The Innovators Dilemma

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Private Equity and Venture Capital is an elective available across our Finance Master’s programmes which is popular with students for its unique Speaker Series. The elective teaches students how to apply what they have learned in class to real life work situations by inviting seven incredible speakers to present on campus throughout the module.

The lecturer for this elective is Sebastien Canderle. With a background in Private Equity and Venture Capital at various fund managers, he currently manages money on behalf of family offices and high net-worth individuals.

Sebastien is conscious that his students are predominantly taught theory before taking this module. While he does believe that students need to know basic theory, he said there is always a difference between what you get taught and what you put in practice:

I am very critical of theory so I hope my students learn that you shouldn’t believe everything you are taught. Many of them are taught lots of concepts that are required for any curriculum in finance anywhere in the world. But they are concepts that in my view are flawed, because they don’t actually apply in practice.

Sebastian uses the Speaker Series to teach students the practical application of these concepts. The guest speakers come from various areas in the industry and discuss how they make transactions in real-life and what their roles entail on a daily basis.

Choosing the speakers

When selecting the speakers, Sebastien tries to make sure they are diverse in terms of industry, experience, nationality, gender and race. Nationality is especially important because the course has many international students. They can see that there are people with their background and profile working in the UK.

The reason Sebastien emphasises diversity is because he believes it’s important to have speakers who reflect the group of students. This year’s speakers were:

  • Zeina Bain – Managing Director at The Carlyle Group
  • Callum Bell – Managing Director at Investec
  • Stuart Chapman – Partner at Draper Esprit
  • Blair Jacobson – Partner at Ares Management
  • Erin Platts – Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank
  • Luciana Lixandru – Partner at Accel
  • Stephen Ziff – Partner at Coller Capital

Student experience: Atiba Jackson

Programme: MSc Investment & Wealth Management

Why did you choose the Private Equity and Venture Capital elective?

It is very much in line with what I want to do for my career and what interests me personally. I have a bit of work experience from Jamaica working at a commercial bank doing lending. My motivation to come to London was to get into the Private Equity and Venture Capital space. So having exposure to it through the MSc and especially through the elective will give me a good background understanding of how Private Equity works in London.

Which of the speakers’ talks did you find most interesting?

Luciana Lixandru. Her story on how she got into Venture Capital was interesting and her speech was a bit more personal in terms of what she does on a day-to-day basis. In regards to employment, she discussed what her company look for and don’t look for. She also sits on the board of Deliveroo which is a start-up company. I have worked at a commercial bank as a credit underwriter so I understand that these young companies are extremely risky. I learned from Luciana what it is they look for so that they’re confident that a small company with five employees today is going to be worth a billion dollars two years from now.

What was the best part of the elective?

We were able to match what the guest speakers spoke about to what we learned in class. Having the speaker talk on the same day as class was even better because we would discuss something in the morning and then the speaker would come in the afternoon and discuss the same topic from their perspective. It really helped to tie everything in.

Student experience: Maria Vittoria Moschini

Programme: MSc Finance & Accounting

Overall, how did you find the elective?

Sebastien was brilliant – he was probably the best professor I have ever had. I liked the content because it was a mix of theory and practice. So we had the chance to go through different coursework with real case scenarios, while at the same time having the theoretical tools to be able to approach them.

Which of the speakers’ talks did you find most interesting?

Zeina Bain, she is a really inspiring woman. What I liked about her most was her way of presenting. The class was totally crowded and there were around three hundred people hanging onto her every word. She has had an amazing career but she came across as very human. Zeina talked about her career path, discussed the challenges she faced and she gave us some insight into her day-to-day activities and work.

How will you use what you have learned about in this elective in other areas of your career?

I have acquired a strong basis of Private Equity and Venture Capital and a comprehensive view on the topic. I learned that it’s not always a matter of technical skills in this field but that the human element is very important. At the end of the day, behind businesses there are people and this field is a people-centric business. The speakers taught me it’s not always a matter of how technical you are, these skills are necessary, but not sufficient enough to be successful.

Teaching entrepreneurship and innovation

This elective focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation, two of the cornerstones of Imperial College Business School. Venture Capital is all about entrepreneurs and innovation so half of the course focuses on these concepts.

The students learn about two case studies, Netscape and Tesla which were set up by entrepreneurs. They are also required to read a book called the Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christianson, which asks the question of how a company that is well-established introduces innovation within its existing corporation. Sebastien said that innovation is a very important part of his class.

Advice for students entering the industry

Many of the students who take this elective will pursue careers in the Private Equity and Venture Capital industry. Sebastien’s advice for students looking to enter this sphere is to work in banking or consultancy first.

I always tell students to get some experience first. It is very difficult for them to go straight from MSc to an investment firm. While it is possible for some of them, I still recommend they get training elsewhere first. If they do two to three years in a bank, accountancy or consultancy firm, they are able to get very relevant qualifications. Most Private Equity and Venture Capital firms don’t have a training budget so after a few years you will know the trade but will not have received extensive formal training.

Students on our Finance Master’s programmes are eligible to take the Private Equity and Venture Capital elective if they have studied Accounting and Corporate Finance modules. Alternatively, students can attend a seven-hour workshop on the basics of these subjects with Sebastien to take this course.

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