CEO of Yonja.com – Some Thoughts for Entrepreneurs

So You want to become an Entrepreneur?

Was the title of the speech that helped set my course for my entrepreneurial journey. When I heard this speech by Prof. Bill Sahlman at Harvard Business School, I was in the second year of my MBA Program. He basically said the following:I know most of you will be compelled to take the highest paying jobs when you finish your MBA program. Jobs like Investment Banking or Consulting. You will be in a rush to pay off your giant MBA loan that you accumulated in the last 2 years. But don’t forget the following fact. I-banking and consulting jobs pay twice as much as the other jobs. That is because they make you work twice as hard! Don’t work for I-Banks or consulting firms. Work in a real industry, in a successful company.

1) Pick an industry.
Pick an industry in which you are interested. One in which you could work for the most part of your life. Make sure that this industry is a growing one. 10% a year growth will create plenty of entrepreneurial opportunities.

2) Take a job in a successful company in that industry.
Take a job in the front lines of your company. Not a job in Strategy or Corporate Development, but an operational job in Sales, Manufacturing, or Product Development. Just as important as the job is the Manager you work for. Make sure to work for an industry veteran from whom you can learn lots, and fast. Work in this industry for 3-5 years. Prove yourself as a capable and successful manager/leader, as someone others will follow to a startup. Learn the ins and outs of the industry. And I bet you, you will spot an opportunity soon enough.

3) When you identify the opportunity, jump ship. That’s it!
Don’t take an I-banking job or consulting job out of B-School because you have lots of debt to pay off (unless of course, you want to start an I-Bank or Consulting Firm). You are all equity! And you don’t know it yet!Yes, these were pretty much the words of my professor.

Did I take his advice? Well, kind of. Against his advice, I did take a job with a consulting firm. But, I quit it after 1 year.  

Then I went back into the industry (Software) that I had worked in (for 3 years) before Business School. I worked another 3 years for a leading Silicon Valley firm. Then I started my own technology firm. What I do now is not exactly Software, but it is close enough. It is Internet Media (which is mostly software). I would have never been here, had I not worked for technology firms in Silicon Valley for 6+ years…

Kerim Baran
Founder & CEO
Yonja.com

Kerim Baran is the Founder and CEO of Yonja.com, one of the leading providers of online international social networking services. Prior to founding Yonja, Kerim worked in business development at Siebel Systems. He drove efforts to grow Siebel’s business with key Global Strategic Consulting Partners such as Deloitte, KPMG and CSC. He joined Siebel from Bain & Company. At Bain, Kerim led projects advising Fortune 1000 Companies on a variety of sales, marketing and product development issues, with particular focus in the technology and service industries. Prior to Bain, Kerim helped to launch the US operations of SDP, a European Software Company that was acquired by Sybase. Kerim earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and holds a BS from Northwestern University in Industrial Engineering. On his free time, Kerim likes to program, sail, swim, and mountain bike.

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