Sunday, December 20, 2009

Wrapping up the Program - Part III

In previous wrap-up posts (here & here) I talked about broad lessons learned and projects that impacted my new ways of thinking about the world. In this post, I'd like to talk about some of the people in our program. Through the program, I've spoken about our collective journey, often highlighting elements of classmates that caught my attention. As the program progressed, I had the opportunity to better understand the strengths and goals of my classmates.

One of the most challenging things for an Executive MBA is to move outside of their comfort zone. They don't lack for great ideas or leadership, but families and mortgages and job seniority can be a difficult elements of life to sacrifice for the next "what if..."

I'd like to highlight some of the projects and "next steps" that graduates of the Executive Class of 2009 will be leading in 2010.

Terra Verde International - After Hurricane Felix ripped through the coastal areas of Nicaragua, much of their forests were downed by the storm. Through a church-mission relationship, Robbie Lee and his partners become involved in a unique situation to create opportunity out of tragedy. Terre Verde was established to clear the downed trees, mill the wood and byproduct, and take it to market. The mill and operations are staffed by the local Mistiko Indian tribes, and funds from the sale of wood are brought back to the village to establish infrastructure and create new opportunities (farms, education, housing, etc.). In addition to the mill, Terre Verde has plans to create an electrical utility that uses the wood byproduct as a biofuel source to power the electrical grid. In the US we take the electrical grid for granted, but for people that have no light in the evenings, the possibilities are endless. The hope is to allow people to go to school in the evenings, or church, or participate in other activities that are driven by electricity.

TPM Partners - After successful careers at Danaher and Que Pasa, respectively, David Ivan and Domingo Isasi saw an opportunity to take their knowledge of process-design and operations to start a consulting company focused on Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma improvement. By moving quickly to show clients how change can effect their bottomline, TPM Partners has already created hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost-reductions in just a few months.

Precision Farming in India (business name TBD) - Combining his passion for his homeland and expertise in Information Technology, Vish Manickam is creating a new venture to help rural areas in India that are struggling with poverty and limited food supplies. Working with professors in India and Michigan State University, and utilizing the latest Precision Farming techniques to produce vastly better crop yields and a sustainable economy. Vish is not only building a model farm in his home state, but also creating a franchise model to allow others to sell and distribute this technology to other regions of India. By combining technology, government subsidies and market demand, Vish will be able to help a portion of India that rarely see the headlines from the news media.

Commercial Solar Distribution & Installation (business name TBD) - Building on the momentum from the Obama administration and the COP15 talks, Chris Basinger is bringing his passion for building the future to commercial properties in North Carolina. Chris is currently working with several large North Carolina-based companies to design and implement a solar power infrastructure for several hundred facilities. By leveraging national and state credits for solar installations and leading-edge photovoltaic (PV) technologies, Chris has been able to demonstrated positive NPV returns on these upcoming investments. Chris is working directly with VCs to fund this start-up opportunity, with hopes to operationalize it in 2010.

Gracely Girl Design - Highlighted previously as a model for building a completely online business that operates around a part-time or mother's schedule, Gracely Girl has successfully completed 3 months of operations and is now cash-flow positive.

KinderCulture (tentative name) - This is a project that I pitched to the class as part of our Entrepreneurship program. I was humbled when several of my classmates and professor offered to invest or raise money for the idea on the spot. In 2010 I'm hoping to pull together the team to execute on this concept. It would allow me to combine my interests in Social Media and Internet technology, International culture and children's education.

Those are just a few of the projects that I expect to see launched or expanded in 2010. And based on late-night conversations and brainstorming sessions with several other classmates, I wouldn't be surprised to see several more get hatched in some form or another very soon. We were lucky to have such a diverse group of people and backgrounds in our program, and I fully expect them to go on to greater things in the future. My hope is that we are able to continue to leverage the ideas and talents of the group as these new ventures and opportunities arise in 2010 and beyond.

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