Javier Jerez (MBA Class of 2020) took on the responsibility of organizing IESE's first Private Equity Venture Capital (PEVC) Conference held in April. It was a challenging but rewarding experience. Here, he describes the planning process and lessons learnt by the team.
As part of “learning by doing” during our experience at IESE, we are encouraged to break through barriers and tackle challenges head-on. Inspired by this idea, this year the Private Equity & Venture Capital (PEVC) Club decided to create the first IESE PEVC conference, bringing top-tier professionals in the investment community to share their insights and experiences with us.
We had the idea of launching the conference one month after starting my MBA. As a first-year student, I wanted to be actively involved in the IESE community. The PEVC Club, led by Iñigo Querol (MBA Class of 2019), had the same view and we quickly started working together. Everything began from a blank sheet of paper, feeling like a start-up. And like any start-up, we commenced with forming the team. The PEVC Club is fortunate to count on great individuals that could tackle this project. We divided the main tasks among us – some of us focused on inviting speakers, some others focused on ticket sales. IESE supported our idea by offering its resources to take care of the operational side, like catering, marketing and website. While this may sound minor, it was a critical part of the entire event.
We had plenty of challenges ahead. First, the date of the Conference overlapped with that of Spring Games – an annual event that IESE hosts where hundreds of MBAs from all over the world come to play sports and enjoy the weekend in our beautiful Barcelona. Second, we did not know how many professionals would actually come to the event since it was the first conference of its kind. Third, we knew that content is king but attracting top-notch investors was not an easy task as they are busy individuals. Fourth, we needed partners. After dozens of meetings, we successfully closed partnerships with ten companies. We are very thankful for their support since they helped us to finance and promote the event. Fifth, selling tickets was not easy. The sales process never stopped. It was hard to predict how many tickets we would sell in a day – some days we had an incredible response, other days barely any. Finally, we were lucky to get over 250 attendees a week before the event.
The day of the event arrived, we focused on attending to our guests and more importantly, on solving problems on the spot. For example, we did not think about the transitions from one panel to another. I quickly went on stage in front of a crowd of 300, a bit nervous as it was not something I do on a regular basis. However, thanks to this experience, I intend on doing public talks more regularly to further improve my public speaking skills. Ultimately, we enjoyed a day with professionals, professors, former colleagues, MBAs, and friends on our beautiful campus. The IESE PEVC conference showed how Spain’s stellar private equity heads are not only brilliant at getting deals but also able to survive at ease 45 minutes of a panel discussion on topics ranging from how to invest in crowded markets to the role of ESG in the industry.
This clearly demonstrates the broad skill set what PE firms these days are looking for in their next generation of overachievers: excellence in dealing with numbers, resilience, creativity, and a spark of humor.
The final results were positive, and everybody was happy with the event. At the same time, we learned some lessons for future events. We underestimated the number of late ticket buyers, creating stress and friction in our team. We were not fast enough during the registration process, delaying the start of the conference. Speakers were great but limited in depth due to time constraints from our dense agenda. Hosting a conference is not easy: you need funding, a strong team, a business model, marketing, and execution. But even with those challenges, our cohesive team delivered an awesome job—and our whole MBA experience would look far different now if we had not pursued this project.
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