Alumni in the News
Benefits Negotiator Feels Your Pain
"Employers hate it. Carriers hate it, because it makes them impersonal, imprecise, and forces customer turnover," said Ashok Subramanian, MBA '03/MA '04. "There's no ambivalence, really, that the [employer-provided insurance] system is broken. Everybody's feeling pain. People wanted us to break things open." Subramanian's 5-year-old company, Liazon, is doing just that, helping companies negotiate benefit plans with their employees through Bright Choices, a web portal where individuals can tailor health, insurance, and disability benefits to their own needs. Fast Company profiled Buffalo, N.Y.-based Liazon, calling it "the Amazon of health care buying."
Alumni Angels Provide Valuable Seed Funding
For some Stanford entrepreneurs, seed funding is no further away than Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs, a network started by Miriam Rivera, MBA/JD '95, pictured left, and Clint Korver, pictured center, who holds a PhD in engineering–economic systems from Stanford. The angels' investments are diverse, ranging from the luxury shopping site ModeWalk — founded by Beatrice Pang, MBA '10, and Henri Deshays, MBA '11 — to Lex Machina, a database of patent litigation information. "It was really the critical seed funding that let [Lex Machina] go from being an academic project to an established company," the company's CEO, Josh Becker, MBA/JD '99, pictured right, told BloombergBusinessweek.
Senate Committee OKs Sanctions
In June, the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee unanimously passed an act lobbied for by William Browder, MBA '89. The Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act is named for a lawyer employed in Russia by Browder's Hermitage Fund, which invested in the Russian stock market. Browder alleges Magnitsky was framed on charges of fraud after testifying about Russian government and corporate corruption. The lawyer died in custody. According to The New Yorker, the Magnitsky Act would deny U.S. visas to those believed responsible for his death and to other Russians who engage in similar violations of human rights. It also would allow financial sanctions, such as freezing assets in the United States.
More: Browder told a GSB audience how he went from being "the biggest portfolio investor in Russia" to "one of the biggest enemies of the state" after going public with his accusations.
Pitching a Somewhat Perfect Game
Back in the 1950s, Roger Osenbaugh, MBA '58, played seven years with the Sacramento Solons baseball team, where he achieved a record of sorts. On what the former pitcher fondly calls his "best day as a pro," Osenbaugh gave up nine home runs for a 22-5 loss. "Thing was, we were out of pitching, so I went the distance. I'm real proud of that. Anyone can pitch a complete game when they've got good stuff. To pitch a complete game when I had nothing, that's an accomplishment!" Osenbaugh, a retired insurance agency owner, shared that memory and more with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
Alumna Promotes Bangladeshi Artists
A former consultant to nonprofits and a board member of San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Samira Rahmatullah, MBA '09, founded Alluvial Arts to promote the work of Bangladeshi artists. In June she curated the first show of contemporary Bangladeshi art in California, featuring 70 pieces by three artists. "In the last decade contemporary art from Bangladesh has grown tremendously in exposure and recognition across Asia and Europe," Rahmatullah told India-West. "I believe [it] is on the cusp of a global boom over the next 10 years, much like what we've seen with Indian art over the last decade."
Outsourced Jobs to Return
Currently, the LED lighting company LumaStream develops and manufacturers its products in Canada and Taiwan, but it is about to bring its manufacturing jobs back to the United States. Founder and CEO Eric Higgs, MBA '94, announced in June that he expects to hire 200 employees in St. Petersburg, Fla., over the next five years and create 1,000 jobs for local contractors. "Let's keep the prosperity right here," he said, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Higgs is a professional sculptor whose large-scale outdoor works are found in Florida and California. He made the announcement at the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts, where LumaStream recently installed dramatic exterior lighting.
When the CEO of Mexico's movie exhibition company Cineopolis addressed their GSB class, Deepak Marda, pictured right, Milan Saini, and Miguel Mier, pictured left, all Sloan '07, were prepared to pitch him the idea of taking Cineopolis into India. That evening over dinner, "he instantly saw the opportunity," Marda told Forbes India. Today Marda and Saini are managing directors at Cineopolis India, and Mier is in Mexico, where he is now the company's COO supervising the international rollout.
Builder Finds Reward in Habitat for Humanity
Ken Sletten's former construction company, Rudolph & Sletten, is known for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, and other impressive projects in Northern California. But the retired executive was honored by Habitat for Humanity–San Francisco for his work on the unassuming buildings that are Habitat's trademark. "The most gratifying thing is on dedication day, when we open up the homes and present the key," Sletten, MBA '56, told the Palo Alto Weekly. "It's hard to find a dry eye in the house." Sletten was a board member of the Bay Area Habitat chapter for more than 10 years.
Kailas Bets on Wind Power
A founder of telecom, software, and real estate companies, serial entrepreneur Ravi Kailas, Sloan '06, has turned his attention to wind energy and plans to make his latest startup, Mytrah Energy, the largest independent power producer in India by 2017. According to Forbes India, Kailas began his quest by raising a mix of low-cost equity and long-term debt, then started buying land and raising talent. "We believe that if we tie up the other finite resources, like land and a good execution team, these resources will feed on each other," Kailas said. "We are getting to size and scale while people are still trying to enter the business."
Personal Branding Works Two Ways
China's top cosmetics e-tailer, Jumei.com, owes much of its success to the personal branding of the company's founder, Leo Chen, MBA '09, through public appearances, on billboards, and in a viral commercial that was forwarded 5,000 times in one day. "I endorse my own brand because I think a company's reputation and value is indelibly linked to that of its leader," Chen told Xinhua News Agency. But, he warned, "In China, we have a saying about 'shooting the bird that takes the lead.' Nowadays my words, appearances, and even my private life may affect the reputation of my company."
Home Sweet Home for Ditto Cofounder
Kate Endress, MBA '11, learned you can go home again. Cofounder and CEO of California-based Ditto, an online eyewear store that offers virtual fitting, Endress looked for a place to base the company's operations. "We set the criteria to find a location that made sense from a shipping/logistics standpoint, was near a world-class lens laboratory, and had a strong workforce," she said. To her surprise, her hometown of Evansville, Ind., fit the bill. An added advantage: Her father came out of retirement to help her run the office, according to Evansville Business.
Making a long-distance mobile payment in Nigeria once meant handing cash to a bus driver and giving him a cut for delivering it. But now a growing number of cash transfers and bill payments are conducted by mobile phone. Licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria in September 2011, Tayo Oviosu's new venture Paga has become the largest mobile payments company in the country, boasting 90,000 users, 78 staff members, and offices in 4 cities. As the company grows, Oviosu, MBA '05, plans to expand Paga's financial services to include savings accounts, loans, and insurance products, according to a profile in the Financial Times.
More: Paga's CEO Oviosu visited the GSB in January 2012 to speak to the student-led Africa Business Club. Oviosu co-founded Paga (then called Pagatech) with Jay Alabraba, MBA '07, who is now head of sales and distribution.
CFO's Risky Choice
Whatever possessed Susan McFarland, SEP '07, to move to "one of the toughest finance jobs on the planet," asked CFO magazine. McFarland, former EVP of finance at Capital One, became chief financial officer of troubled home-mortgage lender Fannie Mae in July 2011. "Sometimes we don't take on risky situations that have wonderful possibilities because we're afraid of the downside," she said. But having some superb mentors made her see the possibilities, and taking part in the Stanford Executive Program and the International Women's Forum Fellows Program encouraged her to go for the top. Now, she says, she is "determined to make sure the risks pay off."
More: McFarland described her experience at the Stanford Executive Program.
GSB Alumni Create Jobs in Ohio
Valued Relationships Inc., an Ohio medical technology company purchased by MBA '06 classmates Andy Schoonover and Chris Hendriksen, has grown from 20,000 to 70,000 customers and is about to fill 125 new jobs. The firm provides home health monitoring technology, such as blood pressure and blood sugar monitors, that makes it easier for the elderly to stay in their homes. The state provided $367,000 in job creation tax credits, and Gov. John Kasich estimates the investment will be returned in a year. "I am not into corporate welfare, but where we get the job growth, it's appropriate," Kasich told WCPO.com.
Hudnut Eyes the Prize
Olympic silver medal winner Peter Hudnut, MBA '11, will be back with a splash this summer at London 2012, and this time he plans to bring home the gold. Hudnut was a defender on the Team USA 2008 Olympic water polo team that lost to the Hungarian team in the final. After taking time out to earn an MBA, Hudnut returned to the water to prepare for London. "I didn't come back for a silver medal," he told espnW. "This is about our team's final stand together. This is our last chance." After London, Hudnut will join Goldman Sachs.