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SXSW: My First 24 Hours in Austin

Max spoke directly to me by saying the following: “If you’re going to start a company, start tomorrow.” Like many students in business school, I have plans to start my own business one day. That was one of my drivers for attending Harvard Business School. HBS produces tons of entrepreneurs – 17% of graduates go directly into entrepreneurship, either by working at start-ups or founding their own companies, and 42% of graduates start a business in their lifetime. Most of the people I know say they want to start a business at some point, but will that day ever come? We all hope it will, but life happens. Why not start it now? Max wasn’t just talking to me. He was speaking to all us. 5:50PM – Intro to Computer Science “I’m sorry. I should have called. You’re right to be upset.” – Boyfriend in Trouble (me) Remember my call from the previous night to let her know that everything was ok? This wake-up call turned into the seed of my own destruction, watered by my silence throughout the day. As people lined up for a private party held by a prominent VC firm, I was across the street apologizing to my girlfriend. Thanks to my good friend from undergrad who’s been crushing it out in the valley, I was able to attend a private gathering hosted by one of the top venture capital firms. The highlight for me was a graduate from Stanford GSB. A Mexican native, who had just graduated less than a year ago, and for about 45 minutes, took an interest in my development. He had worked in M&A for two years before leaving his job to learn how to code. With this new skill set, he started a company and sold it while getting his MBA. We talked about why understanding how to code could be helpful, but we also talked about the value of business school. There is no better time to build new skills; no better time to ask tons of questions. He convinced me to take at least one computer science course. Not something I expected from this random encounter. 11:30PM – Bubble Proof I found myself surrounded by previous investment bankers all telling me not to do investment banking. It was an intervention. The venture capital event had turned into a smaller house party. A friend from New York that I hadn’t seen in years was now a partner at a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. At least five years my senior, he was surprised at how little risk I was taking to reach my long term goal of running a business. He brought in past bankers to convince me against a career in professional services. I countered by saying something that most would never say to a group of venture capitalists at a venture capitalist party, “VC funding and tech entrepreneurship is in a bubble right now.” Having entered the finance industry right about the 2008-2009 crash, I was (and still am) sensitive to chasing the next hot area for success. This partner looked me dead in the eye and said, “With an MBA from a top school, you are bubble proof.” The statement knocked me back a little bit. He did not have an MBA, so his opinion was unbiased. He had reached tremendous success without one, and even with his success, he valued my degree more highly than I did. He viewed me as being positioned to take much more risk to get to my end goal. “Whatever you do next is going to level-set you with other MBAs on the marketplace. You should make sure that your next move sets you apart. Don’t do something that everyone else can do. Use your HBS degree to make a real difference in your career.” – VC Partner Reflections My first 24 hours in Austin had left me with more questions than answers. Should I take a computer science course next semester? Am I not taking enough risk to get me to my end goal? How could my girlfriend think I was dead if she saw me posting on Facebook? Where can I find breakfast tacos in Boston? There were so many questions after that first day. Some were answered later on, yet many went unanswered. But by the end of my four days at SXSW, one thing was for sure: I would no longer allow my passion for entrepreneurship to be a slave to realistic ambition. Terrance Rogers (NF) worked in Financial Services for 5 years before coming to HBS, and he’s passionate about figuring out how to use business and public policy to improve people’s lives.  Born and raised in Georgia, he’s a proud public school kid who’s still figuring out how to tell people he goes to Harvard. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @bigtrogers.

Established in 1937, The Harbus News Corporation is the independent student news publisher of Harvard Business School.

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