Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mad Russia Airways is Taking Off/Final MBA Project

Well, the MBA is done and I will be blogging about my experience over the last two years starting again in the next few days. It was an intense program, fun, but sometimes I really wanted to throw my computer through the window. Overall, I would recommend the experience, but more on that later.

Meanwhile, my Babson MBA team is entering our final project into the Babson Innovation Summit Contest. Please see our elevator pitch at:

The more views, the higher our idea moves up in the ratings. So if you can ask your friends and family to view it and commment, that would be very helpful. Our reward is that we get to be one of the 10 finalists to pitch our ideas to a bunch of VCs. Multiple views are good!

More on the idea in a later post.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Late Stage MBA/Josh Moritz/One Russian Assignment Completed

It is interesting to go to a city that people wanted to leave during the reign of the Soviets, but which is now becoming a magnet for tourists, entrepreneurs and even Russian Jews who have become disillusioned with Israel, the United States and other parts of the world. According to sources, nearly 100,000 Jews have returned to St. Petersburg in the last few years. Time does change habits.

During the week of March 15, 2010, I attended classes at St. Petersburg State Graduate School of Management (GSOM) with my MBA and undergraduate classmates from Babson College, located in Wellesley, MA. During a break, I made a visit to the Grand Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg, Russia, which was renovated in the early 2000’s through a generous donation from the Safra family. It is the only synagogue in St. Petersburg, Russia today and the largest in Europe. Like so many synagogues founded in the late 1800’s under the Tsars, it was closed by the communists until their fall.

For me, seeing the synagogue was mandatory.

My first date with my wife was a rally to free Soviet Jews held November 1987 on the Mall in Washington, DC. It was one of the final rallies before the fall of the Soviet Union, a culmination of at least some that I helped organize and many that I attended as a high school student, undergraduate and young adult in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Although that Washington, DC rally is now somewhat a blur, the date is not, having spent about 6 hours talking on the drive down and back, and then drinking coffee with my future wife Jane and our friend Johanna Skilling at Dupont circle after doing our chanting and cheering at the rally.

Emigrating from the Soviet Union required a lot of creativity before the fall of the Soviets. For example, I was approached in 1979 by a young woman asking that I marry her sister who was living in Moscow so she could emigrate to the United States as my wife. While not a wide spread practice amongst American and Soviet Jews, marriages did take place, although I respectfully declined the opportunity.

These emigration marriages also generated some interest amongst the non-Jews of St. Petersburg. During a lunch break at St. Petersburg State, I was relating my Soviet marriage proposal to one of the graduate students, Olga, from GSOM. Although only 22, Olga related to me that her father, who is not Jewish, used to call these marriages “Jewish Transportation.”

Hardly an anti-semetic remark, it probably reflected more of the desire of everyone who wanted to leave a country where it was hard to make a living under a repressive society. I hope to interview Olga’s father more on the comment at a later date.

Once inside, I was greeted in a fashion that was as much New York as it was St. Petersburg. When I tried to explain to the receptionist that I did not speak Russian, she just yelled louder. Made me feel like I had just entered the YMHA on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1981; the way to communicate seemed to be the more confused you looked, the louder the explanation got.

While the synagogue from the outside might be mistaken for one of the Greek Orthodox Churches dotting St. Petersburg, its copula is barren of a cross or even a Star of David. On the inside, it looks like many Moorish or Sephardic Synagogues you might find in New York City with a pulpit in the middle and an ark upfront. Simple in design, lacking in mosaics or art, in many ways it reminds me of the B’nai Jeshuran Synagogue in NY, a place my family belonged to about 10 years ago.

While I did not stay for services, I donated a few rubles, not out of a sense of guilt, but out of amazement that at least one assignment from youth is finally completed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Late Stage MBA/Josh Moritz-The Financial Times- Mom's Maserati and Cash Flow Analysis

I now have 15 minutes of fame and another reference to Mom's Maserati.

The article that I penned for the Financial Times on my experience in the Babson Fast Track MBA program was published Monday March 15th while I was studying in St. Petersburg, Russia.

See the article here:

Quite a surprise to me, the article takes up half a page on the back of the print edition of the education section entitled Business Education/New Media. While good for the ego, I just hope its good for my pocket book as well.

The online version headline is kinds of dull, the print edition headline has more pizazz and offers up more controversy: "Cash Flow Analysis Can be As Much Fun as a Maserati."

With all due respect to my finance professors Fetters, Bliss, and James (and anyone else that I missed) and my tutor Denise Chew, I never said that cash flow analysis was as much fun as driving a Maserati. Having test driven a Maserati in order to get a special $100 gift card to the Smith and Lewinsky Steak House in New York, I know that driving a Maserati is a lot more fun, especially for someone who missed out on being a master of the universe in their 30's.

I also know that a bad cash flow analysis can be as serious as a non-fatal car crash, so I tend to drive and invest wisely, although I am always in a hurry.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of information that had to be edited out to make the article about 1000 words.

For example, to save space I had to cut out the first names of people in my first study group. Made up of Sagar, Suniel and Dinesh, all from India and Alex, the Italian product manager who is a really a Gardner, it was truly a bunch of people getting used to one and other, but once we got going it really clicked well.

The article also does not do justice to the diversity of the program.

We not only have African Americans, we have people from Africa, folks from Venezuela, The Dominican Republic, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Italy, The People's Republic of China and Taiwan. Roumania and the UK are represented as well. Neil from the UK commutes in every 4 to 6 weeks, while there was a person from section 2 of my cohort who came in from Shanghai, but is now coming in from Chile. Of course there are a number of middle-aged white people like myself as well. Straights and gays are well represented.

My mother in law research suggests that all the major religious groups like Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, agnostics and atheists are in the mix as well. And those are the ones I know about.

While my cohort is has about 15% to 20% females, I hear that class that just started in March 2010 is nearly 40% female. This is a far cry from the days of my friend Pat who attended the Babson MBA program about 25 years ago. She was the only female in most of her classes in those days.

Somewhere in the mix is an ex-professional soccer player, a former race car driver, even corporate types from IBM, Intel and Nike. Corporate and independent entrepreneurs abound.

I figure since nearly half a million people read the Financial Times per day, my 15 minutes of fame might actually get me somewhere.

Stayed tuned to find out.

For those who would like to download the full report, click here:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Late Stage MBA - From St. Petersburg Airport, Russia

Phew, made it to St. Petersburg. Waiting at Costa Coffee with fellow classmate Maggie Barrett who is from the Portland Ore, cohort. Here is a business opportunity waiting for development. There is no retail at the St. Petes airport. Invest now. Unlike Maggie who seems have left from her house at 4am Seattle time and now has been up for nearly 2 days, I have been awake only 36 hours. (turns out maggie is in charge of the software operating system for the HP 210 at Intel that I am typing on.)

20 degrees F here vs. 45 degrees yesterday in NY.

Sizewise the airport terminal is about the same as White Plains in Westchester county NY, but needs ambiance. The people are nice, they speak many languages. We had advice not to use the ATMs here from the tourist person.

My goodnesss we (actually Maggie Treated) are having $20 worth of coffee and water. Seems a bit higher than JFK or Logan. Have to work on the money matters.

Please check out the Financial Times on Monday March 15th. Wrote about my experience at Babson. More later.