When Marc Busch started to write his Stanford MBA application, he thought back to the art classes he’d loved as a kid. “To me, there was nothing more inspiring than a blank canvas,” he says. “It represented the opportunity to create something unique and original. If every talent is a unique color, and you have a blank canvas in your life, you have the opportunity to create an artwork.”
That sense of possibility runs through Busch’s personal and professional life. Raised by his mother in Germany, he would often visit his father in Tunisia. The contrast between the two countries — efficient yet boring on the one hand, ambitious and frenetic on the other — left a lasting impression. “I think that was where I got an appreciation for experiencing the unknown and trying to expose myself to new experiences,” he says.
Busch graduates in December, but he’s already planning to combine his interest in finance and desire to help others with another passion, soccer. He is working on launching a sports-focused venture fund that seeks to invest in startups, teams, and youth academies where kids will focus on goals both on and off the pitch.
“I really want to think about ways that I can provide educational, cultural, and economic opportunity to those around me in the long run,” Busch says. “I’ve been given a lot of opportunities. I want to keep giving canvases to others.”
What were the biggest lessons you received from your parents?
My mom was a single mother. My dad was working in Tunisia. Both had to drop out of high school to earn money for their families. Neither went to college. My mom was a nurse; my dad worked his way up from an entry-level position to managing a large hotel. What I took from them most is an appreciation for opportunity and hard work. They were very smart people, but they didn’t have the benefit of higher education that I had. It’s something that makes me reflect a lot on what opportunity and privilege mean.
During my childhood, my dad developed health issues and couldn’t support us financially. With my mom’s nurse’s salary it was hard to make ends meet, so she took on another job despite having to raise me. She never surrendered or gave up and I think this persistence and dedication still inspires me to this day.
When you were an undergraduate, you did an internship with Volkswagen in South Africa. What was that like?
I lived there for four months and it was mind blowing. It reminded me a little bit of Tunisia, but on a much broader, bigger, more intense level. What really struck me was the income inequality. I was shocked by seeing the differences between parts of society living just a couple of miles from each other.
In the long run, I aim to be a venture capital investor in a developing economy. I want to act as a connector between wealthy institutions and individuals in developed countries and young people in developing nations who have great ideas but lack the resources — money, connections, or mentorship — to actually pursue them. That’s a long-term vision that came up during that summer I spent there.
After college, you worked for Goldman Sachs. What was your experience there like?
Goldman was a really exciting time. I found myself in a room full of very smart people who have a really high work ethic and impressive backgrounds — I almost felt like I didn’t really belong there. But it was also a great motivator.
It was this incredibly high-paced learning environment where you absorb so much knowledge and business acumen. And although it was not always an easy job, it was something that I wouldn’t want to have missed out on. It was a tough school but a very, very good school.
So what led you to Stanford GSB?
I applied to business school with the idea of merging my passion for entrepreneurship and my background in finance to become a venture investor. In 2015, when I was studying abroad in LA, I did a road trip to San Francisco and visited the Stanford campus. Two things particularly stuck with me. First, the cornerstone of the GSB — which says that the school is “dedicated to the things that haven’t happened yet and the people who are about to dream them up” — gave me goosebumps. Then, there was this quote from Phil Knight on Town Square: “Some [people] will walk straight ahead into uncertainty.” This combination of change and embracing uncertainty really excited me. I remember thinking, “Wow, I want to be one of these people who dare to dream. I want to go for the unprecedented and walk into uncertainty, too. I want to take risks and not settle for the well-traveled path.”
What have been the best aspects of your experience at Stanford GSB?
The best thing is, without a doubt, the community. I’ve never been surrounded by so many visionary people who inspire me on a daily basis, who challenge convictions but also support ambitions. I’ve never felt so supported, but also so inspired to rethink and reflect on what I want in my life. Another aspect I appreciated is how the courses change the way you engage with others. For instance, in “Touchy Feely,” one of the signature GSB courses, we are trained to be more aware in listening to others and to really try to uncover what is going on for them beneath the surface. These lessons are applicable both in business contexts and our personal lives. They make me more aware of navigating tough conversations and supporting others in times of hardship.
How does your love of soccer tie into the project you are working on now?
I’ve been playing soccer ever since I could walk, pretty much. Soccer has always been a great equalizer. Growing up with a multicultural heritage, belonging to a soccer team was always something that gave me a lot of identity and belonging. So I had this passion for soccer for a long time.
Together with a GSB alum and a prominent soccer player, we’re launching a three-pronged investment fund. Primarily, we’re going to invest into sports innovation and sports-related startups. The second strategy is more impact-focused. We want to build youth academies that provide broad-based access to youth around the world. We’re planning to start with a location in the U.S., and then build additional academies in Europe, Asia, and across the globe. I’m super excited that these kids will be able to get their first touch points with soccer — it might make a major difference in their lives.
The third aspect is probably launching a team. We really want to be part of the rise of soccer in the U.S., and one of our first endeavors will focus on trying to establish a professional women’s team in the Bay Area.
Where do you see your career taking you in the future?
My plan is to build this fund for the foreseeable future. At some point, I might use my experience and track record as an investor and transfer it to investing in developing countries. While I still have to learn a ton about these countries, I have a feeling a lot of young people in these regions are deprived of opportunity, and providing resources is something that I get very excited about. I want to measure my life by the lives I’ve impacted and touched. And I think that’s embedded in my career aspirations.
Photos by Kiefer Hickman