My HEC Paris Journey, Part VII: The Last Courses

Written by Azat MardanNovember 15, 2020

Today, I just finished the last (20th) course for the MSIE program. The course was on Venture Capital and Private Equity and it concludes the academic part of the masters program. I wrote academic because the courses weren’t just theoretical. We did had a lot of practice preparing our assignments and working on business cases.

Now, the only thing is left is to finish the team project that my team of three worked on for the pretty much the entire year. My team and I have to present the pitch deck for our product to the jury in a similar way how the startups pitch investors. We’ll get our grades and finish our Master of Science degree.

So it’s a bitter sweet moment. On one side, I’m happy that I can claim back my weekend and nights, and do some leisurely activities. On the other side, it’s been almost two years that I was taking the HEC Paris courses following strict deadlines, milestones, taking graded quizzes and proctored final exams. I had and I was following a structure. This gave me a constant map of my progress and gave me clear goals to strife for. Having a goal, being on a mission and seeing progress are all very satisfying. I’ll be missing that.

Then, there’s also the social aspect of talking to and learning from smart people (my peers). We saw and reviewed each other assignment. Chatted on forums, chats and video calls. I’ll be missing that too.

In order to summarize my learnings, here’s a quick recap of the last several courses:

  • Developing Customer Centric Strategy Through Marketing: The course covers introductory marketing topics such as branding, segmentations, channels, pricing and so on; and the course was taught by three professors which was unusual and interesting.
  • Managing Performance of a Growing Enterprise: The course is about using mostly financial metrics to manage a relatively large company, e.g., setting up cost centers; and this was the hardest most quantitative course in all of the program (but still very A passable for me).
  • Odyssey 3.14 Business Model Innovation: The course introduces a simple business model concept of three areas and 14 directions that somewhat a different perspective on BCG canvas and IDEO business models; and the key takeaway is that business model itself can and should be iterated and innovated upon.
  • Intellectual Property Law for New Businesses: The course covered some theoretical as well as practical aspects of IP and how it applies to startups; and we did a lot of very useful and practical patent searches that any innovator should know how to perform and use.
  • Entrepreneurial Finance: This course had a lot of overlaps with other courses in terms of finance topics and formulas but with an emphasis on the founder’s dilemma which can be summed up as raise funds and grow & dilute vs. bootstrap/no raise funds and grow slower & keep equity. The professor did a series of webinars on the intrepreneurship which is useful as most of the students won’t (and shouldn’t) start a startup.
  • Asymmetric Information, Trade and the Internet: The course covered probability of decisions, wisdom of crowds, platforms and provided spreadsheets with complex formulas that can be used during the exam and hopefully in real life.
  • Private Equity and Venture Capital: The course was very basic for someone who already worked in Venture Capital or read a couple books on startups; but the live sessions were really engaging and interesting because the professor shared his experience and anecdotes of working in the PE/VC world.

Overall, the 20 courses gave great overview of main topics with some of them being familiar while others were completely new to me. For example, I knew about the CAC and COGS but not the Bayes’ theorem. Even for the familiar topics and concepts, the HEC Paris did a great job of packaging and formatting the material so it’s compact yet clear. There’s a great value in the right presentation. Searching online can be a real time waster.

Moreover, the courses opened up my mind to new ideas with the business cases and examples. In the Silicon Valley San Francisco world of software, a restaurant or a cookie business is not a startup. However, HEC Paris presented them as a successful business cases. I’m sure they are relatively good businesses for a lot of people to start, own and run. Not everyone should be building SaaS.

The courses taught by practice through the assignments. It was great to use the acquired skills right away to build a business model for a new venture, do a patent search, create café without coffee, etc. The number of courses and topics were very diverse and well suited for both startup founders and employees of established (often large) companies as consultants, innovators, intrapreneurs and change agents. In the end, the courses gave a really wide toolset and provided a strong foundation.