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Announcing the 2012 ESADE Innovation Summit!

This month ESADE hosts the 2nd annual ESADE Innovation Summit, an all-day conference with the theme of Design Thinking. Top design consultants will explain the Design Thinking process and attendees will have the opportunity to work on exciting business cases challenging companies in financial services, urban planning, healthcare, and more. One of ESADE’s most beloved professors, Kenneth Morse, will deliver a keynote speech called, “Critical Success Factors in Managing Innovation Projects and Processes in Major Firms.”

This is an exciting event because Design Thinking has become such a buzzword in business, with publications like the Wall Street Journal and The Economist gushing about firms innovating by making products more intuitive and envisioning new use case scenarios for them. There are opportunities for MBA students who have both left brain and right brain skills in these kinds of firms.

In addition to the Innovation Summit, ESADE offers an elective called Creativity and Innovation and has strengthened recruiting ties with design firms like Claro Partners, Smart Design, and SY Partners (all of whom will be present at the EIS). Endeavoring to make Design Thinking a forte for the MBA program is a good fit because the new Creapolis campus has several Google-like spaces designated for ideation. And the creative heritage of Barcelona – home to Gaudi, Dali, and Picasso in their day – doesn’t hurt.

To find out more, visit the event’s website at

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ESADE Creates Opinion

ESADE faculty have a tradition of contributing to Spanish newspapers of reference. This output is archived at the ESADE Creates Opinion Page.

As the international community takes more interest in Spain due to the European Financial crisis, faculty are also contributing to papers abroad. Below are a few recent examples in the Wall Street Journal, Guardian UK, Financial Times, and the New York Times. These articles either quote or are authored by an ESADE professor.

Click the images to read the original article.

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Internship Roundup!

As the academic year comes to a close, my first-year classmates and I will soon be off to summer internships. Given the economic climate, the internship search is tougher than ever for MBA students across the board. Nonethless, looking at a recent survey among my classmates, there are some fantastic destinations.

The most frequent companies for ESADE students this summer – drum roll, please – are Credit Suisse (6), adidas (5), Infosys (5), Amazon (4), and Votorantim (4). The high penetration in these companies (our cohort is only 180) speaks to a positive track record of past interns and hires. Adidas, as detailed in a previous post, runs a case competition each year at ESADE which usually leads to internship offers.

In terms of the elite management consulting companies, results mirror the global economy. German-speakers and emerging market candidates placed well, securing internships at BCG and McKinsey in Germany, Switzerland, Brazil, and Mexico. All of these candidates are returning to their country or origin, which indicates that these companies are opting for low-risk hires at the moment.

Demand from large Spanish corporates is weak, again in line with the global economy. Apart from a few posts in Madrid (Deloitte and Gas Natural) students wishing to stay in Spain have been looking instead at the thriving startup scene in Barcelona and at BBVA’s Momentum Project, an incubator for entrepreneurial ventures across Spain that have a social value.

The situation in Spain has been compensated by appetite in emerging markets. Here there are two constituencies. The first is emerging market multinationals who bring in foreigners to provide diversity and professionalism. Samsung (Korea), long a member of this group, is now joined increasingly by Votorantim (Brazil) and Infosys (India). The second is the nonprofit sector. This summer, three ESADE students are working for CHAI (Clinton Healthcare Access Initiative) – two in South Africa, one in Cambodia – and two are working for Endeavor in South America.

Other exciting positions include investment banking in Oman, external relations at the United Nations in Rome, strategy for Airbus in France, hospital management in Switzerland, procurement for Apple, and debt/capital markets at Banco Santander in New York. From these examples, ESADE’s global reach is quite evident. None of these students are going back their home country.

What about me? I’ll be working in San Francisco for Fair Observer, a business and politics magazine started by three MBA graduates. Given my interest in financial journalism and my desire to observe a startup in its early years, this was a good choice for me. There is plenty of work to be done on both the editorial and busines side, and I’m excited for it.
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The MBA Gets a Dose of China

Ties between Barcelona and China have become more evident lately given events like last year´s China at Barcelona Summit and the emergence of Chinese Catalan entrepreneurs like Didac Lee. But as firms here intensify their search for new investors and markets amidst the deteriorating financial situation in Western Europe, China remains an enigma – the biggest prize yet the most difficult nut to crack.

There are vast cultural differences that make it hard for Western firms to do business with China, explained recent guest lectures from the ESADE China Europe Club in my Global Marketing class. Some have to do with product preferences. The Chinese ideal of beauty is pale, white skin rather than tanned, olive skin; Chinese brides wear red dresses, not white. Then there are differences in social norms. Chinese people tend to be direct where Westerners would be discrete, yet they can be passive when Westerners would speak their mind. In view of these differences, experts propose several maxims to Western companies itching for a piece of China´s exploding middle-class market.

  • Establish a local team to manage operations and negotiations. Without them, relationships suffer and it is difficult to ensure that suppliers and customers follow through on their commitments.
  • “Achinar” or “Chinafy” products and trademarks to fit local tastes, as Nivea and Haagen-Dazs have done. Sales of Haagen-Dazs’ Mooncake ice cream have grown 25% annually for the last 14 years, according to General Mills.
  • Consider sacrificing margins for volume, even on luxury goods. The middle class aspires to buy status symbol Western brands, but with middle-class incomes topping out at 1500 Euros per month, they are still price-sensitive.
  • Be prepared for copying of intellectual property (though Chinese reverse-engineering experts prefer to call their work “homages.”) Ask Apple, whose iPhone 5 has already been pirated in China ahead of its official release, or Microsoft, which loses four computers to pirates in China for each one that it sells legitimately. Companies can combat counterfeiting by maintaining production in home markets or working with last-generation technology in China.

ESADE faces some of the same challenges in creating its brand in China. The school is currently conducting focus groups to determine the best way to translate both its name and brand meaning into Chinese characters, as Coca-Cola has done so successfully. Another dilemma is what to do about competitors’ banner ads being displayed in forums that are ostensibly about ESADE, as in the screencap below. (It could be as easy as ramping up display advertising spend.)

But ESADE appears to be doing things right in China. It has created a localized landing page, it posts on Weiboo and bulletin boards to expand its reach, and it hosts small roundtable chats in Mandarin with the Admissions staff’s resident linguist, Mary Granger. The biggest challenge is to find qualified students and convince them that Europe is the best place to embark on an international MBA.

For my classmates and I, the time is ripe to join the China boom. As many of us are headed on exchange to Asia next fall (Including me, to Hong Kong), perhaps we will.

Paying homage? The forum is about ESADE but the banners are for local business schools

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Class of 2012 Interviews Reflect ESADE’s Culture

ESADE recently filmed a series of videos commemorating the Class of 2012 during graduation week. In the videos, three questions were asked: What would you improve for your children’s world; How do you imagine the future; and what will be the MBA’s lasting impact on your life.

It’s interesting to see themes surface in each of the videos that reflect ESADE’s values. For instance, an appreciation for the diversity of the MBA students and a desire to make the world more accepting in general. Diversity is one of ESADE’s main assets. It can be a real challenge working with people from opposite cultures, but through collaborative learning experiences and events like Gastrofest and Holi students grow to understand each other.

Other recurring themes in the videos are business ethics, equality, and peace. Enjoy!

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Recap of Last Week’s Emerging Futures Conference

Just wanted to share two videos from the Emerging Futuers 2012 Conference, held last week at ESADE Forum (see previous post for more details). The first video is a general recap of the conference, while the second is an in-depth interview with one of the Healthcare panel speakers, Dr. Ngozi Onyia from Nigeria. Enjoy!

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Announcing the 2012 Emerging Future Conference

By Khalil Alnammari, First-Year MBA Student

Next Friday, April 27, ESADE hosts the 2nd Annual Emerging Markets Conference. “Emerging Future 2012 – Is the world ready?” The conference will bring together creative minds to discuss, debate, and challenge the most pressing topics concerning emerging markets today. A dynamic group of experts, practitioners, and professionals will gather together to explore ways to push boundaries of business and innovation related to healthcare, finance, or operational needs in today’s new global economy.

This conference is tremendously exciting because emerging markets provide the world with new investment opportunities and hubs for innovation, creativity, and growth. Companies from the developed world are seeking emerging market access for profitable growth, universities from around the world are strategically building relationships with emerging market institutions for research and recruitment, and international organizations are expanding capacity to meeting the growing demands and needs of emerging market economies.

From McKinsey consultants in London to healthcare professionals in Nigeria, the program will be driven by professionals whose work is at the heart of these critical emerging issues. There is a special focus on Brazil, Latin America’s largest and fastest-growing economy, at this year’s conference. The keynote speaker is Consul Sergio Barbosa Serra from the Brazilian attaché in Barcelona. Consul Barbosa Serra will reflect on both his experience in Barcelona and as the former Brazilian Ambassador in South Korea and New Zealand.

In hosting this conference, ESADE proves it understands the importance and influence of growth economies. As business schools rush to establish a presence in emerging economies, ESADE can boast of recent study tours in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, upcoming summer internships in places like Cambodia and South Africa, and thriving exchange programs in Brazil, China, and India. ESADE has also made emerging economies a priority for recruiting, in particular Brazil, India, China, and Saudi Arabia, in addition to strengthening historic ties with Latin America.

Come to the 2012 Emerging Future conference at ESADE and get your questions answered because this is one enriching event you won’t want to miss.

For more information about conference and to register, please visit our website at

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ESADE Tops Adidas Case Competition, Earns Summer Internships

By Kyoko Minegishi, First-Year MBA Student

Each year, adidas runs a case competition between ESADE and IESE students and ESADE has a great track record in this competition, finishing in first place for each of the past 2 years. This year there was even a surprise internship offer for the winners and ESADE continued its winning legacy for the 3rd straight year!

Given my strong interest in brand marketing, I was very excited for this competition. My partner in crime, Banele Levin was a perfect complement to my skill set for not only being a regular fitness junkie, but because he came from a completely different background. I had grown up in Tokyo; he in South Africa. My background is in marketing/branding in the music industry; he is a telecommunications engineer turned Accenture consultant. With our combined perspectives, I was confident we could apply a global strategy and combine our creativity from entertainment and telecommunications to present a unique idea.

The challenge this year was the following: “How could Reebok rebuild its current marketing strategy into a more brand-focused approach?” Essentially, Reebok is a fading brand but one whose equity remains strong, and thus a candidate for rejuvenation. Since Reebok’s acquisition, adidas Group had been trying to position the brand within their portfolio without cannibalizing other existing brands and had focused their efforts to brand Reebok as their fitness brand. We supported this positioning and came up with a strong consumer segmentation strategy for Reebok’s 3 categories (performance, fitness, and lifestyle) by focusing on different types of fitness behavior. We leveraged their investments to expand their product lines and shift their marketing strategy to focus on fitness behavior rather than their technology. We were also careful to create both short term and long term initiatives to ensure sustainability, keeping in mind not only Reebok’s goals but also, adidas Group’s goals. It was a lot of work but we had so much fun on the ideation that our energy level never faltered.

In the end, 3 teams from both ESADE and IESE presented in front of adidas representatives and Banele and I were announced as the winners! I was overwhelmed with emotions of shock, happiness, relief, and excitement. I hugged Banele and couldn’t stop smiling.

Banele and I will soon be off to adidas Group Headquarters in Herzogenaurach, Germany for our summer internships – Banele in Global Sales and myself in product development/branding for adidas Originals. For me, the internship gets me closer to the fabled “triple jump” – changing geography, industry, and function. This is the dream of many MBA students but in reality is extremely difficult when competing against candidates who have more direct experience. As the dream becomes closer to reality, we’re getting ready to conquer the next challenge in Headquarters.

ESADE also took 2nd place and I am proud to say that one of the team members, Juan Pablo Restrepo was also invited to interview with adidas and subsequently received an internship offer in the go-to-market division for Global Football. Another student who did not participate in the competition, Fabiana Thomé, was also offered an internship with adidas!

Our success in the case competition, and the 4 total internship placements that we were able to achieve with adidas, serves to validate ESADE’s strengths, the intelligence and passion of our student body, and how these opportunities get us closer to our career goals.

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Insight Into the Application Journey – From An Accepted Student

Guest post by accepted student Kaitlin Keon, future member of ESADE MBA Class of 2014.

My journey to an MBA started on Facebook. A friend had posted The Economist’s ranking of the top 20 business schools and as I casually perused it, two programs in Barcelona caught my eye. I had tossed the idea around of getting an MBA for a while but hadn’t made a serious commitment to investigating programs. After researching ESADE, I realized it wasn’t the stuffy, typical business school that we hear so much about in Boston. I knew I wanted to get a degree while having a great experience and ESADE seemed like the perfect fit.

After spending far too many hours taking practice GMAT tests and retooling my application essays, I found myself at the Experience ESADE day in New York to get a better idea of what the program has to offer. Listening to the introductions of the other prospective students, I was amazed by the assortment of backgrounds and experiences. As was emphasized in the presentation, I knew I could learn a lot from this group of people and others like them. Plus, they seemed fun! I was admittedly bummed that I couldn’t stay for the cocktail hour that day as I had to catch a train back to Boston. But I left feeling assured that ESADE was going to be the best place for me.

Since accepting my place in the program, I have a huge smile when I tell people I’m moving to Barcelona for business school. I’m excited for a change of scenery along with a change of career. Though switching from being a database analyst to (hopefully) finding a position in CSR seems daunting now, I am eager to begin the process at ESADE. I am optimistic that I will gain the tools necessary to shift my career while having a wonderful time with a great group of people.

Next step, visa application!

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A 2nd Year Says Goobye to the MBA

By Raul Avellaneda, Graduating 2nd-Year Student

How do you measure an MBA? In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in cases, in trips, in tears, in giggles…?

Last Friday the MBA was officially over. It’s a moment to look back and think in what the ESADE experience has been for me. It started the 30th August of 2010 although a lot of previous work had been done. I was convinced I had chosen a good option for my professional future. How wrong I was… it was not only the right choice professionally but also personally. I knew it was going to be hard but then I remembered the words from the poet Miquel Martí I Pol who writes “Tot està per fer I tot és possible” (Everything is to be done and everything is possible)

I could write thousands of pages about my personal experience and it will cross with many of yours. I have images of clubs, parties, dinners, nights, cases, struggles, sleep deprivation and learning experiences. It’s always summarized with a smile on my face.
It’s all about people, right? I loved the feeling I had when a special connection was created. From that moment on I knew my family had grown. Awesome experiences with people from all over the World… everyone eager to share about his/her own culture … I feel like if I had travelled all around the World without moving from Building 3.

The Graduation weekend was great. It was prepared with lots of details in order to be a big final party. Thank you to everyone: students, families, friends, staff and professors. I was lucky enough to be able to be part of the team. Another demonstration of the ESADE spirit to move things forward (as it had happened several times before). From section dinner to graduation trip… it was great to feel like nothing had changed. When meeting after several months there were no cold handshakes but warm hugs.

The ceremony was unforgettable. The students’ representatives did a great job with a speech combining humor, MBA concepts and emotions. The final video was another special moment with words from most of the students.

The dinner and party was a celebration and sharing moment. Videos, pictures, more speeches, regards from students and lecturers not able to attend and the night near the beach like a perfect ending in one of the most representative spots of our beloved Barcelona.

Maybe I’m not really specific but each of us has a unique record of each event and in the future we’ll share those, right?

And one would say “this is it”. My feeling is that it’s not an “adiós” but an “hasta pronto”. Let me finish with the words of Pere Casaldàliga, the Catalan emeritus bishop of São Felix do Araguaia (Mato Grosso):

Al final del camí em diran:
Has viscut? Has estimat?
I jo, sense dir res,
Obriré el meu cor ple de noms.

At the end of the road I’ll be asked:
Have you lived? Have you loved?
And I, without a single word, will open my heart full of names

A huge thank you very much to everyone involved in the ESADE MBA.


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Esade Aims to Support and Foster Entrepreneurship

As the MBA prepares to join the ESADE Creapolis campus, it’s worth commenting on all the activities  related to entrepeneurship and innovation that are happening in the program. These activities, as a collective, allow ESADE to position itself as “the Innovation MBA”– a unique space with many schools eager to be seen as the Finance MBA, the Marketing MBA, or the Accounting MBA for established companies. While MBA students may not be the most likely to start a company from scratch, there is definitely a need for the MBA profile in small companies looking to reach profitability, solidify their brand, or expand internationally.

With that said, here’s a brief run-down of the resources available at the MBA to educate students about entrepreneurship and help them execute their business idea.

  • The Entrepeneurship module within the MBA. Working in small groups, students prepare a business plan and conduct a feasibility study. The course is conducted over several terms to allow for robust study and implementation. Beabloo (a CRM platform) and Offset Options (a carbon offset consultancy) are two examples of flourishing startups that began in this course.
  • TEDxESADE, an annual conference which contributes to the social debate on innovation and entrepreneurship. It will be held this year on April 13th. Speakers include ESADE faculty, alumni and staff who are respected in their various fields of expertise.
  • Esade Qwest for Talent, a yearly event where startups hold workshops to generate ideas. Many also recruit MBA interns and employees. This year’s edition was held last month and featured over 100 students and 23 companies. Standout corporate participants include AirBnB (2012), Odigeo (2012), and Groupon (2011).
  • The ESADE Entrepeneurship Institute, which produces academic research on best practices in entrepeneurship. ESADE faculty like Eugenia Bieto and Francesc Lamolla often publish in peer-reviewed journals about entrepreneurship.
  • E-Garage, a workspace for entrepreneurs in Creapolis. Student entrepreneurs bounce ideas off one another and interact with entrepreneurs-in-residence from more established companies.

Given the increasing acceptance of the idea of MBAs as entrepreneurs (see this article in The Economist), as well as the growing uncertainty of traditional career paths, it is exciting to see ESADE offer so many resources for would-be entrepreneurs.

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Recap of ESADE Technology and Media Trek 2012: Dublin

By First-Year MBA Student Stephen Broadbent

I touched down in the land of the Celtic Tiger with overcast skies and an appetite for Guinness stew. Our 15 ESADE MBA techies were in Dublin this week to explore the city’s technology hubs in hopes of unraveling some of the mystery around how this little island off Europe’s Atlantic coast has become the region’s technology powerhouse. And of course a little fruitful networking was part of the plan as well. We were all curious about the unique position Ireland has created for itself and how it has been faring amidst its more recent troubles to recover from the economic crisis of the last few years. What I found was a strange brew of old and new and a resilient culture clearly committed to staying the course toward development and progress.

Ireland has some powerful economic advantages that attract the world’s top tech firms, which go far beyond the tax incentive draw that often tops the news. Its proximity to the rest of Europe gives foreign firms an easy launch pad to do business in the region. Just as important, its English speaking and highly educated population create an ideal bridge for the likes of Google, Oracle and other leading companies to extend their influence across the Atlantic. It was no surprise during our whirlwind of company visits to encounter great hospitality and professionalism at every turn.

Over two days our ESADE crew visited the offices of Oracle, Symantec, Facebook, Google and Yahoo!. It was interesting to see seasoned players like Oracle and Google juxtaposed with the new kid, Facebook, which was still putting paint on the walls of its newly built offices when we arrived. The Facebook crowd was a buzz with a youthful and somewhat chaotic zeal and they were clearly ramping up for EMEA growth. Oracle offered a more traditional corporate environment with a definite sales angle for its Dublin operations. Yahoo! seemed to be holding its breath a little with a recent CEO change and corporate alliance with Microsoft’s Bing hot off the press. Symantec was, perhaps predictably, secretive about its internal goings on, though we were pretty mesmerized by its funky state-of-the-art facility. But to no one’s surprise, Google rocked the show with its vibrant blend of fun and creativity mixed with serious dedication to business. Google’s attractiveness as an innovator notwithstanding, the perks and work environment were a bounty that any MBA would envy. As we toured the Google offices, our guide, the boisterous Jane Murphy, left us salivating with images of complementary meals and in-house massage therapy, a games room on every floor, a quiet space filled with beanbag chairs for afternoon siestas, a traditional Irish pub…even a flight simulator! And with 3000 employees in Dublin, Google is clearly the dominant player out here.

Of course, the trek also served to bring our group of techy wannabees closer together over our shared aspirations to pursue careers in technology. It was amazing to see this common thread stretch across such a diverse group. In true ESADE style we represented Japan, Israel, Greece, Canada, USA, Taiwan, India, and Spain and our backgrounds ranged from engineering and IT to publishing to consulting. The evenings brought plenty of hearty food and warm Celtic music to stave off the bitter winter chill and we raised more than a few pints of Guinness to each other and our collective futures. Dublin’s charming old stone architecture and layered history actually left me feeling a strange sense of nostalgia. I think it was a familiarity to Irish culture migrated to my home in Canada mixed with school hood memories of great Irish stories by the likes of Joyce, Becket and Shaw. Dublin’s culture is rich, to be sure. And it has been made richer by its rise as a tech hub. There is an optimism here, despite the very real impact of the recession on the people’s lives. While much of the economy is struggling in Ireland as in the rest of Europe, one thing is certainly clear, the tech sector is booming and tech companies are in Dublin to stay.

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Reflections On the Saudi Arabia Trek

By First Year MBA Student Blake Larson

Before going to Saudi Arabia, I mostly associated the country with desert, oil, and Muslims. So when the opportunity arose to join my fellow students and Professor Javier Solana on a business tour of this relatively closed country, I was eager to see it with my own eyes and live the culture in person.

On paper, our agenda was overwhelming. We traveled constantly, seeing 3 cities in 7 days. Visits to some of the country’s largest companies (Saudi Aramco, Subic, and The Bin Laden Group) and universities (Princess Nora, KAUST) as well as several cultural events allowed us to sleep only 4-5 hours per night. But every minute of every day was unforgettable. The companies and universities that we visited had incredible facilities and their leaders showed vision for the future along with an acute awareness of the present. This was true as much of the boardroom at Princess Nora University as of the Aramco drilling room where we watched technicians hunt for oil.

We also saw the incredible beauty of the desert during a day of camping, Bedouin-style. It is hard to fathom the desolate desert, with camels roaming in the distance, while we raced 4×4 vehicles in the sand. Saudis head to the desert to spend meaningful time with friends and family away from the demands of everyday life. Our experience was similar, though we took some creature comforts with us in the form of satellite TV, table tennis, and shisha!

Seeing Saudi Arabia was at times eye-opening, especially in terms of how society truly revolves around Islam. Outside of their homes, women wear abayas. The shops close during prayer times. It would be difficult for me to assimilate in this society but I grew to have an incredible appreciation and respect for how rooted in faith the Saudis are.

I want to highlight the role of the Saudi people in making the tour so incredible. Regardless of whether we were touring the Ras Tanura refinery, discussing urban planning for Riyadh at the Al Faisaliah Center, or visiting the family home of our Saudi MBA colleagues, we were welcomed as old friends. Everyone went out of their way to make sure we had an enjoyable and productive trip (and to ensure we were extraordinarily well fed!). People truly opened their hearts to us. For this, I can never be thankful enough and could only hope to repay the same kindness if given the opportunity.

I acknowledge, of course, that Saudi Arabia is not perfect. Despite tremendous growth in infrastructure (The King Abdullah Financial Center), and huge investment in education (Princess Nora University, KAUST, King Saud University), the economy is still driven by the oil industry. Based on traffic in Riyadh, growing inequality and high young adult unemployment, perhaps the development has not been perfectly sustainable. But Saudi is still a young country and hopefully it can learn through its mistakes to emerge as the face of the Middle East.

In concluding I want to reiterate that seeing Saudi Arabia with my MBA colleagues was the experience of a lifetime. Most importantly, the trip served as a reminder that the world continues to shrink and that we all share more in common than we have different. To my Saudi friends, thank you with all my heart and Yalla Saudi!

Click to see photos from the MBA Saudi Trek
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At the Global Sports Forum

This weekend I was fortunate to go to the Global Sports Forum as part of a delegation from the Sports Business Club in the MBA Program. These kinds of VIP events are one of the perks of being an Esade student. I also went to this year’s edition of the Brandery, a fashion show, and many of my colleagues attended the Mobile World Congress, which is one of the world’s biggest trade fairs.

As an American, the moment I enjoyed the most at the Global Sports Forum was a panel that included the NBA’s EVP for Global Marketing Partnerships, Mark Tatum. Tatum spoke about the NBA’s profound globalization: games are broadcast in 200+ countries (and hundreds have now been staged abroad); 77 foreign players have passed through the league, from 30-some different countries. Linsanity’s viral spread, for instance, is owed in great part not to Facebook but to the Chinese Weibo! Tatum said he is flooded with calls from Chinese brands wanting to ink a sponsorship deal with Lin or the Knicks. In an era where companies are judged by their foothold in growing markets, the NBA is a gold standard.

Why is this globalization good for the NBA? First, revenue. More TV deals, sponsorships, merchandise sales, and the option to do summer tours. And second, talent. The NBA is simply putting out a better product post globalization. The sportswriter Bill Simmons recently said the league has 3 times as many marketable stars as it did 20 years ago. This means sustained quality; the alternative, relying on the megastars of the past like Jordan, Bird, and Magic, is risky because you never know when they will come along.

If only I had been able to get to the forum on Thursday; speakers included Manchester United legend Eric Cantona and American football player Justin Tuck.

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Javier Solana Paints Sober Portrait of Middle East in MBA Lecture

This afternoon was the last session for Javier Solana’s class on Geopolitics and Global Governance for the MBA Program. Solana, the former Secretary-General of the EU, comes to Esade about once a month to lead this class. Today’s session dealt with the Middle East and the invited guest was Jean-Pierre Filiu from Sciences Po.

Professors Solana and Filiu described the Middle East today as a continuum of stability. On one end, Turkey has a 7% growth rate and a flourishing democratic society. On the other, Iran uses violence to mask its weakness and maintain control. And in the middle is the Arab Spring.

Professor Filui is confident that the Middle East, “fascinated” by Turkey, clamors for democracy.  Two things stem the tide in his view: first, the inter-faith divide between Sunnis and Shias, which has absorbed even cosmopolitan Muslim societies like Lebanon. And second, the tendency of oil to create entrenched elites who keep the simmer from coming to a boil. Notably, Tunisia, which ignited the Arab Spring, does not have oil. Another factor, one might suppose from Solana’s recent blog entry on the subject, is the ambivalent position of heavyweight China towards promoting democracy in the Middle east.

In a previous class, Solana told us his views about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Iran will continue its slow but steady progress towards nuclear weapons, he said. After Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia would likely feel pressured to join the club, and would have no problem buying the knowledge from Pakistan. It’s a scary prediction, even if the détente argument in theory would prevent everyone from actually using nuclear weapons.

It’s always an honor for the MBA students to spend time with Solana. Warm and quick-witted, he’s part of a historic generation of European diplomats. He recently accompanied a group of 28 MBA students on a business tour of Saudi Arabia. We’ll soon be posting an account of that trip from one of the participants.

[Update] A clip from Professor Solana’s Middle East lecture has been posted on Esade TV.

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Esade Alumni Event Reminds of Innovation

Last night was Esade’s annual alumni blowout in Barcelona – 3000 alumni from all the school’s degree programs at the Forum de Maresme near the Olympic port. While the event packed two powerful headline speakers in Pablo Isla and Mikael Ohlsson, CEOs of Inditex and Ikea, respectively, I thought the most enjoyable speech was by Javier Santiso from the Center for Global Economy and Geopolitics.

Santiso spoke of how Europe and Spain have fallen behind in the global innovation race. The evidence? That China and Israel have 3 times as many tech firms listed in the NASDAQ exchange as the entire EU; that 4 of the world’s top 10 internet/software companies are from emerging markets; and that telecoms companies like Huawei (China), Telcel (Mexico), and MTN (South Africa) are becoming global giants. Foreign direct investment, which used to proceed exclusively from developed markets to emerging ones, now flows increasingly in the opposite direction – or between emerging markets.

Santiso’s speech, which he said hoped would inspire the audience to start new businesses, was a kick in the pants for complacent Europeans. It illustrated that European competitivity is a structural issue, going beyond the recent sovereign debt crisis and property bubbles.  

At the same time, there is cause for hope for Spain. Of course, it’s easy to take comfort in Inditex, which is the global leader in its sector. But perhaps more importantly, Santiso said, of the 12 startups in Europe that are poised to reach €1bn in sales, 3 of them are Spanish. This week I had the pleasure of meeting two local entrepreneurs from Esade: Luke Miller, who runs an environmental impact consultancy and Javier Castillo, who founded a social network. They prove that innovation is alive in Europe and that Barcelona continues to be a hotbed.

The MBA program has its own program related to startups next month, Esade Quest for Talent. More on that to come in this blog. For videos and photos from the alumni event visit the official Esade Alumni page.

-Andrew Pollen, First-Year MBA Student

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