Michigan Ross: The Best Two-Year Startup Incubator
I am doing what I sought to accomplish when I applied to the Full-Time MBA Program at the Ross School of Business.
I wanted to use my MBA experience as an incubator, and my startup, BotNot, is thriving, winning competitions, and solving significant challenges for our customers. I am confident we are just scratching the surface, with even more positive developments coming soon.
My path to Michigan Ross as an entrepreneur
I have always been a tinkerer, from slyly selling gum and Skittles in my elementary school in Singapore to curating the largest database of private school student rankings and creating a startup within an enterprise. I love building things, taking an idea and turning it into reality. It has always brought me my greatest joy (ask my mom, who spent plenty of time with all of my principals — sorry, mom!).
Prior to Michigan Ross, I was fortunate to have an incredible opportunity to take a newly inked partnership and build an entire portfolio at IBM. I was circumnavigating the globe, talking to some of the largest companies in the world, enabling a borderless sales team, and working with engineering teams to launch innovative products. I was immediately hooked and treasured every moment. However, after five incredible years, I decided it was time for a new challenge and to pursue my MBA.
I loved the reflective nature of the MBA application process and chose to use my MBA as a two-year incubator to create something. When applying to programs, Michigan Ross always felt like home. The school has an incredible community and an emphasis on entrepreneurship, and the football team is not bad either. I knew Ross was the right place for me.
Working to create a new venture at Michigan Ross
Once accepted into Michigan Ross, I began deliberately working on creating something, and the ideas varied from an international credit transferring business to a maté beverage company. Then, Alex, my co-founder and sister, called me frustrated about bots winning all her favorite sneakers on drops and the impact of bots on consumers. If you ever wonder how your favorite items sell out so quickly, it is not because other fans are beating you, but automated computer scripts known as bots that are buying up all of the supply. Instantly, I was hooked and could not stop thinking about the impact, as it went beyond concert tickets and sneakers. Bots impact every aspect of our digital experience, especially for businesses and brands. It skews all these entities' data for critical decision-making, causing them to struggle to understand their customers' digital identities. This hurts the ability to forecast inventory and sales, determine the success of marketing campaigns, reward the most loyal customers, and much more.
We wanted to solve this growing problem and founded BotNot to help brands better understand their customers, their intentions, and the best way to interact with them.
Bringing BotNot to life through leveraging Ross resources and the community
Taking our idea for BotNot to Michigan Ross, I became a sponge. I soaked up everything from the classroom, conversations at the Bus (where MBAs tailgate before football games), and anything remotely applicable to BotNot and the problem we are solving. From Leading People and Organizations, I learned that establishing a strong culture is essential from the beginning and not something we grow into as the company matures. Our culture sows the foundation of our collaboration, hiring, and interaction with clients and investors. Lastly, do not discredit the importance and the amount of work done at social events, like the Bus and meetups at Scorekeepers, a favorite MBA hangout.
Michigan Ross was invaluable for the success of BotNot, giving us confidence through its supportive community, which was actively rooting for our success. People always provided introductions, reviewed our pitch deck, and sent helpful articles; BotNot would not be here without them. Whether meticulously looking over our deck and giving feedback before our first investor meeting, talking to my friends that were analytics and retail leaders before school, or having friends buying BotNot hoodies. The Michigan Ross community has been unmatched.
We were also fortunate to win the Michigan Business Challenge and to receive a lot of support from the Zell Lurie Institute at Michigan Ross. We were able to meet some customers and revamp our design by working with the Zell Lurie Institute. The programs helped us better understand our customers by introducing us to new consumers, understanding the resonating message, and improving our BotNot Portal.