A little video note to inspire the best for next year.
The whirlwind of excitement surrounding Ali Kermani’s (’09) pet project, the Crazy Cart, just keeps on rolling. After strong initial response, the Razor USA product continues propelling the company to the best sales year it’s ever had, according to founder Carlton Calvin. In fact, Toys “R” Us has named the Crazy Cart as one of the Fabulous 15 hot toys of the holiday season. The cart was also featured in a recent Wall Street Journal story on how Kermani’s determination and passion for the product finally paid off after years of neglect by higher-ups.
"You have to trust the people in your company who have passion," Calvin told the Journal.
On Dec. 10 the CEO told Bloomberg Television's "Bottom Line" host Mark Crumpton that the viral YouTube videos (here and here) Kermani shot on the cheap will even mean big organizational changes at Razor. “I’m going out and hiring a whole team for social media,” he said. “I’ve seen the power of social media now, and it’s going to revolutionize my whole business.”
The 2013 UCLA Anderson Global Access Program had a strong finish, with 50 companies from seven countries attending the students’ final presentations on Saturday, Dec. 7. In total, 110 executives from Finland, Italy, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand, Estonia and the United States watched GAP teams present their findings before a panel of three expert judges. GAP teams of five Fully-Employed MBA students conducted six-month field studies to identify strengths, analyze weaknesses and pinpoint opportunities to develop an investment-quality business plan for the companies. On average, teams conducted more than 150 primary research interviews to develop their final plans and presentations.
GAP primarily focuses on helping innovative technology oriented foreign companies that recognize the opportunity for potential growth enter the U.S. market. A total of 268 students prepared for their final presentations with two formal dry-runs to their faculty advisor, a paired team and to the GAP administration.
Students used the skills and knowledge developed in the classroom to solve a real-world challenge for each company. Teams traveled extensively to conduct research. “Many FEMBA students tell us that GAP
is the reason they came to UCLA Anderson for their MBA,” says Paul Brandano ('06), executive director for marketing for the field study programs.
GAP has worked with a total of 539 companies from 19 countries and tracked more than $200 million in investment in companies that have been through the GAP experience.
For more on GAP and opportunities to join the roster of clients, head to their homepage.
The UCLA Anderson MFE commencement took place Dec. 13 in Korn Convocation Hall, with 35 students receiving the Master of Financial Engineering degree. Ravi Mattu, managing director and global head of analytics at PIMCO, gave the commencement address to the students and guests.
Dean Judy Olian addressed the new graduates, congratulating them and sending them off into the world with encouraging news. “Just last week I read an article in Forbes saying, ‘Quants are more in demand than ever, which means they have more career options,’” she said. “That’s good news—for everyone here.” She also reminded them to keep track of priorities as they head out into the business world. “I am confident—given your ambition, focus and training—that you’ll find inspiration and fulfillment in your work,” she said. “I hope that you continue to learn, every day.”
In addition to degree conferment, several faculty and student awards were presented. Mahima Garg (’13), William Longstreth (’13) and Shipra Mahajan (’13) received student awards for outstanding academic achievement and highest marks on their Applied Finance Projects. The MFE Teaching Excellence Award was presented to Professor Holger Kraft, and the Outstanding Service Award was given to UCLA Anderson Lecturer and Executive-in-Residence Teri Geske.
“This has been a very successful year for our program, which is more timely and attractive than ever to applicants and employers as big-data jobs grow in popularity,” said Hanno Lustig, professor and faculty director of the MFE program.
UCLA Anderson’s MFE program prepares students for careers in risk management, asset management, derivative pricing, private equity, hedge funds and technical operation areas of corporate finance.
Head to the MFE homepage for more on the program.
Mike Jirout (MBA ’10) thought his brother Jan was on to something when he created an app for their “big, Italian family” to use on their biennial reunion cruise, so they teamed up to launch Ship Mate. “He was learning to program for iOS while I was learning to build businesses at UCLA Anderson,” Mike says. “We figured that our combined skill sets as both a tech and business guy gave us a decent shot at success and decided to go for it.”
From that humble start in 2009, the brothers found that people loved their idea. A lot. They managed to hit No. 2 out of 40,000 total apps in the iTunes “paid” Travel Apps category. Later, they were switched to the much-larger pool of “free” apps, and currently sit at No. 90 overall. With numbers large enough to impress bigger cruise-industry players, the Jirout brothers sold their app to Cruiseline this November and are staying on at the company. “The sale was ideal in that it included not only cash, but also the opportunity to continue building Ship Mate,” Mike says. “Cruiseline recognized the value behind the Ship Mate brand and the loyal community we've built. With this new partnership, we now have significantly more resources to build the brand under the Cruiseline umbrella.”
Mike says his UCLA Anderson experience helped him develop the roadmap for Ship Mate, as well as discover “the ‘why’ behind our strategy, which made the ‘what’ and ‘how’ easier.” But it was the Anderson community that paid dividends when Mike was in the start-up jungle. “The Anderson network has been one of the most significant benefits I've realized from the program. It literally took less than an hour to get a response from the CEO of Princess Cruise Line because of my affiliation with Anderson,” he says. “I've also had numerous alumni reach out to me offering to help simply out of a passion and loyalty to the community.”
The larger UCLA campus and its ties to Los Angeles’ start-up scene also gave the brothers a leg up. “My affiliation with Anderson also qualified me to apply to the Startup UCLA program,” Mike says. “I highly recommend this program to anyone with an early-stage venture. The experience includes mentorship, cash, free startup services and office space.”
For more on Ship Mate, head to their website.
Sue Andres-Brown (’14) knows the value of good schooling. She spent six years teaching high school English in southeast Los Angeles, including her 2006 stint as a Teach For America corps member. After that contract ended, she remained at the school, taking on leadership roles and working on school improvements. “Eventually, I became frustrated with the limitations of my role as a teacher and my power to affect change, even within just one school,” she says. “I came to UCLA Anderson seeking a broader perspective on problem-solving in public education.”
Her earlier experience taught her school leadership is the foundation to changing outcomes for vulnerable students. Earning an MBA at UCLA Anderson would be a first step in transforming her own leadership skills before taking her new degree and knowledge back out into real-world situations. This past summer, she worked with Boston-based Building Excellent Schools in its Summer Leaders Program. There, she worked with the founder of Equitas Academy, a charter elementary school in the Pico Union neighborhood of Los Angeles. She’s also participated in three Johnson & Johnson-sponsored UCLA Anderson Management Development Programs: the Head Start Management Fellows Program, the Health Care Executive Program and the Management Development Institute in Ghana. “The J&J Program was an incredible complement to this work,” she says. “The program operates at the nexus of health and education, and exposed me to the work of community leaders who are working on the challenges facing the vulnerable citizens in their areas.”
Andres-Brown says her UCLA Anderson work will be a cornerstone in her next stage in life, working for students and their communities. “My work at Equitas showed that MBA skills are a valuable and all-too-rare asset in the complex task of leading a school,” she says. “In 2016, I plan to open a middle school for underserved students in Los Angeles that will hold everyone within the building to unwaveringly high expectations and ensure student success. Eventually, I hope to take those lessons to scale within Los Angeles, bringing effective leadership to every school for every student.”
Hundreds of distinguished alumni, faculty and students gathered for the UCLA Ziman Center for Real Estate’s 2013 Winter Forum, giving attendees the unique opportunity to hear from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
In addition to reflecting on her life, from growing up on a ranch on the Arizona-New Mexico border to attending Stanford Law School and experiencing sexual discrimination while finding employment in her chosen field, the former justice discussed judicial challenges presented by areas of particular interest to the real estate business, ranging from the financial crisis to regulatory regimes, and how they figure in the docket of the federal courts. A question-and-answer period followed featuring questions from the audience.
President Ronald Reagan appointed O’Connor to the US Supreme court in 1981, making her the first woman in U.S. history to hold this prestigious position.
The Ziman Center’s twice-yearly forums feature talks or panels on important real estate, law or business topics.
Last night, UCLA Anderson’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports (MEMES) hosted the Los Angeles TEDWomen 2013 event, part of a worldwide conversation of more than 150 TEDxWomen gatherings. This year’s theme, “Invented Here,” discussed how invention—technology, art, social impact and more—changes lives, helps society and creates meaningful change.
The featured speakers at UCLA Anderson were Nanea Reeves, COO of gaming and media-streaming website Machinima; Karla Ballard, senior vice president and director of Ogilvy and Mather’s The Impact Studio; and notable Anderson alumna Julie Uhrman (’04), CEO of open-source gaming platform OUYA. Prior to the event, students, professors and staff spent some time networking and watching a livestream of the main San Francisco event.
Citing a Wharton School study, Reeves focused on a key component of innovation, thinking in new ways. “During uncertain times people will reject new ideas for familiar ones,” she said. “We protect what's familiar to us, even when those things are obviously outdated.” She offered her own definition of innovation to highlight the visionary nature of new ideas. “To innovate is to have a vision of the future and paint it on the canvas of the present.”
Ballard used her marketing agency vantage point when citing the rise of new technology and the democratization of cultural critique and trendsetting. “There's a whole new level of cultural influencers today,” she said. “There are 95 million estimated millennials on track to create $1.4 trillion in revenue by 2020.” These diverging viewpoints benefit cultural dialogue, she said.
Known for her company’s remarkable crowdfunding and social media presence, Uhrman spoke of the new world in business creation and innovation. “Now is the right time to invent,” she said. “It used to be that when you had a great idea, you first talked to friends and family… Now there’s crowdfunding.” These deep connections create a space for companies to explore new ideas, correcting as they go with input from a huge and loyal base. “You don’t want customers, you don’t want clients, you don’t want users—you want fans that follow you and believe in you and support you no matter what,” she said.
The December 2013 UCLA Anderson Forecast ended the year with a New Year’s resolution for the nation: Start saving now, before it’s too late. According to Forecast economists, a slow-rolling catastrophe of grossly inadequate national savings is upon us, and the crisis will affect us on personal, city, state and national levels.
“Our forecast on this—and you don't want to believe it—is next year we'll be a year older,” said Forecast Director Edward Leamer. Looking at current long-term demographic trends, we are an aging nation with a growing savings deficit and little political or personal will to change course. “We need an AAYP to offset the AARP. The “Y” stands for young. We are engaging in a huge transfer from the young to the old. You have to choose: Who should pay for kids’ schooling and who should pay for the elderly’s Viagra?”
The keynote talk by Laurence Kotlikoff, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Economics at Boston University and author of “The Clash of Generations: Saving Ourselves, Our Kids and Our Economy,” highlighted further the intergenerational impact of our dwindling savings. “I think we're stealing from our children, and I think we've been doing that as a policy for the past 60 years,” he said. “It's not pay as you go, but take as you go.”
Both Leamer and Kotlikoff focused on the shift in spending peaks from a mid-life high to the growing trend in high spending by the elderly. “Who's been consuming so much more?” Kotlikoff asked. “Is it Uncle Sam or is it grandma? It's grandma.”
In the short term, the Forecast predicts the economy won’t quickly help swell empty or near empty bank accounts. On a national level, the forecast calls for real GDP growth in the current quarter to be a modest 1.8 percent, and by the second quarter of next year a sustained 3 percent growth path. “In this environment, employment will be on track to add about 200,000 jobs a month and the unemployment rate will decline to about 6 percent by the end of 2015,” wrote David Shulman, senior economist of the Forecast and author of the most recent Forecast nation report. At this morning’s event he summarized it this way, “The economy’s going to grow if we can get Washington out of the way.”
In California, the Forecast drew a marked contrast between the financial health of coastal vs. inland communities. The vast majority of employment gains are in communities along the coast, while job growth remains stagnated in inland California. “Aggregate job growth remains geographically disparate,” said Jerry Nickelsburg, senior economist of the Forecast and adjunct professor of economics at UCLA Anderson. “Along the coast in California, we're outperforming the United States. But there’s really a difference in performance in parts of Los Angeles and inland. Those areas are moving apart and the gap is widening.”
William Yu, economist at the Forecast, focused on the human capital in Los Angeles, citing his First 5 L.A./UCLA City Human Capital Index. The Forecast found Los Angeles’ human capital is among the lowest of the nation’s largest metro areas, ranking 26 out of 30 metros. Within L.A. County, the Yu’s Forecast report showed a growing gap between prosperous and faltering areas. Regions with high human capital have higher income levels, higher home values and higher employment, while regions with low human capital predict just the opposite. “We see two Los Angeleses growing apart,” Yu said. “Rising human capital areas of Los Angeles lead the country in human capital value, while falling human capital areas of Los Angeles come in last. It’s like the difference between developed and developing nations.”
The Forecast event ended with a panel discussion about the future of savings. Anderson Professor Suzanne Shu; Michael Hiltzik, business columnist for the Los Angeles Times; Ann Boynton, deputy executive officer of Programs, Benefits and Policy at Calpers; and David Crane, lecturer and research scholar at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, gave differing viewpoints of the challenges facing all sectors of the national economy.
Financial decision-making and behavioral economic choices are two of Shu’s main research foci. She said, when it comes to Social Security, most people act against their best interests. “From a financial perspective, waiting until later—assuming a regular life expectancy—is better, yet most people claim it earlier,” she said. “There’s a loss aversion for after you're dead. “Boynton, followed Shu’s comments with more advice for retirement. “Our research shows that a defined benefit plan is the best way to save for retirement,” she said.
On the political side of the savings and economy debate, Hiltzik agreed with the growing chorus of critics. “I think the reason people don’t want things to change is that everyone in Washington has a vested interest in the status quo,” he said. Extending the possible interest groups resisting reform, Crane added the current Bogeymen in New York to the challenges to new policy creation. “There is an unholy alliance between public pension plans and Wall Street private equity,” he said.
The next Forecast event is tentatively scheduled for April with special topic "Solutions for our City." Head to the UCLA Anderson Forecast website for more details.
On Dec. 5, from Seoul to San Francisco, TEDWomen 2013 gatherings will celebrate women and invention. This year’s theme is “Invented Here” and talks at the various locations will discuss how invention—technology, art, social impact and more—changes lives, helps society and creates meaningful change. More than 150 TEDx events will take part via Livestream, engaging in a worldwide conversation.
The featured speakers at UCLA Anderson will include Nanea Reeves, COO of gaming and media-streaming website Machinima; Karla Ballard, senior vice president and director of Ogilvy and Mather’s The Impact Studio; and notable Anderson alumna Julie Uhrman (’04), CEO of open-source gaming platform OUYA. The live stream of the San Francisco event will accompany their talks.
“Lean In,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s memoir, was born from a TEDWomen talk, as was Jane Fonda’s well-known talk “Life’s Third Act,” now streamed by nearly 2.5 million people.
UCLA Anderson’s Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports (MEMES) is sponsoring the evening event, which will be held in the executive dining rooms of Gold Hall from 6pm to 8pm. Register at MEMES’ TEDWomen site.