Second-year Wharton EMBA student Arun Kumar recently invited venture capitalist Vinod Khosla to guest lecture to his classmates in San Francisco. We asked Arun, who is a research scientist at Medtronic in Minneapolis, Minn., to tell us about this event and the importance of guest speakers in the executive MBA program.
I wanted to come to Wharton because it offers such a comprehensive executive MBA program, and more specifically to the West Coast program because of San Francisco’s entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to leverage that spirit every two weeks during the program and bring that back to my work on developing healthcare solutions for emerging markets.
Since joining Wharton’s executive MBA program, I’ve seen this innovation and entrepreneurial spirit in a lot of ways — through classes, students, faculty and guest lectures. Many of my classmates are entrepreneurs, work for startups or (like me) are interested in this area. As for guest lectures, just about every class weekend we have an entrepreneur or two share their experiences with our class.
A few months ago, I met the well-known venture capitalist Vinod Khosla at a mobile health conference. Vinod was a cofounder of Sun Microsystems and general partner of the VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers before he started his own firm, Khosla Ventures. Vinod is a luminary, and I knew he could offer great insights to my classmates on innovation and entrepreneurship. I was thrilled to invite him to speak at Wharton.
Using Failure as a Tool
In May, he came to Wharton | San Francisco where he spoke on the topic of using failure as a tool. He discussed how important it is to run multiple experiments in new businesses so that you can learn from failure. At every crossroad or pivot point, he stressed the importance of taking the time to explore all of the different options instead of just picking the one that seems best and blindly running with it. Executing well is necessary, but he encouraged us to invest the time to scope out each option and then make an informed decision on the one worth pursuing. For all this, it is important to create an environment where one can fail, but recover rapidly, and where every error is small, not large.
The packed audience of students (and some alumni as well) was riveted and really enjoyed his talk, which was followed by a very engaged Q&A session.
Guest speakers like Vinod are a great way to complement what we are learning in class, as they bring in so many different perspectives. It’s helpful to hear about their struggles, lessons learned and successes. They definitely contribute to the entrepreneurial spirit on campus that I was seeking.
It’s wonderful that there are so many of these enriching opportunities for students — and often alumni. You have to pick and choose from these types of events because of your busy schedule, but there is a lot to pick and choose from at Wharton.