Sunday, December 03, 2006

Canada

Ok, the name of my blog is no longer up2date, 'warm' (all is relative), wet Oxford with its ancient old college buildings and supermodern Said Business School has been replaced with one of the lowest density populated countries in the world: Canada!

Compare 9,330,970 sq km of land mass and only 32 million people with the Netherlands 41,526 sq km and 16 million people!! This means that a person in Canada roughly has about a 100 times more space than a Dutch person. Or put it differently, imagine only 10,000 people living in the city of Amsterdam! Go to a regular Ajax game currently and you should be able to witness the sensation...

Now you understand why Canadians are allowed to drive huge pickup trucks, hummers and SUVs. they simply have the space for it. See below...


I have moved to Calgary after my MBA to start a company together fellow MBA Sean (left in pic) and a friend of him, Mike. The company focuses on renewable energy, particularly geothermal. I will explain more about this in later updates as I don't have a lot of time now. I'm very excited to start this business, the opportunity is great, now we have to make it work!!
My goal of moving to North-America after my MBA has been achieved! My next goal will take a bit of time, I'll keep that one to myself for now...
Check back soon, all the best!
Koen

(written @ 71 weston manor)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Moot Corp

Part one: the road to...
What do a niche television network, martial arts,, apple-martinis, New York blizzards, cockroaches, outdoor hotel swimming pools, Texas and a “bright and attractive team” have in common? Everything!

This is a story of turning the New Business Development project, part of the MBA, into an amazingly valuable and fun experience.

As any venture capitalist will tell you; “it all starts with the right team, willing to invest in its own business”. Indeed it does. With brains and charm from Australia (Nina), respectful and quiet ‘joie de vivre’ from Belgium (Gauthier), a distinguished gentleman from Canada (Chris), energy from Mr. California (Nikesh) and creativity and unique humour from the Netherlands (Koen) the board of ZenTV was complete. Our knowledge and understanding of the industry was somewhat concentrated, that is to say, only one person really understood both the TV business and the world of martial arts – that is the only reason why he was the CEO (along maybe with the fact that putting this specific team together was all his doing). We decided a crash course in media (and yes, some of us took a crash course in martial arts too) was imperative. What better way to do it than spending a week in New York attending various international media conferences. What better time to do it than roughly mid-Hilary term when the MBA was getting a bit slow anyways...

Media talk, interviews and meetings during the day, then back to the hotel to brainstorm and write up the business plan in a most comfortable lobby while being served the best apple-martinis and bloody mary’s in town. Somewhere in the warm swath of alcohol and hotel appetizers a concept and a unity was born. It was a good run, being an entrepreneur. Nobody sleeps in NY and neither did we; we learned a valuable lesson: it never hurts to “bounce some business ideas” off our target audience (females 20-35) in the heart of the City’s nightlife. One of the worst blizzards on record ushered out of New York (24 inches in 24 hours) and back to the then grey climbs of Oxford, the business plan firmly in tow.

Part two: Moot Corp, Austin Texas
Nikesh: “Nina, what is our IRR?”. Nina: “What do you want it to be Nikesh?”. Yes, we were ready for some serious business plan competition. After thorough preparation, with Jonathan Black’s support, we felt incredibly fortunate to be chosen to represent our class at the Moot Corp global business plan competition. Around 30 universities from around the world come to Austin each year to compete and they call it the Super Bowl of business plan competitions (it was even mentioned in the West Wing – season 5, Episode 5 – “A constituency of one”). A quick two day stopover first in what we anticipated would be our home for the coming years, Los Angeles, or to be more precise, Beverly Hills. We met with one of our advisory board members and ‘checked out the neighborhood’ (while waiting for Nikesh’s love life to take a new turn) until it was time to leave our ‘gallon-per-mile’ consuming SUV behind and head for Austin.

The competition lasts three days. The first day has practice rounds, when all teams get a chance to do a mock pitch to polish the presentation even further. Chris’s great poise in answering questions and convincing judges that our proposed ‘alternative life style’ was ‘cool’ and ‘in’ provided us with great feedback.

In the afternoon all teams participated in a ‘Venture Showcase’. Armed with a stand, gadgets and elevator pitches we tried to impress whomever we could, doing last minute blowup prints of the logo, and recruiting staff from other booths to be part of the ‘Zen crowd’ and distributing ultra-chic, and well-received headbands and wristbands.

The second day was the real deal. Pitch in the morning, feedback in the afternoon. Only the top team from each 5 team group moved through to the next round and unfortunately we weren’t among them, but competed in a separate ‘money round’ on day three. Feedback was constructive, (meaning confrontational) but competing against second year MBAs, part-time students fully dedicated to their new venture meant that our 3-month preparation (in parallel with the MBA) wasn’t up to par. Chris was wise enough to ask if there was anything we should not change. A long silence followed until the one female judge spoke in all her wisdom “well, we feel you are all very attractive, and that this could really work for you....”. Wow! We probably could’ve established that with a video-call from Oxford, but nevertheless, we enjoyed our attractiveness over great food and drinks, strategizing over how we would grow the business ourselves and Nina giving a completely new meaning to the word ‘cockroach’.

Getting a chance to go to Moot Corp is truly unique and positive experience. To have any chance of winning the competition, the business idea has to be at a much more advanced stage than a SBS NBD project can reach in three months time. All competing teams have finished marketing samples and posters, product prototypes ready, distributor and marketing contracts signed, patents pending, received VC funding, etc... Having said that, understanding what exactly a VC is looking for will bring you a long way. Promise gargantuan IRRs, but not too unrealistic, eliminate any idea of risk and exemplify the exit, and who knows next year, Oxford may be bringing home the prizes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Exam results

After all that has happened (Guatemala, start of Hilary term with enough workload to keep the average Dutch employee in the public sector busy until retirement (pardon my generalisation there..)) you would almost forget about a certain set of exams taken in the beginning of december.
However, a week ago around 4pm the back row of one of our lecture theaters became so noisy that our Finance II professor (the only other Dutch guy I've met so far in the business school) openly asked a question whether it was his teaching or something else that kept them so preoccupied. Fortunately for him it was not his teaching skills, but the list of exam results posted near our pigeonholes (postbox for non-Oxonians). The pigeonholes are most easily accessible from the back row of the lecture theaters, hence their disturbance. As I was sitting in front, as I usually do (old habit from Delft), I was completely oblivious of the importance of events that just happened.
Anyways, you probably think I'm writing this big intro as to make you forget about the actual subject so I won't have to give the results. Well, without going into too much detail which you probably want to avoid as a formerly-living-in-asia-wild-bird-with-a-runny-nose, I can tell you that I passed them all with two distinctions for Decision Science and Financial Reporting. This means that I should perhaps aim for a career in statistical research into Accounting frauds....how exciting!!
Ok, that it, of to the gym now...

(written @ the sbs library)

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Break time, destination Central America

Just came back from my trip to central America, Guatemala and Honduras to be exact.
Went to visit Machteld there who lives in Antigua at the moment doing volunteering work for an organisation called Los Ninos. (http://www.stichtinglosninos.nl/)
Had been about 2 months since I last saw her, so of course seeing her again was very nice!
Antigua is a city near the capital and is I think one of the most beautiful and cleanest city of the country. It is situated in a valley surrounded by four volcanos......still active ones. The scenery is quite impressive.

After a few days (it takes a while of course to get adjusted to not thinking about assignments and eating and drinking all day) we travelled to Tikal to see the Mayan ruins. These ruins have been on my to do list for a long time, so I was very excited to go. We decided to fly (TAG airlines) to Flores. TAG airlines operates small propellor airplanes and employs 'stewardesses' that are max 16 years old and get very frightened looks at the slightest bit of turbulence...a comforting thought! The flight was nice though.
We spent the night in the Tikal park so we could enter the park the next morning at 5AM to climb up to Tempel IV and see the sunrise and jungle coming to live. It was an amazing experience!



Tikal is known for its immense structures. The city started to flourish during the downfall of El Mirador, a nearby and important pre-classic city, around 200-850 AD.










Copan
After a quick stop in Antigua-base-camp we went on for a longer journey to Honduras. First stop: Copan. Copan is a small village just across the border with Guatemala. The city is also famous for its Mayan ruins. Machteld had booked a very pretty hotel to spend Christmas days in: Hacienda San Lucas (http://www.haciendasanlucas.com/index.htm)

The ruins in Copan are very different from Tikal. In Copan, it is not height but detail that differentiates the city. An often heard analogy is that where Tikal is the New York of the Mayan cities, Copan resembles Paris. Two famous structures in Copan are the Hieroglyphic stairway and a recently discovered inner burial temple 'Rosalila' within a larger structure. The latter is quite unusual as the Mayans used to destroy temples belonging to previous rulers whenever a new ruler arrived. This one was kept intact by as it is believed to be build by the first ruler of Copan K'inich Yax K'uk' Mo'.



Machteld, trying not to fall again...!!

Bay Islands, kicking it in the Caribbean...

Leaving culture behind us, we traveled to the Bay Islands area of Honduras where we would spend the next week on Roatan. Roatan is an island situated on the Caribbean coast. We stayed in a place called WestEnd. (tip: do not trust the Lonely Planet guides on this area, or any area if you ask me, these guides are getting more and more commercialised and less independent. If you read the guide, you might be tempted to stay in WestBay, situated next to WestEnd as it is described to be a more quiet and authentic village....The person that who wrote this must have had a couple of tequilla shots too many and forgot what he was writing about: WestBay is a terrible, Cancun like, area with big resorts hosting even bigger tourist. There is nothing authentic about the place and a complete circus!)

WestEnd is your typical 'hippie-type' place with a lot of diving activities. Very nice to stay if you're into diving/snorkling. People are very relaxed and it offers a nice selection of small bars and restaurants to keep you happy for about a week. Definite recommendation is a restaurant called: The Lighthouse. An American women, who obviously enjoys her own recipes a lot, makes delicious food.

I dove with Coconut tree divers (nice crew, only place that offers 2-tank dives), did 4 dives and Machteld snorkled with us as her arm was not completely ready for the pressure of underwater scuba.



For New Years we sort of worked the 'strip'. Starting at the back of the village we drank cocktails at Sundowners, worked our way up to a bar which name I cannot remember now and ended in the Black Pearl (how original). I think this 'club' tried to resemble the ship of the Pirates of the Caribbean, well....let's just say that I don't think the place was sea-worthy. I won't say any other bad thing about it, as they threw a great party with an unexpected excellent DJ.

Antigua again..
On the 3rd of Jan we came back in Antigua where we had a few relaxing days before my trip back to Oxford. We visited a local market in Chichicastenango where Machteld could keep her 'PC-Hooft'-skills up to date and the last evening on friday we had a briljant diner at Meson Panza Verde (http://www.panzaverde.com/). We had live music next to our table of no other than the Buena Vista Social Club. These guys are in their 70's and still put up an amazing show. Combined with terrific food, it could not have been a better night to conclude the trip with.


Next day we took a taxi at 6AM to the airport (quite used to these times, travel in Guatemala always starts at 5 or 6AM). It will be long before we see each other again, fortunately we can mail & Skype our way through it! You sometimes wonder how people did this 20 years ago.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Exams

Week 10 has passed, it was a 3 day rush from monday to wednesday in which we had to do 6 exams.
Monday morning started off with Financial reporting followed by Decision science. Tuesday was all about Strategy and Managerial Economics. Wednesday we closed with my 'favorite' Developing Effective Managers and last but not least Finance I.
Probably most worried about the Strategy, other than that, should be ok I guess. The beautiful Oxford efficiency will ensure that I will know my results by February or something like that.
Anyways, time for my trip to Guatemala now!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Academics kick in...and whats going on in Amsterdam

I can't believe our first term already draws to an end. I know it has only been 8 weeks, but I feel like Oxford has been my hometown for a long time now. It always amazes me how quickly people can adjust to new circumstances. Living in Amsterdam (lived there for the past 4 years) seems ages ago. I'm kinda curious how 'De Prins' is doing. De Prins you say?? Yes it's a boat I own togheter with Frits, who is a friend I used to live with in Amsterdam.
We spend last spring repainting the whole damn thing, putting new layers of tar on the hull to protect it from the very corrosive Grachten water.

It wasn't a very pleasant thing to do, although we always have good fun when we excercise our engineering skills (well, Frits is not an engineer, but he could have been...). The thing is, we always prepare very well, and you know, whenever you even think about doing DIY stuff, preparation is KEY! We can spend days in store's like Gamma and Praxis (large DIY stores), just to be sure we got that very special type of equipment exactly fit for the job! I can tell you, a lot of thought and discussion enters the equation there.
Anyways, I won't bother you any more with this stuff, here some pictures of De Prins + guests:



Build up to the Prinsengracht concert, this is one of Amsterdam's best events of the year. It's a classical concert on a floating stage on the Prinsengracht canal. Everybody with a respectable boat turns up in the morning. Then you wait approx 100 m away from the stage until you're allowed to drive your boat up to the stage and tie your boat to it. The thing is that everybody wants to be in front (yes, Dutch are no different from any other country in that respect), so all the boats you see in this picture want to pass underneath the bridge you see in the back. It can easily be referred to as the 'battle of the boats' that has casualties and winners every year. This year, we definitely won, we'll see about next year.


Grand finale!!

I guess what all this means is that I miss Amsterdam a bit at the moment. But no time for that of course, exams are in less than two weeks now. Can't wait to wear my sub-fusc three days in a row!!!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Friend visiting Oxford

Had Pieter over in Oxford this weekend. Pieter (whom I know from my time with Accenture) works for ReedElsevier, and they have an office here in Oxford. After a week of strategy meetings, he was ready for some serious MBA-style drinking. On Friday's this always kicks-off at the Said Common Room. (a Common Room (CR) is Oxford slang for an area of relaxation, even reflection maybe. All Colleges have CR's, Junior Common Room (JCR) for undergrads and Middle Common Room (MCR) for the cool grads!).
Friday is happy 2 hours with cocktails for only 1 pound each!

Had dinner afterwards in a Jericho pub and then hit the Worcester bop. We ended up in Escape, an Oxford club that is pretty popular around here, http://www.escape-oxford.co.uk/

Next morning we had an excellent breakfast in the Covered market. The Covered market is a market that is covered....(aha) with lots of nice lunchrooms and small stalls that sell almost anything. Stomaches filled, we headed towards the Ashmolean museum. http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/

First museum visit since Oxford arrival and I now have decided to at least visit one each month. I already know my next destination: museum of Natural History. They have the 'shrunken head' so I've been told. (no clue what this means, take a look: http://www.head-hunter.com/)

Quick visit to Christ Church after that and then time to get back to the Netherlands, and for me back to the books!!