PunchTab visits Harvard Business School

About a year ago I got an email from our friends at Tandem Entrepreneurs with an introduction to Harvard Business School‘s (HBS) Silicon Valley-based team. HBS was looking to write a case study about the state of early-stage fundraising (in 2011) and how the explosion of angel investing changed the way entrepreneurs looked at financing. Since PunchTab had recently closed seed financing and the decisions we’d made were fresh in my mind we agreed that it would make sense to meet. (It also helped that the PunchTab team was holed up in the building next to HBS in Menlo Park… welcome to Silicon Valley!)

I could not have predicted what happened next. In what seemed like a matter of weeks we had our first conversation with the folks at HBS, the team from Cambridge flew to Menlo Park to interview us and our investors, and by autumn PunchTab was featured in a brand new case study about what decisions founding teams make about raising capital to launch and scale new companies. And, by the way, would we be willing to visit the HBS mothership to sit in on a few classes during which the case would be studied?

Fast forward to earlier this week: Mehdi and I rolled into campus at 8:30AM to be briefed about what the day held (3 one-hour-long case discussions followed by 20-minute question and answer sessions that would be seen live by 900 MBA students). Suffice it to say that it was a fascinating experience listening to hundreds of the brightest young business minds in the world analyzing the pros and cons of the choices we had to make over 12 months ago. It also dawned on us how different the company is now and the new opportunities that have emerged as the business grows.

Some of my favorite questions from the students:

1. What were the biggest experiments that we’d conducted and the learnings from the last year? The classes really understood that at the concept stage of the company all you really have is a smart team, a big market, and hypotheses to test. The quicker you create a learning engine and get feedback from the market, the higher your chances of success.

2. How did the mechanics of various fundraising options affected ownership, risk, and control? My answer to this was two-fold: i) I was very impressed with how technical the class was willing to get to understand the nuances of the various funding devices available. ii) At the end of the day while all this is important you should focus on getting the right people around the table rather than optimizing deal terms. The best companies I know have done this.

3. What would we do differently? In all honesty we are very pleased with the way the company has progressed over the last year and how supportive our investors, customers and friends have been. Chalk it up to experience, we learned a lot of lessons the first time around.

My biggest takeaway was that there is a bounty of information available to folks looking to start businesses these days and that’s a good thing for everyone. Also Mehdi and I agreed that compared to the students who were asking us questions about our venture we were complete slackers in college… or maybe just late bloomers?

Thanks again to everyone involved in creating the case study for giving us the opportunity to participate. We hope our story helps, in some small way, getting dozens of new businesses off the ground. Sign us up for the next session! If you have any early stage company building questions post them here or catch us on twitter: @ranjithkumaran @mehdiaitoufkir

121 Comments

  1. kyo

    Wow punch tab great

  2. Adil Farooq

    nice to know

  3. Tony

    Congrats to Punchtab and my alma mater!

  4. Stavros

    nice

  5. Adam Lim

    wow…Harvard..

  6. Andrew

    Can you distribute the case study – be great to read! You guys are the next Zuckerberg’s :-)

  7. stephanie

    Interesting….

  8. guest

    SPIFFY JOB!!

  9. guest

    i’d like copy of case study.

  10. Adam Lim

    April FOOL

  11. Adam Lim

    1/4/2012

  12. guest

    complimentary copies of case study?

  13. guest

    want to talk to biz prof about this.

  14. guest

    will you seek interns?

  15. Adam Lim

    2/4/2012

  16. guest

    nice!

  17. guest

    the commenting system seems to be having glitches

  18. Chris Y.

    Thats pretty awesome

  19. Tony

    locating a copy of this case study wasn’t easy!

  20. Adam Lim

    4/4/2012

  21. defhead

    I have a problem with commenting

  22. Haimamamia Lee

    Good job!

  23. stephanie

    Pretty cool….

  24. I think this will be taken further if I can remember to click on the tabs , I want that air Bottle now.. Thank You Punchtab . . . Bluey

  25. bob

    wonder where you guys went to do your major studies? was it harvard

  26. guest

    cool

  27. guest

    Pretty cool, Harvard peeps

  28. guest

    got waitlisted by harvard a couple years back :|

  29. guest

    y’all should make some funny marketing vids with masks

  30. guest

    update soon!

  31. Adam Lim

    5/4/2012

  32. Adam Lim

    next post..

  33. guest

    ya’ll should link the case study paper!

  34. guest

    can ya’ll debug commenting section?

  35. guest

    can you debug commenting section?

  36. Adam Lim

    6/4/2012

  37. guest

    happy early easter!

  38. guest

    ^eggs!

  39. Leslie K

    Hoppy Easter!!

  40. guest

    harvard….awesome

  41. guest

    very interesting

  42. Leslie K

    l-ll //=\\ R\// //-\ lRllllD Nice goin’ huh~!

  43. very nice programme

  44. guest

    i would love to visit harvard someday

  45. Jonelle

    Harvard definately has the clout!

  46. guest

    maybe grad school …..

  47. EllenL

    COOL

  48. Wow, getting a case study from harvard is quite a feat! Well done, must have been very exciting being able to spread your knowledge to the top business students in the country!

  49. Where can you get a hold of a copy of the case study? Would be an interesting read!

  50. rizwana

    very nice program

  51. brandy s

    awesome

  52. jiujiujiu

    good stuff~

  53. Christina G

    It’s amazing how the word spreads so quickly with the internet!

  54. guest

    Pretty cool….

  55. kimo

    awesomee

  56. Seb

    Nice ^^

  57. Rae Higgins

    Congrats to you!!

  58. Tim

    Great story.

  59. guest

    wow cool :)

  60. abc

    12/8 visit

  61. john

    really nice!

  62. Haimamamia Lee

    Good job!!!

  63. nvjnqq

    Hopscotch

  64. Haimamamia Lee

    wow, nice this!

  65. Haimamamia Lee

    good and very nice ya~~

  66. PULAK

    good post

  67. Haimamamia Lee

    Faster check in here!

  68. Praveen Vishnu Shamain

    All the best.

  69. Haimamamia Lee

    nice for read this!!!

  70. salwa

    coolll

  71. guestb

    thumbs up!

  72. noor

    cool…………………….

  73. salwa

    great……………

  74. GHOTI227

    amazing you guys…

  75. aqeel

    great…………….

  76. Kwilt

    good to go

  77. Haimamamia Lee

    thanks

  78. Betty

    Thank you so much!

  79. stacy

    wow that’s great

  80. sup.yoshke. musta na. ako’y nagbalik mula sa hukay. har! har! rgnradieg the topic. top.299 nlang UP. siguro nung mga 1950’s nasa top 50 pa ata ang UP.

  81. Betty

    that’s neat!

  82. salwa

    good………..

  83. Selena

    Nice!

  84. mahesh

    punchtab in harvard! wow

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