still some space to improve!


We want to say a big THANK YOU to ESMT, GTEC and all the participants, it was a great experience overall.

P.S. Interesting fact: Barceloneta bars are great in any time of the year!


ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellowship Program: A motivation letter by Javier Guzmán de Baya

My name is Javier Guzmán de Baya, an ESMT MBA graduated in 2013. Through this letter, I would like to explain the reasons and motivations for my decision to be part of the RLF; fellowship program between ESMT and Tsiba. Besides, I would like to describe the different programs and activities in which I am involved.

Firstly, I will explain how I got involved on the ESMT fellowship program; when Professor Dr. Wulff Plinke, ESMT Founding Dean, explained the fellowship program to our MBA class last year, I got immediately excited with the idea on participating on that. The possibility for me to work again in social field, especially on the appealing project at Tsiba, where I could apply the knowledge and experience accumulated in my career, and also where I would like to keep developing my professional career, was an irresistible opportunity that I could not miss.

I am an economist with a second bachelor´s degree in Marketing Business and Market Research with background in Multilateral Financial Institutions, International Trade and Investment, Public Administrations and Regional Cooperation for Development. My work experience at the Trade Promotion Agency of Andalusia (EXTENDA), and also my experience as EU Project Technical Expert in Spain focused on Regional Development and Cooperation Program in Latin America are being especially helpful for me when carrying out my activities at TSiBA in South Africa.

My motivations are exclusively related to my passions. I am especially passionate about working for projects related to Social Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability Projects as well as for projects within the Corporate Social Responsibility or Public Institutions. My special sensitivity when working with local communities; my experience with project approach and assessment when looking for solutions, and passion when achieving goals together with people, make me to be really interested in keeping working on the social field. I would be very enthusiastic on having the possibility to apply all of that on future similar projects.

Following, I would like to introduce TSiBA Education in order to have a better understanding of my activities in this Institution:

TSiBA Education is a non-profit private higher education institution based in South Africa, for disadvantaged students who would not otherwise be able to afford a university education.

Tsiba, apart from its academic vision with more than 500 students, provides different entrepreneurial services to an important number of local enterprises; TSiBA Ignition Centre is a hub dedicated to extending TSiBA’s mission of “Igniting Opportunity” to reach beyond our students into the communities that they come from. Most of the projects are focused on Enterprise Development, Community Training and Leadership Development.

I started working at TSiBA in January, where I was assigned to the Ignition Center (Business Incubator and Social Entrepreneurship) due to my professional background, but the lack of human and financial resources have caused that I am also involved on the academic side of the Institution by lecturing different courses, what it is also being an amazing experience for me.

Description of activities

The TSiBA Ignition Center, with the purpose to offer its services, is permanently searching for enterprises, most of them just survival businesses, in the community. We are permanently tracing new potential beneficiaries. It means that we make interviews, create business profiles, classify, and based on their needs and challenges assign these enterprises to the appropriate program.

As any NGO, TSiBA can implement its programs basically through sponsorship agreements. One example is the program that we are running with Sanlam, one of the biggest Insurance Company in South Africa. In this program, we offer training, individual mentorship and professional network, to the enterprises that we previously selected for participating on the program. Sanlam is not only interested on sponsoring this program because its Corporate Social Responsibility but also because the participant enterprises on the program will be included on the Sanlam´s supply chain program and generate synergies with other companies that already operated with Sanlam and other clients.

We are running similar programs to the one described with Sanlam, in which local institutions and corporates support different programs that offer individual mentorship and training to our enterprises.

What it is very unique at Tsiba, is the extremely close relationship of the students with the community and especially with the businesses that operate in the community. Most of our enterprises know from TSiBA through our students. After this first contact, enterprises come to the Ignition Center where we explain them our activities and different support tools.

In line with that, we are also running a program in collaboration with the Northeastern University’s Social Enterprise Institute. In this program around 50 American students together with TSiBA students will support local enterprises by providing managerial support according to their challenges and needs. For this program, what we do first is contact our enterprises, we interview them and create a business profile in which we highlight their main needs and challenges. After that, we allocate students with skills and profiles that can bw helpful for overcoming the challenges of the businesses participating on the program.

On the academic side, I am lecturing last year students. The course is called innovation and we are implementing a very practical program that encourages the students to create their own businesses. At the end of the program, they have to generate income with their businesses. Here, there is also an important field to come up with new collaborations and ways of implementing the program: Business incubator, social entrepreneurship and allocation of our students to corporates for consulting projects.

I am also mentoring students for the Entrepreneurship Course. Proffesor Dr, Plinke had the opportunity to attend to one of my sessions during his visit to the TSiBA Campus.

The final purpose of this document is to raise awareness of the multiple collaboration possibilities that can be developed in South Africa and especially related to Social Entrepreneurship and CSR. The social impact of the activities carried out by institutions as TSiBA is impressive but can be multiplied with additional support especially from corporate world. There are many different ways to collaborate and develop new potential programs in South Africa.

As I explained in the beginning of this document, I am really interested on continuing working on the social field, especially in Social Entrepreneurship. During my experience at Tsiba, different ideas and possibilities for future collaboration programs are arising. I would love to share them with you if you are interested.

I am totally convinced that Social Entrepreneurship is a powerful way to alleviate poverty in the developing world.

ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellowship Program: Kunal in Cape Town, South Africa

‘Open Day’ at TSiBA, Cape Town campus
‘Open Day’ at TSiBA, Cape Town campus

TSiBA Education is a private non-profit institution with an urban campus in Cape Town and a rural campus near Kynsa, both in Western Cape, South Africa. Their vision is to “Ignite Opportunity” by being an innovative learning community that engages young talent into academic courses focused on entrepreneurship and leadership. TSiBA lives on the philosophy of “paying it forward”- students who are awarded scholarships are not required to pay for their education monetarily, but rather to “Pay it Forward” by transferring the knowledge, skills and resources that they gain at TSiBA to their communities.

With BBA students and CEO of TSiBA at a cocktail evening hosted by Bowman Gilfillan
With BBA students and CEO of TSiBA at a cocktail evening hosted by Bowman Gilfillan

TSiBA’s main offerings are the BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) and HCBA (Higher Certificate in Business Administration) courses. Students are not required to pay any tuition fees. These expenses are covered through TSiBA’s generous individual and corporate sponsors and donors. TSiBA does generate revenue and that is through the executive education offered to the corporate and government sectors.

My role as a pro-bono volunteer was to provide consulting and general management assistance to the administration team in TSiBA’s Cape Town campus and occasional teaching assistance. Two of the main projects handled were-

  • Audit of examination marking system- Apart from delivering quality education, TSiBA’s critical task is also fair and accurate assessment of student performance. This audit was carried out to verify and improve processes which lead to examination marking/grading and course qualification. The aim was to standardize the process to eliminate errors in the future.
  • Streamlining of policies and procedures- Policies and procedures form an essential part for the smooth everyday functioning of any organization. TSiBA is now only in its 10th year of operation and most polices were written during its formative years. This was a project which I ran alone and involved meticulous review of all the policies, especially those affecting student and academic matters. Recommendations were made to the Dean and were later tabled across the executive committee.

About the Responsible Leaders Fellowship

As part of the Responsible Leaders Fellowship, three of ESMT’s 2013 MBA graduates put their career plans on hold to volunteer as teachers and mentors for up to six months and pass on the skills learned during their MBA to the students at TSiBA (Tertiary School in Business Administration) in South Africa. The knowledge and experience gained by ESMT graduates will contribute to a knowledge-thirsty institution such as TSiBA.


Through the eyes of an MBA mommy – My way to ESMT

“We would like to thank you for investing your time to get to know ESMT (…) Based on the decision of the Admissions Committee, I am personally delighted to inform you that you have been selected as a candidate for the next ESMT MBA class starting January 2014.”

I was sitting in front of my computer staring at the e-mail with the offer to enroll in ESMT. I was exhilaratingly happy and nervously petrified at the same time. What does this mean for us?

For a long time I had been thinking about doing some kind of business education, preferably an MBA. I was looking at some part-time options in my home country, but finally I decided that it was better to do it full time and somewhere abroad, to really focus on it and to gain international exposure. It was never a good time to do it though. There was always a project going on, or there was this or that. It is pretty amazing how everything came to place once I was on my maternity leave. By being taken away from my everyday business routine, the professional part of my brain was completely clean from all the regular noise and I could finally see what I wanted to do next. I figured that I would try to apply and see what happens. If I got admitted, great, if not, at least I had tried.

I browsed through a number of schools, but I finally decided to apply only to one – ESMT. It was in Berlin, Germany, it had technology and sustainability tracks instead of hard-core finance and investment banking, the class size was relatively small, and the names of the founding companies were just dazzling. For me, this was the place to be. There were just some “little” things which needed to be done – the GMAT, the TOEFL and the application essays. I was really lucky that my daughter was sleeping a lot at that stage, so I had time to study and to write and rewrite my application essays. The admissions process was really fast. The interview was scheduled around five days after I submitted my application and the offer arrived only six days after the interview.

“So, are we really doing this?”, I was sitting with my husband at our dining table. “Well, I think we are.” We were both smiling. “Next year is going to be such an adventure. Our first big family adventure.”

It is time for you to help

Our class (ESMT MBA 2013) has numerous links to the Philippines, and we are all very concerned with the recent news surrounding Taifun Haiyan. The impact of the storm in the region has been catastrophic. In the Philippines alone around 10 thousand people have died and over 4 million have been left homeless. The efforts to return to a life somewhat close to normal are underway, but it will take a considerable amount of time before the people in this region recover. International help is coming from different destinations to the Philippines and we as members of the ESMT community want to contribute to this cause as well.

Recently we were reminded of how powerful nature can be when we were visited by Xaver, one of the strongest storms to fall on Germany in the last decades. Luckily for us, the country’s infrastructure and organizations were well prepared. Despite winds exceeding 150 km/h, the damage, as well as the number of casualties Europe-wide, was relatively limited.

As you may want to see it, we are either blessed or lucky to be living in cities and countries with limited natural disasters and with well prepared infrastructures that offer protection when required. However, given that 7 billion people are living around the world, it could have easily been the case that we wouldn’t be where we are today. If we were at the other side of this story, we would be the ones needing the help of others more fortunate than us now. The fact is that we are the more fortunate ones today, and we therefore want to jointly make an effort to help our brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

How will we do it? The ESMT Social Impact Club is organizing a donation drive.  At our graduation event we will display boxes that attendees can use to make donations. Furthermore, we will use our networks and the networks of our school to broaden the reach of our undertaking.

With whom will we do it? We have selected a reliable partner who is involved in micro-financing for the poor. They are called Opportunity International Deutschland, and they are a Christian-motivated non-profit whose goal is to provide micro-financing services for the poor at large to support their sustainable development. They have a strong presence and network in the Philippines with over 30 years of local history and a total of around 1 million micro finance clients. Approx. 50.000 of their clients were significantly affected by the storm. Branches and employees of OID were impacted as well. OID is now supporting reconstruction efforts, and they will be a major vehicle of financing for the poor as they try to get back on their feet. All the funds we collect will go to OID.

How can you help? If you want more information you can write us at: If you identify with our cause you can make a donation by following this link: (please enter the payment reference: “Taifun ESMT”). We thank you for your interest and potential support!

Warm regards from Berlin, the ESMT Social Impact Club.