Saturday, January 19, 2013

Week 1: Capstone

Over the Winter Break, I went back home to Australia to visit my family, introduce my partner to both family and country, and took a small trip to the Whitsundays to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. During that time, I (purposefully) turned off my phone and email and rarely bothered to check my social networks. It was a switch-off from the last 1.5 years - no internship to worry about, no interview preparation, no networking, no worrying about loans.

It was thus I came back to my penultimate mini, relaxed, refreshed, and a tad disappointed*.

I'll post another entry in a couple of days for my usual end-of-mini elective summary, since obviously I had neglected to do so during the break. But my mini 3 is pretty easy. The only difference is is that I have a semester-long class that covers both minis and my capstone course (which also covers the two minis).

The Capstone course is meant to be the final jewel in your MBA crown, the summation of all you've learned in your degree program put to good work. Since I'm in a Track, my capstone is significantly different from what the "regular" students study (coincidentally, it also made me ineligible for the Germany-based capstone, where you spend 5 weeks travelling around Germany). It's called "Designing and Leading a Business" and it's with those in the Entrepreneurship track. Ideally, you take a product and make a business out of it. For those in the Technology Leadership track, the expectation is to be something that is technical, like hardware, software, whatever. We are also supposed to work in small groups.

The groups and the projects were already decided on by us at the end of last mini before the break. I was going to continue working on an entrepreneurial venture that I had tackled in a class in Mini 1: the facial-tracking software that was used in Avatar was a product of a CMU-faculty member who works for Disney, and we had decided that a good application of this technology would be in the video game industry (Disclaimer: this actually wasn't my idea! My team decided this). Ultimately, we decided that the inventor should open up his own studio and provide the motion capture services, similar to how Weta does. I had to leave the project after 1 mini, and two teammembers continued it through. However, when it came time to revisit the project to take it back up again for Capstone, the previous team said that the inventor had lost interest in the project and was unwilling to take it anywhere.

My team - consisting of a good friend and I - went to speak to our Track advisor about our predicament, since neither of us were willing to continue with a project that would go nowhere. A few ideas were thrown around, all of them based on one or both of us joining an existing team with their business idea/product. Then the professor mentioned a project of his called Livehoods. This technology had already been investigated as a business idea by another team in the Mini 1 class, and I remembered their presentation - they had concluded it was good for urban development. The concept seemed boring to me, and I wasn't too enthused, until I had heard that that team had pulled it together somewhat last minute for the class. The professor proceeded to show us emails from parties who were interested in using the technology and talked enthusiastically about the possibilities beyond basic marketing. I started to get a lot more interested. To cut a long story short, determining the business possibilities for Livehoods is now my capstone business project! Ideally, we want to go beyond targeted advertising (which is the easy answer) to something more exciting and useful.

It should be an interesting challenge in the weeks to come! We'll be working with students from the school of Computer Science, so this should be fun.

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