01 Jun 2016
Making It Possible to Explore and GrowTopics:
A Roundabout Path
To achieve his vision of becoming a clean-energy entrepreneur, PhD biologist Jonathan Friedlander (MBA 2017) left Paris for HBS to understand best business practices. But he would have struggled to obtain an MBA without the support that a fellowship provided him.
“After earning my doctorate, I started out as a biologist with an interest in biofuels,” he says. “Then I began working half-time on the science and half-time on business development. I discovered that building the narrative around the company’s products was the most interesting part of the job for me.”
“Technology is important,” Friedlander continues, “but telling the right story about it moves a company forward.”
Realizing that he lacked the business knowledge to craft such a story with credibility and impact, Friedlander resolved to bridge the gap. He also knew that financing the MBA he desired would be a major obstacle.
“I couldn’t pay for graduate education out of pocket and taking a large loan would limit what I could do afterward,” he says. “Luckily, HBS offered me a fellowship, which helped me overcome that obstacle.” Receiving the Jacques and Consuelo Balsan Fellowship, one of the oldest at the School, has shaped Friedlander’s time at HBS and he’s enjoyed meeting members of the donor family and expressing his appreciation for their support.
(photo by Susan Young)
“Because of this assistance, I can imagine myself doing something that involves risk, like starting my own company. Otherwise, my choices would be much more restricted.”
—Jonathan Friedlander (MBA 2017)
The fellowship that is helping Friedlander might help our planet as well, because he is focusing on the critical issue of “green transportation.” He points out that even if we maximize the use of solar, wind, and other non–fossil fuel methods of generating electricity, we still need to confront the challenge of powering our vehicles. And that’s where biofuels come in: “We may never be able to eliminate fossil fuels from the equation, but we can make a significant reduction through renewables.”
And that is how this PhD — soon- to-be MBA — entrepreneur intends to make a difference with his business education. “In 20 to 30 years, I hope to have created a venture where people have meaningful work making a product that helps solve global problems,” says the ambitious Friedlander.
Accelerating Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs
In her role as a senior analyst with Bessemer Venture Partners prior to attending HBS, Anna Khan (MBA 2016) heard pitches from thousands of entrepreneurs. “Of that number, probably only 10 to 20 were women. It wasn’t that we were turning down pitches from women — they weren’t even coming to our office,” she explains.
As a student at HBS, Khan decided to figure out a way to help female entrepreneurs access venture capital. In the summer of 2015, with support from the Rock Summer Fellows program, she started an accelerator, Launch X, that offers female founders an immersive opportunity to learn how to raise institutional capital for their businesses. In two inaugural cohorts that summer— one in San Francisco, the other in New York City —18 female entrepreneurs participated in 12 workshop sessions organized by Khan and led by notable venture capitalists and company founders, whom she recruited from her existing business network.
(photo by Russ Campbell)
“In 2013 less than 3 percent of all venture capital raised in the US went to female-led companies. I wanted to fix that.”
—Anna Khan (MBA 2016)
The Rock Summer Fellows program helped cover Khan’s expenses while she oversaw Launch X’s bicoastal cohorts. The program provides financial support that enables stu-dents to work on their own ventures during the summer before their second year. Other summer fellowships at HBS help students explore career opportunities at companies and organizations that have lower compensation levels.
Khan came to the United States from Pakistan when she was 17. She earned her undergraduate degree at Stanford University and became the youngest chief of staff to the CEO of a mobile advertising startup before going into venture capital. “Gender parity didn’t strike me as a problem here, compared to what I had known in Pakistan,” says Khan. Her work in venture capital was eye-opening. “I start- ed to look at the numbers,” she says. “In 2013 less than 3 percent of all venture capital raised in the US went to female-led companies. I wanted to fix that.”
In fall 2015 Khan continued the work she started in the summer by doing an independent study analyzing data that had been collected and conducting more in-depth interviews with founders. “The insights will be useful both to VCs and female business founders,” she says.