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Your Finger on the Pulse of London’s Bars

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News , .

Richi e Iñigo (2)
Inigo Alegria (IA) and Richard Crosfield (RC) both studied a Full-Time MBA at Cass, graduating in 2014. They have since co-founded Barzlive, a website and app that will help you get the most out of London’s vibrant bar and pub scene.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

[IA] We were both students of the Full Time MBA and I have to say it was really intense, both personally and academically. Actually, we did our thesis together on Barzlive. Doing the MBA was tough but very rewarding. I loved the group courseworks – you got to work with different people from all over the world. At the beginning it was challenging, but at the end you’d learned how to work together. It was interesting to see how leadership roles changed depending on the topic or type of coursework. During the electives period, I focused on finance, which was my background, and what I thought I wanted to do after my MBA. After the core modules I took all finance electives with a view to getting a job in London in a financial role, but it didn’t turn out that way.

[RC] I think the Iceland Consultancy Week is a clear example of a summary of the experience. It’s incredibly intense, doing the MBA squeezed in to one year rather than two, and in that week I felt more stretched than ever before. We flew into Reykjavik over the weekend, met the client and began the project on Monday, presented our results to the client’s board on Friday, before having a drink or two with colleagues, and flew back to London on the weekend. I also remember some classmates revising on the flight back for the exams we had a week later! It was actually a really cool project with a pretty important client, the National Power Company of Iceland, and working through that was the MBA in a microcosm.

[RC] We both started off doing our theses on separate topics [IA] I was covering the Spanish financial crisis [RC] and I was working on M&A of energy and infrastructure companies, which was my background, and then we decided to come up with this idea to do a business plan at the same time as a thesis, so we asked Sionade (Robinson, Associate Dean, MBA Programmes) if we could do our thesis together and she agreed for a one-off. She said she was happy to make an exception and personally took care of us. Our app is based on marketing and she is an expert in this so it was great for her to take us on board and be a true champion rather than just being laissez-faire about it.

[RC] When I started the MBA there wasn’t a football team, and yet we were part of one of the largest cohorts ever, with nearly 100 people, and lots of guys who wanted to play, so I organised two games a week and prepared a team for Cass’ (stellar) debut at Manchester Business School’s MBA Football tournament.

How did you get the idea for Barzlive?

[RC] We were four co-founders initially. One of the co-founders lived in Paris and saw a website listing which pubs were showing what football matches in France, so we thought we could do something similar for Spain. Then we started to think, should it only be for sport and should we really start up in Spain? What about all other events and promotions that go on in bars and pubs in London? Could we set up a platform for bars and pubs to post everything that’s going on at their venues?

How did the development go?

[IA] Initially, we outsourced to a Spanish freelance, and worked with him for a year – and that’s another tip for the future – you need a tech guy in the company! There were four of us business guys and it didn’t seem like a proper tech start-up. With the tech guy outsourced not directly involved it was difficult to get someone to jump in wholeheartedly. At the beginning though it was really all about getting a product and now we have a really good tech guy, a new partner in Spain doing all the development.

[RC] Replacing the outsourcing with a tech co-founder was a key turning point for us – he is completely involved and has played a big part since joining us in September 2015.

[AI] Before he arrived the product wasn’t really working, it had constant bugs. So we cut ties with the outsourcing and took to LinkedIn to contact hundreds of developers and managed to get this guy interested.

[RC] We had our official launch about a month ago, and before that we’d had about 10 friends beta-testing it for a couple of months giving us feedback and doing design changes before the official launch.

[RC] We have started to contact all the universities in central London, as our target customers are those who are finishing university and starting their first job here in London, especially foreign students. We started at Uni – we’re a Cass spin-off!

[RC] Now we have to go to the source of the information – the bars and pubs – and from there really do some marketing.

[IA] Students will be doing lots of study from Easter to the summer, so it’s not a good time for students. We need to go to bars and companies and get them to promote the app from the inside, which should be a win-win as we will promote them for free.

What’s been the biggest challenge so far?

[RC] Building the team and breaking up with the two co-founders.

[IA] One of the biggest challenges we faced was finding our brand identity. We did the logo and website before we started to communicate to the outside world (e.g through social media) and once we began to do so we realised that our image wasn’t clear. We wanted to be fun and creative but our logo and website were elegant and too serious. So we spent a week in a room doing a branding exercise based on different branding events we attended and on specialised books.

[RC] The app space is so competitive, so crowded, that we had to do something bold, and that’s why we went with the space theme. We’re drawing a parallel between life on other planets and events in different pubs – the planets are like the pubs – nobody knows what’s going on in them, while you’re the astronaut who’s trying to find out!

[RC] We also really focused on our target market. We saw other competitors, such as Time Out, as being very institutional, and others as being too young and childish for our target market, so we found a gap in which to position our brand that no other app had taken.

Do you have any advice you would like to go back and give yourselves when you were starting out?

[RC] Make sure you know the motivations of the people with whom you’re going into business, and make sure the founders cover the core skills required for the start up.

[IA] Having a tech founder, definitely. In fact at the beginning we considered it and approached an MBA friend [RC] but he had a good job already and we needed someone full-time. Maybe he will join us in the future!

What’s next for you both?

[IA] The next step is to keep bootstrapping Barzlive and raise seed funding to boost Barzlive’s growth in terms of functionalities, users/customers, team and geography.

[RC] Now that we have a bunch of users, we need to get pubs signed up – users need pubs, but to get pubs signed up you need users. So we’re trying to break this vicious circle and once we’ve got some metrics or analytics and we can show the app is working we’ll be seeking investment so that we can develop many more features, not just events.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: [RC] I spoke to my girlfriend about this one, and she said I couldn’t say Hampstead Heath, it makes me sound like a granddad, so Camden! [IA] The Troubadour – it’s a classic pub and the first place Bob Dylan played in Europe!
Favourite holiday destination: [RC] Cuba [IA] Italy!
Must-visit everyday website: [RC] BBC News [IA] Tech.London [Together] El Mundo and Barzlive!
Dream travel destination: [RC] To continue with the space theme, Mars! [IA] Australia and New Zealand
Cheese or chocolate: [In unison] Chocolate!

You can download the Barzlive app on iOS and find it soon on Android.

15 Years of Business Experience, Synthesised

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News .

Adrian bio smallerAdrian Swinscoe is an MBA alumnus, who studied International Business and Export Management MBA from 1999 – 2001. Since graduating he has had a diverse and exciting career path that has led to the publication of his new book, “How to Wow: 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing”. We sat down for a chat about how he gained all the insights in the book.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I was here from 1999 – 2001 and back in the day there was an International Business and Export MBA, based over at Frobisher Crescent – we were one of the last years to be over there. It was interesting! I had been working overseas before Cass as an economist with a not-for-profit in Egypt doing advocacy for reform. I was unsure about what to do next – whether I should pursue an Economics PhD or change my focus more to business. I looked at PhDs and I had offers and scholarships but I wasn’t convinced I was ready to do five more years of studying.

I’d always been interested in business, we had a family business. I applied to Cass and they were very generous to someone who’d been working overseas and they gave me a part scholarship which was incredibly nice and generous of them! I’d come from outside the UK I had no finance and this helped me a lot.

Still, for me the MBA itself was an exercise in enterprise! I only had enough money to survive until December, and by hook or by crook, with two part time jobs I just about made it work! It was a great experience, I met fantastic people who I’m still in touch with!

The MBA was a great way to gain new knowledge and to learn new stuff about myself and other people, as well as how to work together and to build a network. I also got two jobs subsequently that were a direct result of the people I met on my MBA. The MBA was a great experience and also a really useful springboard – it filled gaps and rounded out my knowledge in a really distilled fashion.

What happened from there?

On one project we pitched ideas to Neeta Patel at the FT about online businesses, I pitched and after I got a job offer. It was supposed to be a summer job but it morphed and they didn’t want to wait until the summer. They wanted me to start there and then so I had to combine studying and working – I had to make it work! It was hard work but a good experience to manage deadlines and a high workload.

After the dotcom crash the FT decided to change direction – so I got in touch with an old classmate, James at Shell (he’s still there!) and I moved to Shell for 4-5 years doing an internal consultancy role in strategy, innovation and business development. It was interesting because I’d only ever worked on projects during the MBA with him but he know what I could deliver, and it was enough for him to recommend me, so the interview process was pretty straightforward!

The MBA also gave me the information, skills and confidence so that when things change I can cope. For example, at Shell in 2004 they changed their investment priorities and they shut down my unit. I was repurposed into an operations role but I said I wasn’t interested and decided to row my own boat!

In late 2004 I became a freelance independent consultant and over they course of the last few years I’ve gotten involved in lots of different start-ups as well as various consulting projects through with my own advisory and consultancy business.

How did going independent work for you?

I have never been a natural risk-taker – but I’m always ready to try things. Having the knowledge and also being in an environment where you work with people who understand what you’re capable of and believe you have the ability to figure something out has helped enormously.

I’ve tried lots of things, and some have worked out and others have not, but either way, you’re learning. I’m an interested learner! Since 2009, in many ways I’ve been learning in public – I started to see that if you run your own show you can’t be a generalist, people need to know how you think, so I started to put it in writing.

I realised I learn off others and by learning out loud, writing ideas and exploring them on my blog. That’s why I started my podcast as well. I interview people who are either writing their own things or doing cool stuff at work or with their own businesses, and their stories can help others unlock things. It has really helped me learn but it has also become a network, and, as a result, has helped indirectly market me and my services.

About two and a half years ago I was approached by Forbes, who said to me… “we like what you do, can you do it for us?” i.e. come and share your stories and insights on our platform and that has been brilliant! I don’t get paid for it but it’s a great platform and adds a whole heap of credibility to the ideas and themes that I explore.

How did the book come about?

I published my first book in 2010, which was really a personal anthology of many of the things that I had been writing about. It was a good effort but completely DIY – I got some external input but it was self-published. After publishing it and then doing all the podcast interviews and then moving on to Forbes, my standards were going up and up and up – when you pay more attention that’s when you can really refine things.

Early in 2015 an American company had a good idea for a book for me to write, but in a very short timeframe. They were thinking about it, but the deal fell through. However, this lit a fire under me so I thought let’s create a proposal and then approach a handful of publishers. One of those approaches was to Pearson and they said that they really liked its focus.

At Pearson, I had a fabulous editor who really helped build, shape and develop the book. Basically, the book has allowed me to process and synthesise the last three or four years of what I’ve learned. However, what has been really surprising is that some stuff which is four years old is still pretty timely. In a funny way, it seems like I was almost ahead of the zeitgeist when I was doing some of the interviews – for example, with customer journey mapping and proactive customer service.

What’s fascinating is that when you’re in the middle of something and, possibly, at the leading edge you forget what you know, what a mountain of knowledge you have. As a result, with the book, we’ve been able to take all of these insights and organise them around a loose model (attract, engage, serve, retain, refer, communicate, motivate, lead) and produce 68 insights supported by case studies and interviews and also suggested next steps. What is clear is that no one size fits all but the book is organised in such a way that if you find a problem or issue that is relevant to you, you will also find advice and next steps. It’s a very practical and real how-to book.

In the end, I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I wrote it over three months last summer and finalised it soon thereafter. However, when the time came to send it out for endorsement I went wild and sent it to loads of people! And, the feedback has been awesome. I’ve got 29 endorsements from best-selling authors, leading entrepreneurs, Chief Execs, Senior Execs – people I really like and respect. It’s been really humbling.

I’ve been doing this sort of work for years to learn and help others but when you reach out and get that level of support it’s tremendous. I’m really excited about it all, having book published by a major publisher is a real bucket list thing for me. Not just to publish a book, but to do it with a major publisher and to create a better end product.

However, I’m only half way done – it’s written but now it’s about figuring out how to tell people about it. I don’t want to broadcast to people I don’t know, that’s not the way I work. Through this process of meeting people and writing a book and doing the interviews I’ve got plenty of people to tell and to ask – can you look? Can you do something?

What’s been the biggest challenge?

I think probably it was that I wrote the book in three months, and at the same time I was also working with my regular clients still. So, the biggest challenge was trying to stay on schedule by writing at evenings and weekends. It’s also hard getting that balance between getting into that metronomic zone cranking out the words but without losing the tone and the flow and the style, and keeping it from being bored and mundane – writing so everything snaps. It’s hard to do and sometimes you have to just step away when you’re bored and mechanically churning through. But, you also have to balance that with staying on track.

Do you have any advice you’d love to go back in time and give to yourself when you graduated from your MBA?

[Long, deep thought] Not really! The reason why is that the question almost implies regret. The interesting thing about life is, let me give you an example: I met my wife at a business event, she was subbing for her ill boss and she’s ace and if I’d done anything differently that wouldn’t have happened! For me, it’s really just about how you deal with things when they happen. My career might not be the most interesting for many, but I love it and it doesn’t feel like work. I’m at the point where I have carved that out over the years and I’m so happy to tell stories to help people figure out new ideas, and learn new stuff and meet amazing people. It’s too cool for school!

I say, just do stuff you like and enjoy. Someone I know recently moved out of corporate to start their own portfolio. Her old mentor said focus on the work and clients and customers and the rewards will follow – the value comes from enjoying and engaging with the work that you do. You work for too long not to enjoy it. This is what I’m encouraging people to do with my book, giving information, data, stories, evidence and experiences. It’s not about the big things but the small, and the things you don’t pay attention to that often make the biggest difference. So try something different and make it make sense!

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Walking across the bridges over the Thames
Favourite holiday destination: My wife maintains it was the year we stayed in a little cabin overlooking the River Dart on Dartmoor. It was really isolated, perfect.
Must-check-every day website: BBC football gossip column, then I go to Google News then I look at four daily news emails I get – The Conversation, QZ.com, Dave Pell Next Draft (which is comical and topical), and The Economist daily briefing.
Dream travel destination: I’ll probably have just come back from this when this gets published, with Barack Obama no less! Well, we’re going to Havana and he’s going at the same time for his visit to Cuba.
Cheese or Chocolate? Cheese! Stinking Bishop!!

Adrian’s book How to Wow: 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing is out on 8th April 2016. You can order a copy here. You can also find him on LinkedIn and Twitter. Also, check out his blog and podcast series here.

An Address Book for the Digital Age

Alumni Stories, Cass Business School News, Uncategorized , .

Tassos Papantoniou studied Shipping, Trade and Finance from 2006 – 2007 and has been juggling his day job as a yacht broker with his new venture, an app called ConnectID. He came to Cass to have a chat about this new direction.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I did Shipping Trade & Finance, and to be honest, I wasn’t as focused as I should have been but I passed all my exams in August 2007. It was quite a change from my first degree, History & Philosophy, which I studied in the USA. This has remained of great interest to me, perhaps more so than Finance, as it turns out I am more of a creative person.

The course at Cass was a year long and I lived in central London. I didn’t tend to meet up with many people from my course, but I’ve found a few of them on LinkedIn since, and I regularly see some of them through my other business that is a yacht brokerage.

What did you do next?

After I graduated I started working for Torrance, a boutique yacht brokerage. They made me a partner, and I’m still working there today. We have had a good run with selling a 120 meter project now called MARAYA, the rebuild, charter and resale of Christina O and a healthy list of other very notable sales as well as chartering super-yachts.

How did you get the idea for ConnectID?

I had the idea for ConnectID about two years ago, and about a year ago, the idea finally solidified into the form it’s in today.

It came from going to boat shows, where I would give out so many business cards, and get around two or three hundred in return – by the end of the event you can’t remember anyone and you are left with a pile of cards to administer to a digital form if they are to be of use in the future! Once I started developing the idea, it became evident from our focus groups and chatting to people that people really want to be able to keep their address book up to date, and get rid of all that clutter, like having people’s old telephone numbers. Also with all the social networks we have today, we end up having the same person in 4-5 different places (emails, mobile, Whatsaap, Facebook, LinkedIn) so the idea is to have everything in one place with ConnectiD contacts. Basically, the idea was to tidy up everyone’s address books and create the first meta network that will keep everyone up to date as details change.

So, what does the app do?

The app can tidy up your personal contacts and ensure it stays updated as well as offering a service to organisations to keep their information up to date. It’s an app for everyday users to exchange details quickly and when you have some contact information that’s changed, everyone gets updated details based on what they already hold for you. It’s quick to use, you ask for one piece of information i.e mobile or email and you can exchange all or a subset of your contact details quickly – great for use in social or business situations, rather than having to, for example, give a phone number, swap email addresses, get their personal email and then find them on Facebook etc.

It gets even more interesting once you’re attached to an organisation that uses ConnectiD, you can then also see what information they hold on you, and update it, plus you can connect and collaborate with others members of the organisation to exchange a full set of details.

You can be attached to just one organisation, or to multiple organisations, and the same way you update everyone at once from your contacts, you update the organisations on the info they have for you at the same time, so next time you move house or change your number its just one simple update and everyone you share your details with will be updated without lifting a finger.

What have the challenges been?

There were a lot! I had never done anything technical before! I started this project so its been a challenging but equally rewarding journey. I partner with a company in Greece who had developed something similar in the past, and they have been invaluable in dealing with the nuances of contacts management since they took over the development. The app is much smarter now.

The whole idea is about one place that you can update everyone and everything. One or two years from now, I envisage that when you change your address, there will be no need to call, for example, Sky, EDF etc. The dream is that this app would be capable of updating them all at once. I want to organise the worlds contact information, be the number one source for updated information with users permission and be a go to hub for all other communications – it’s not a new social network you have the original social network in the contacts in your phone already, but ConnectiD will be the first true meta-network.

If you could start again from the beginning what advice would you give yourself?

I’m not sure I’d do anything differently if I went back to the start. I would still need to work with a strong technical team. I’d make sure they were someone who had prior experience of what I wanted to do and would iteratively build something of value for customers so I could test it in the market early.

It‘s important that whatever you do, you do it at the lowest cost possible, and you get your product out as soon as possible to get some learning and feedback from customers on it. As soon as you have a viable product, get it out there with good analytics in place and go from there. This process has taken over a year for me!

We’re in a healthy place now, but there have been a lot of ups and downs along the way. One month everything will be fantastic, the next it’s all scary looking. Believe in what you are doing and build a team that really believes in the idea, and together you’ll get there!

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!

Favourite place in London: Cruising down the Thames
Favourite holiday destination: Caribbean
Must-visit every day website: Reuters News, or BBC news on the TV
Dream travel destination: I’ve been to everywhere I want to go!
Cheese or chocolate: Chocolate!

Download the ConnectID app for up to date contacts always, available on IOS or Android.

Alumnus Creates App For Smarter Networking

Cass Business School News, Uncategorized , .

GrahamBlogPic2Graham Evans studied for a BSc in Banking & International Finance from 1986 – 1989, a period of time which included Black Monday. He has since gone on to forge a 20-year career as an Independent Financial Advisor and has now branched out into the start-up world. We sat down for a chat.

Tell me about your Cass experience!

I studied Banking & International Finance, starting in 1986. Back then, we all lived in the halls of residence on Bunhill Row called Northampton Hall (which is the tall building on left in this image). It was a huge building with 17 or 18 floors. I was at Cass for the crash in 1987, it was very interesting being in Moorgate with all the privatisations. Students were taking their loans and investing them in the privatisation until BP failed!

The Business School was in the Barbican then – Frobisher Crescent. I was partly based up in Angel, and partly at the Barbican, which made for an eclectic mix.

I’m still in contact with around half a dozen people from my course and university in general, and they are starting to retire! I’m just starting to start-up!

Do you attend many alumni events?

Until recently, I’ve only really seen fellow alumni on a social basis – I meet pretty regularly with my City and Cass group. I recently re-engaged with the school itself through the Alumni Office. I was invited to an event to give feedback on my alumni experience, and realised the power of the alumni network.

What did you do after graduating?

I went to Lloyds Bank, but I soon got bored with being office based every day. I then decided to set myself up as an Independent Financial Advisor and I have been doing that as my day job for the past 20 years. I tend to deal primarily with high net worth clients on tax.

How did the idea for Linccup come about?

When my wife gave birth to our twins, around seven and a half years ago, I thought that my income was ok, but I could do with some capital. So I put down my golf clubs and started looking for what’s missing in the world! For example, I’m soon to launch a new website offering free will writing after finding out that 70% of UK citizens don’t have a will. It’s being launched in conjunction with solicitors, who will sort out the probate at the back end.

Then, in between travelling to Bermuda, New York and Hong Kong for business, I sat there in my New York hotel lobby looking at all the other business travellers sat around on their phones. I thought that there must be a way for people to link up and find commonality. When you travel a lot on business, you get bored with room service very quickly, and I thought how much nicer it would be to meet people. I think most people don’t want to go out to a bar by themselves to find a bit of company. On LinkedIn you have your contacts list, but you can’t see where the person is – they may have gone to the UK and you’re in New York for the week, for example.

So I saw a big opportunity to take networking from 2D on the page, and take it out in to the real world, in 3D. Attitudes to privacy and data have changed enormously over the past few years, and we have so many notifications and followers etc. it’s hard to separate the useful information.

What is Linccup exactly?

It’s a location-based networking app with a business focus. For example, if you’re in New York for the week, you could search for nearby users in your industry who are happy to meet up for a drink, or for nearby users that are Cass alumni who are happy to meet for dinner. There are lots of ways you can search for nearby people, so that you get the most out of your time. You can also set alerts to tell you when contacts are nearby so you never miss another of those fortuitous coincidental meetings.

What’s been the biggest challenge?

Initially, you have the idea, but the biggest challenge is that then you need to work out what to do with it! Finding the right people to work with is key. This was my first start-up, so we went down the consultation route but if I did this again I wouldn’t use this service again. You have to believe in yourself!

If you’ve got contacts, if you’ve been to university, if you’ve worked for a couple of years, you can do it on your own and you don’t need expensive hand holding! There are always people offering to help with a business plan but you usually end up having to re-do it yourself anyway.

Then you need to get out and use your contacts. I’ve worked on this with Rob Gandee, our CEO, and I must say his help has been invaluable. I’m also very excited about the power of the alumni group, and also the other support that Cass offers alumni in their entrepreneurial endeavours.

What has been the most rewarding?

I have to say, seeing the app on the app store – taking it to that level of actuality. Success or failure then is partly down to how well we’ve done, but also down to the whims of life. It’s validating to know that I’ve had an idea and people are interested in backing it.

And finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
Favourite place in London: Camden
Favourite holiday destination: Lake Maggiore
Must check everyday website: liverpool-rumours.co.uk/
Dream travel destination: Tokyo
Cheese or chocolate: How about chocolate cheesecake? Best of both worlds!

Download the Linccup app from the Apple App Store – Linccup is coming soon to Android.

From Cass to Mykonos Holiday Villas

Cass Business School News , .

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Nikos Iatrou (MSc Property Valuation and Law, 2006) quit his 9-5 for a real estate job with a difference – luxury holiday villas Maera Villas in Mykonos, and a sideline of cold-pressed juices. We sat down for a chat about how it all came about.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I came to Cass in 2005 to do a Masters in what was then Property Valuation and Law with George Herd. I intended to go in to commercial real estate. I really enjoyed the course, but to be honest I didn’t really know what I signed up for!

The law side was super challenging, but it was a great course – it certainly had its tricky moments! The content was very useful and I used a lot of it at work straight after; it wasn’t cheap to do but I felt it was money well spent, and I believe I’ve got a good return on my investment.

I’ve only got good memories from Cass and I still have many friends and work contacts from my time studying.

Where did you go next?

Right after finishing my degree I joined a real estate firm in the West End called Savoy Stewart, and it was really useful that I already had a good network of contacts from Cass that I could use straight away. I went with the aim of becoming a RICS Chartered Surveyor. I stayed for two years and qualified as MRICS. But I soon realised I don’t really enjoy a desk job, working 9-5 every day and that whole working format. And this is really where my story begins!

What gave you the idea for holiday villas?

As part of my final piece of coursework for the degree, I had actually done a project about the development of a holiday villa in Greece, so you can see I was already interested in things further afield.

How did you end up in Mykonos?

After qualifying as MRICS and some world travelling I decided to get into villa properties and hospitality in Greece – Greece has had a fraught time of things, but from a real estate point of view it is very interesting – I applied the principle that I learned from Cass to opportunistically find a good opportunity with potential.

I found Mykonos – I looked at others too – but here I went and looked all over seeking a builder or a developer in a difficult spot who I could buy property from to rent out.

What happened next?

I found the ideal properties and bought them and began to reconfigure them, as well as doing the marketing and promotion. Then when people started showing up I was also responsible for the hospitality side of the business. This was summer 2015.

The houses are really cool and brand new, and in the main one we did lots of additions, like a really cool secret disco built in to the rocks, and a custom-built hot tub.

VM2 HOT TUB AND KALO LIVADI VIEW copy 1100 JUL2MAERA VILLA 2 MYKONOS - VIEW FROM LIVING ROOM VERANDAH copy 1100 2JUL_DSC1795 copy copy 1100 2JUL

I looked to improve the properties in many ways – something I learned at Cass is to find your angle and add value to your real estate investments. The summer went very well, we had quite a few bookings and everyone was astounded by the accommodation. This summer it’s looking like it will be even crazier as more people get to hear of our villas.

Do you have any other projects?

I also set up a side company in Mykonos, a small-scale cold pressed juice company. I was living in New York for a while when the craze was really taking off there – you know, green juices for health, and cold pressing to keep more nutrients. So I put two and two together and decided to try it in Mykonos. It’s both a place where healthier-minded people go for a holiday as well as somewhere where people might overindulge and want to detox the next day.

Last summer I did an official one-month pilot to see how it went, and it was pretty cool actually, and we got lots of social media buzz. We offered the juices to yoga instructors, who sent us their clients, and through this we got to some Instagram celebrities who were staying on the island and it quickly became a big deal. In the end it went on for 2 months and we didn’t do any marketing and didn’t have a point of sale, it was all very successful and we’re certainly going to launch properly this summer.

Do you have more villas in the pipeline?

Yes we are actually in the process of doing up some new ones we recently bought so we have some new villas to add to the portfolio. I’ve also been asked to take over some other properties as well. Currently there are 9 villas now, with a few more to add, all similar in that they are high-value luxury accommodation.

Do you do all this alone?

Last year I had three people working with me, all from the US actually, and it was a great experience for the whole team. We lived together for four months and they all went off after – so I’m looking to recruit people to fill their positions. If you’re interested – contact the alumni team or find me on instagram @maeravillas.

Were there any unexpected challenges or problems?

Oh yes – what to pick!

Greek bureaucracy is very difficult to plan and deal with. In the end I got support from local tax and accounting (never my strong point) specialists and also I tried to actively understand the basics.

Dealing with the villa’s clients can be tricky at times. People are very particular on holiday; we always had the attitude that we can accommodate any request – but that led to a few difficult situations with people requesting unreasonable things, like one group who wanted a full meal prepared by a top chef within an hour’s notice – we scrambled but we managed to get it done.

With the juices we had a whole other set of problems! For example, you might not always be able to get all the ingredients so you have to find the right substitutes. Fine-tuning the recipes took a long time until we were happy with the taste basics and nutritional level. And from a business point of view it was a challenge to come up with a recipe that was not unprofitable at base cost. There were tons of marketing challenges too, because we were working on a tiny shoestring budget. Getting the Instagram celebrities involved came as a result of our initiative to have brand ambassadors, who were the local yoga and pilates instructors who we gave commission to for referrals.

Also, lack of sleep! I had about three hours a night for about three months!

What one thing would you like to go back and tell yourself when you were starting out?

I’d definitely arrange better accommodation for myself and my team. It was a smallish place and the lack of space and close proximity could cause a few fractious moments. Also sleeping pills!

What’s next for you?

The Villas we currently have are on a high-end scale and I want to expand and get more if the right opportunity is there. In Mykonos and Greece in general, the problems may have stabilised but they are still there so I’m working hard to find ways to safeguard against any volatility.

Also, from my experience in our summer accommodation I realised that summer-long rental properties are in short supply for seasonal workers. I’m now in negotiation for a plot of land away from the commercial areas, to develop small (2 person) units for people working in Mykonos in the summer. Again my Cass learning has come in handy here – I’ve already secured a rental guarantee from a landlord for five years, ensuring a good initial yield.

The other problem to solve, is what do I do in the winter? This winter I’m going travelling but in general I’m trying to find other stuff to do. I’m also looking at small refurbs of London properties, as I’ve got friends who have been doing that sort of thing for a while.

Finally, it’s the quick fire question round!
What’s your favourite place in London? Hyde Park
Your favourite holiday destination? Mykonos
Your must-check-every day website? BBC Football, especially Tottenham Hotspur’s page
Your dream travel destination? I’m actually about to start doing it now – Nepal before I go back to Mykonos, get all spiritual and relaxed
Cheese or chocolate? *big sigh* I like both! Chocolate!

Check out the villas at www.maeravillas.com/ and find Nikos on instagram @maeravillas.

Cass Alumnus Produces India’s Best-Rated Spirit

Cass Business School News , .

sIMG_0016Oscar De Sequeira Nazareth graduated in 2004 with a BSc in Investment and Financial Risk Management. He has since gone on to produce India’s best-rated spirit ever – the only Indian product to win the Gold Outstanding (top award) at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in 47 years of the competition – twice in a row! This product, Licor Armada, is now available in the UK. We corresponded by email to see how he did it.

Tell me about you time at Cass!

I joined at the time CUBS was renamed Cass and we got our lovely new building at Bunhill Row – an exciting time for me and the business school!

When I moved to London from the small city in Portugal where I grew up, I was overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and all the incredible opportunities on offer. Being at a world-class business school on the edge of the City with experienced professionals as lecturers was the icing on the cake.

I absolutely loved my time at Cass, and tried to make the most of it – one of the highlights of my young life was captaining our University Challenge team and making it onto the televised rounds!

Did you stay in London afterwards – I understand you pursued a career in Investment Banking?

After graduating, I joined the graduate management scheme at Marsh & McLennan Companies (MMC), and then moved on to Deutsche Bank where I worked on the Equity Derivatives trading floor – both jobs made me grow in very different ways!

What made you want to change? How did you get the idea for Licor Armada?

Well, during Christmas 2011 I was on holiday in Goa, India – where my family is originally from – and I decided to try making an all-natural liqueur from an old family recipe that dated back to the Portuguese Empire.

When it matured, the results were outstanding – I’d never tasted anything like it in my life, despite a fairly wide experience sampling various tipples in London bars, courtesy of a work hard, play hard lifestyle!

I decided to play around with a spreadsheet and work out if I could make a viable business out of Armada; by March 2012 I had moved to Goa – the rest is history 🙂

What was the biggest unexpected challenge in implementing your idea?

Most entrepreneurs usually say that had they been aware of all the obstacles, they’d never have started their companies… and I’m no different.

I knew that starting a business in India would be harder than in the UK, but I had no idea how much harder it would be to deal with the Government.

Whereas you can register a company in 4 hours in the UK from the comfort of your home, in India it took me over a month to do the same – despite a rule stating SME approvals should take 2 working days.

I was also asked to make repeated visits to the state capital for an important issue with my application, made to wait for ages only to have a quick and meaningless chat.

My biggest surprise was that the official at the Excise Department did not know the difference between ‘liqueur’ and ‘liquor’, and refused to believe that liqueurs could be registered! “You can make whisky, brandy, or rum only”, he said, ignoring the copy of the Excise Act I had brandished, with the relevant liqueur sections highlighted.

Later on, more enlightened friends explained that it was likely I was being subtly asked for bribes – due to my density, this eluded me entirely and I’m proud not to have contributed to corruption in India!

What has been the most rewarding part of this experience?

I guess it’s the same with most entrepreneurs – regardless of success, the personal and professional growth is phenomenal. I remember enjoying summer internships with small companies because of how much I learnt, and entrepreneurship has taken things to a whole new level!

The recognition has been pretty nice, too – winning the top medal at the most prestigious spirits competition in the world (IWSC), two years running, left me speechless!

Thanks to our win we were able to export internationally – Armada is now available in the UK, and we’re looking for new markets to expand to!

If you could give yourself when you were starting out one piece of advice, what would it be?

Leap, and the net will appear. It may seem trite and clichéd, but it’s so true. When you’re stuck and need help, you’ll be surprised at the number of people who are there for you! The main thing is to get up, get going and get out there.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London? The streets. It’s just so nice to walk around, take in the sights and discover all the festivals, fairs, tiny specialist shops etc – often in the most unexpected places.
Favourite holiday destination? Portugal. The food, climate, people, culture and heritage are fantastic – I’m glad the rest of the world is slowly discovering this too!
Must-check-everyday Website? The Economist. I’ve been a subscriber since my undergrad days!
Dream Travel Destination? It’s cheating a little, but I’d say a tour of South America. Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Mount Roraima, the Galapagos Islands, Brazil… what’s not to like?
Cheese or Chocolate? I’m a big fan of dark chocolate, but I’d pick cheese any day – the smellier the better 🙂

For queries about Armada, contact oscar@licorarmada.com; for UK orders contact nick@upandunderwine.co.uk. For students, staff and alumni, you can get a 5% discount on MRP using discount code CASS.

City University London and Cass Business School Alumni – Where Are They Now?

Arts and Social Sciences News, Cass Business School News, City News, Health Sciences News, Law News, Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News , .

It’s January graduations this week, and to celebrate we’ve been having a look at our alumni all over the world. And we mean all over the world! We wanted to find out where they are, and what they are doing – and here are the results for everyone we have up-to-date details for.

Where are City alumni?

where in the world_city

What jobs are City alumni doing?

city degree

Where are Cass alumni?

where in the world_cass

What jobs are Cass alumni doing?

cass degree

You can contact the local alumni network in your country on our Alumni Ambassador pages. We have separate pages for City and Cass but the alumni work together.

From EMBA to New Interactions With Things

Cass Business School News, Uncategorized , .

2015-09-05 20.24.56EMBA alumnus (2014) Patrick Beraud talks about doing an Executive MBA, life after Cass and the fast-paced world of tech start-ups. He is set to launch his first platform, Bemoir, at the end of this month. Patrick is based in Melbourne.

Tell me about your time at Cass!

I studied the Executive MBA, and what I remember most are the two initiation workshops in a fire service school, which was really immersive, and the international electives in South Africa and Vietnam. Those were eyes opening and really transformed me.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking about doing the Executive MBA or has just started?

I would say enjoy it while you are at it, because sometimes I look back and feel like, I wish I could re-experience some of those moments again. Although none of those moments I dream of are about submitting an assignment :=)

You’re based in Melbourne now – do you attend many Cass events?

Yes I am in where they call down-under, Melbourne, Australia. I travelled to the Monaco Alumni event in September. For me, it was an opportunity to reconnect with what an MBA has to offer. I really enjoyed meeting up with former classmates or new ones, hearing where they are now, what are they doing and how their stories have changed since they completed the MBA.

What did you go on to do after graduating from Cass?

Well, it was a roller coaster and it still is. I had a business idea well researched, so I started working on it part-time, putting the team together to launch the venture while in parallel I was working in a corporate environment. Then this year in January I moved to full time on my own venture and since then the roller coaster has been much more than anything I expected – I think the right words are, anything I could have ever imagined.

This new venture, it’s called Bemoir – what’s it all about?

Bemoir is an internet-based product using technologies such as NFC, Thinfilm and RFID to give unique digital life to physical objects. Our customers can use the platform to attach videos, photos, and audio to their prized possessions such as one-of-a-kind artwork or collectibles. By attaching thoughts and emotions to their items, our customers can increase the saleability of their products and perpetuate the product’s value.

Bemoir is a fully rich media digital platform with associated iOS and Android mobile applications. To use on a painting, for example, simply wave your smart phone over the painting that has Bemoir tag attached to it, you can reveal the story of the item, providing you a rich enhanced experience through the artist’s eye. Simply imagine walking around every artwork you come across, you can wave your phone at to discover more about it, or at a museum, or at your own family heirlooms.

Our beta platform is live and we are on track to officially launch Bemoir on Thursday 3rd December.

What’s your top tip for anyone looking to start their own business?

Settle in for the long haul, and expect everything to go wrong. But if you want to walk away from the 95%, as Jim Rohn once said, then that should be enough reason for you to start.

What’s next for you?

I have no idea – welcome to the tech startup world! But of course I will make Bemoir a success, so I still have three to five years ahead of me. We’ve given ourselves a big challenge, and that is to give everyone the power or the tools to express their individuality and uniqueness. And that is what Bemoir is for. It is to “be” and it is “moi”. So as you can see, what is next for me is to fulfil that vision. Remember we are just starting.

Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: East Dulwich Park
Favourite holiday destination: Portugal, from the south to the north
Dream travel destination: Croatia
Must-visit everyday website: I must visit all four at the same time, I don’t know why! They are time.com, guardian.co.uk, ft.com and bbc.co.uk, oh and sputnik news haha!
Cheese or chocolate: Cheese anytime!

EMBA Alumnus now PR Entrepreneur

Cass Business School News, Uncategorized , .

Simon Barker Barker CommunicationsSimon Barker (EMBA, 2008) has just embarked upon the entrepreneurial life and started his own PR business, Barker Communications, based in London Bridge. We sat down to talk about going back to studying, PR and the unexpected.

Tell me about your time at Cass

First of all, I was introduced to you through Rav Roberts, who was my MBA mentor and did a great job. We’ve met up regularly since then and he’s become a good friend.

Cass was many things, including being hugely enjoyable. I’d been out of a formal learning environment since graduating from Leeds in 1992 – so it was 14 years later that I embarked on my second degree! It wasn’t difficult to get back into studying though, and it was exciting to be in a classroom environment and learning new stuff. It was great to interact with the school’s faculty and to be part of a really engaged group of colleagues, and we generated plenty of good discussions. But being back in an exam room was a bit of a shock!

It was a full-on couple of years and there was a lot of cramming-in of work. I had a very busy role at a PR firm at the time and I was working on the MBA Monday – Saturday, including bashing the books on my one-hour commute each way into the City, but I made sure to have Sundays off (for the most part). When I finished I was sorely tempted to carry on learning – I still might pick up some of my free electives. My third child was born three months after I started the EMBA, and for at least six months after I finished two-day weekends felt like a luxury.

The location of Cass is a great asset, right in the City. It’s a brilliant calling card. When I was there the school was in the FT’s top 10 global ranking for EMBAs. Everyone felt pretty chuffed about that and the school was pleased to give us mugs to show off the achievement.

What about the EMBA trips away?

The very first weekend at the military base in Portsmouth was excellent. It was a case of being thrown in with your new colleagues who came from all across the world and just getting on with it. We went to St Petersburg in the first year, and most of us to Shanghai in the second year. Both places were fascinating and I stayed on for extra time in China.

I studied with a great bunch of people and have made some good friends from the group. Many went through difficult times during their time at Cass, with around a quarter of them losing their job due to the recession.

What was the best thing about your EMBA?

It’s hard to pull out a single best but I really felt that one of the advantages of doing an EMBA rather than a full time MBA was that most people on the course had at least 10 years’ business experience to bring to the party. I think the youngest person in my cohort was 29 when we started.

In the first year all the modules were compulsory, but it was great to be able to focus on your areas of choice in the second year. Most of my year two modules were around finance and strategy and I did my dissertation under Professor Laura Empson on branding elite tier professional services firms – and was delighted to get a distinction.

Do you attend many alumni events?

I used to go to quite a lot, but I’ve been so busy lately I’ve not managed to get to as many. I’ll definitely be making more of an effort in the future because they are a good opportunity to meet people and often learn new things.

How is your current venture going?

Doing the EMBA cemented in my mind that I wanted to do my own thing. I had been thinking about it for some time and the stars aligned making this year the right time to launch Barker Communications.

One of the reasons I enjoy PR is because it’s so influential. If you’re not knowledgeable about something yourself, or know someone well who is, then everything you know comes from what you read, hear and see, so the power of PR and editorial endorsement in particular can have a huge impact on building a client’s business and brand. It’s very rewarding to develop a portfolio of media outputs for clients, knowing that those articles will be read by many people in the client’s target audience; then reviewed online as part of the due diligence process for people or organisations looking to engage with them.

My first business trip since starting up was to Warsaw to meet a financial services company, which is now a client. I’d worked in Warsaw for a few weeks in 1998, and it’s changed hugely since then, following sustained growth through most of that time and managing to avoid recession post Lehman. Other clients include a legal services firm and Silicon Roundabout company, and I’m seeing opportunities across other areas such as consulting, energy and human capital.

My resourcing model is to use a network of highly experienced practitioners, so the pitch is that senior people do the work as well as advise, with clients receiving a better and faster outcome (and experience getting there).

What has been the most unexpected challenge in launching your own business?

To look at it another way, I always knew that it would be important to expect the unexpected and be prepared for that as much as possible. All sorts of people have been in touch and I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be doing some of the things I’m doing. It’s about keeping an open mind to opportunities, being flexible and building that into your business strategy. I never expected my first overseas trip to be to Warsaw, for example.

What’s your top tip for the communications industry?

If you want to get into this industry, be hugely interested in the media, how it works and its various channels. Clearly, social media is evolving quickly, but there is still an enormous role for traditional media because the journalists writing it are trained, experienced and masters of their craft and the demand for these people will always be there. My key places to go for information are the FT, The Economist, The Sunday Times and the Today Programme. And it might seem obvious, but in any service-based business you’ve got to be able to relate to people honestly, helpfully and directly.

What’s next?

Fundamentally, it’s about growing the business and doing great work for clients. The two are very closely linked as doing great work builds personal reputation and referral.

Finally, it’s the Quick Fire Round!

Favourite place in London: The British Museum
Favourite holiday destination: China
Must-check every day website: FT.com, the Economist Espresso app (and The Today Programme)
Dream travel destination: Pakistan
Cheese or chocolate? [long pause] Cheese

Cass Alumna Wins Prestigious “The Lawyer” Award

Cass Business School News , .

susan cooperCongratulations to CEO and founder of Accutrainee and Cass alumna Susan Cooper (EMBA 2010) on winning “Most Innovative Collaboration with In-House Legal Teams” at The Lawyer Business Leadership Awards 2015.

Accutrainee bridges the gap between graduates, the provision of training contracts and the legal profession, both law firms and in-house legal teams by providing training contracts and then seconding out the trainees. They took on their first trainees in July 2012 after a lengthy process with the legal regulatory body, which was necessary to approve their completely novel approach.

This idea came about when Susan was writing her dissertation on oursourcing in the legal industry. She found junior-level work was being outsourced to India, South Africa and a host of other places that could do the work for cheaper, and also that the limited number of training contracts on offer was leading to cohorts of graduates with no opportunities.

Until Accutrainee was launched, two-year training contracts with a law firm (or in-house legal team) were the only way of getting the required two years of on-the-job training to become a solicitor. This meant, and still means, that competition is fierce, and applications for these jobs can sometimes number over 1,000.

In addition, during the recession, many legal firms cut many of their training contracts, making it even harder to move from being a graduate to gaining a training place.

At the same time, in-house legal teams found their budgets squeezed, meaning that senior lawyers ended up doing more junior work. Add to this that it’s historically been very difficult for them to offer training contracts in general, because without a dedicated legal HR team the applications can soon become overwhelming.

Accutrainee brings one neat and elegant solution to all these problems, offering trainees a route into the profession. They offer the training contracts and then second them to law firms and in-house legal teams, whilst maintaining responsibility for the trainee’s development and regulatory requirements. Secondment could be for six months at four different places, a year each at a firm and an in-house team, or two years at a single firm. This means that trainees typically get a wider breadth of experience, and the companies benefit from the junior post. It’s an idea that seeks to alleviate the inefficiencies and regulatory burden of the traditional route, as well as some of the costs, to make this process work better for everyone involved.

This solution has proved particularly useful for in-house legal teams, who are now freed up to use their senior lawyers more strategically, overseeing the junior roles, with that trainee also gaining valuable experience. It’s easy to see why they won this award!

Read more Cass-related blogs here.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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