Kellogg Does Its Own Bay Area Startup

Mark Achler, a lecturer in innovation and entrepreneurship, teaching an MBA class at Kellogg’s new San Francisco campus. Photo by Stan Olszewski

Mark Achler starts his first class with a video that Apple used years ago to introduce its iPad. As the MBA students in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management watch the TV advertisment, they hear the voice of comedian Robin Williams from a scene in the film Dead Poets Society. Not until the very end of the 90-second spot does the Apple logo appear — ever so briefly — on the screen.

Instead, the commercial positions the iPad as a tool of creation, paired with images of ocean wind turbines, marching bands, waterfalls, and mountain rescue helicopters. The clip fades to black shortly after William quotes a Walt Whitman poem:

O me, O life of the questions of these recurring. Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: that you are here. That life exists, and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

And then he asks: “What will your verse be?”


Achler, 59, an adjunct lecturer on entreprenership at Kellogg, quickly poses a series of questions to the students in his class on building innovation, teams, and cultures.

“OK,” he says, “I’m confused. What company makes this product? What’s the processor speed of the product? Who is the hero of the ad?

“The hero of this ad,” he says finally, “is aspirational. It’s you! ‘What will your verse be?’”

Achler, a serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist, isn’t teaching in Evanston, Ill., where Kellogg has its main campus; nor is he in a classroom in Chicago, where the school has a downtown building for its part-time MBA and Executive MBA programs. Instead, Achler is in San Francisco teaching Kellogg MBA students at the university’s new Bay Area campus. It’s based on the 18th floor in the Financial District at 44 Montgomery St.

In fact, Achler had just flown out to San Francisco from Chicago on the same day of his 6 p.m. class, arriving at SFO at 2 p.m. He had just enough time to check into his room at The Donatello Hotel, scarf down a dish of panang curry chicken at a Thai restuarant near Union Square, then come over for his first three-hour class.


The MBAs in Achler’s class are in an immersion of sorts into the Bay Area ecosystem. There are 13 students in what Kellogg is calling its San Francisco Winter Quarter Pilot. The new program offers students a chance to take three courses (Cases in Venture Investment with Professor Paola Sapienza, Social Dynamics and Network Analysis with Professor Adam Pah, and Achler’s Entrepreneurship: Building Innovation, Teams, and Cultures) as well as an internship over a full 10-week quarter in San Francisco. A program lead, Michael Xenakis, orchestrates the experience, leading a Venture Lab course and arranging seminars and visits with local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, while Kellogg professors are shipped out West to teach.

Kellogg’s test of the market complements its existing growth and scaling initiative, but it’s also part-and-parcel of the Bay Area boom and the growing interest among MBA students in startups, early-stage companies, and venture capital in a region with the world’s most dynamic economy. Business schools frequently escort their students here on Silicon Valley treks, and some plan to open an office in the area — INSEAD being the latest. But it’s still rare for a prestige school to allow its MBAs to spend an entire semester or quarter here.

Wharton began offering its MBA students a semester at its campus in San Francisco beginning with a pilot in the fall of 2012 (see “Wharton’s Novel Bay Area Option For MBAs“). The Kellogg experiment, which ended earlier this month, is an outgrowth of its growth and scaling curriculum (see “Could ‘Growth’ Become A New Business School Discipline?“).


“After building out the foundation of our courses in this area, the next step was how to provide more substantial opportunities in the scaling arena,” says Linda Darragh, the director of Kellogg’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiative. “A good number of our students head out to the valley after graduating, and while some go to the large tech companies, many are interested in growth-stage firms and VCs. Being in the Midwest, we felt there was an opportunity for people to be out there in the winter quarter when companies are thinking about who to hire for internships and full-time jobs.”

An interesting twist to the winter quarter pilot was that each student is required to have an internship while also attending a lighter load of classes. “We wanted students to get their hands dirty in helping to scale companies,” Darragh adds. “The fact that we could blend both is absolutely necessary to create the value we wanted for our experience.”

MBA students who took the pilot are uniformly enthusiastic about it. Brian Quimby, 31, who had been at Google and Accenture before enrolling in Kellogg’s one-year accelerated MBA program, would not have had the chance to do an internship if not for going to the pilot. Quimby got to do his internship at VC firm Andreessen Horowitz in Menlo Park. His classmates were all working at startups or VC outfits, ranging from travel and hospitality startup Peek and fintech lending firm Insikt to VC firm Ponte Partners, though one MBA was spending the bulk of her time creating a VR startup in the healthcare space.


Northwestern University is using its West Coast location for journalism, engineering and business students

“There is definitely an advantage to being here if you are interested in venture capital and startups,” Quimby says. “The curriculum was aligned with what I was going to take in Evanston. I was definitely thinking about the social aspects of missing out on things on campus. But this is a group that will be working out here anyway, and I want to be out here when I graduate.”

Daniel Yoo, 28, now in his second year of Kellogg’s MBA program, saw the San Francisco option as a way to try something new. “I saw this as another opportunity that you could take without a more meaningful investment for a while,” he says. “I have always been interested in the operations of a startup, and this was a way to satisfy that itch. It was a low-risk investment to test that out.”

Yoo did his quarter internship with Shift Technologies, a Bay Area startup using the peer-to-peer market to buy and sell used cars. “It’s been really eye-opening to see how hard it is to build a company,” Yoo adds. “The program is very much a pave-your-own-way, choose-your-own adventure. The work is invaluable, and these are the best courses you can take out here. It adds a whole other level of value versus sitting in Evanston reading cases on venture capital.”

  • Gand

    couldn’t agree more … well said ..

  • Brad

    As a recent Kellogg alum, I think this is a step in the right direction.

    Kellogg has an amazing culture and renowned professors. But they have been falling behind other top schools (HSWColBooth) in career opportunities outside of consulting & CPG.

    The school would benefit from hiring business development officers within career services who can help to attract diverse companies to campus. Right now most of the heavy lifting is done by the clubs and its officers.

  • Brad

    This is a step in the right direction by Kellogg.

    Expanding this will really help students recruiting in SF. They need to provide an option like this for banking in NYC, then Kellogg would be unbeatable.

    Kellogg is already the best in marketing/cpg and consulting. They are getting amazingly better at recruiting in tech.

    As a Kellogg grad I can say that their only glaring weak spot is investment banking recruiting. They need to do something about all the banks that used to do OCR recruiting at Kellogg and have stopped now. (UBS, Credit Suisse, Deutsche bank, JP Morgan, Lazard, jefferies, pipar jaffrey, RBC capital markets, BNP Paribas, etc)

    Right now the administration incorrectly assumes that this is entirely attributable to student interest. When 60-70 students join and stay in the IBCM club (indicative of student interest) and only 25-30 receive full time IB offers (verifiable by checking employment report which shows 5.6 percent hired at investment banks), then it shows they need to address this weak spot.

  • craig kensek

    To iterate. Kellogg should have expanded to Silicon Valley years (many) ago. Someone didn’t read their McKinsey study about the advantages of being one of the first to market.

  • Hahaha

    If you are counting only BSchool related startups, >50% in NYC come from Wharton. CBS is nothing

  • elitist

    which planet do u live on??
    Just curious
    70% of startups IN NYC come out Columbia – udnergrad, business school or law school
    Columbia Undergrad just had the lowest admit rate ever – 5.8% , much lower than Yale or Princeton and 1/2 of Penn’s admit rate
    and all the wall street firms, PE firms, Hedge funds are all HQ’d in NYC ( last I checked )

  • NYC guy

    Robust silicon valley alumni base? lol

  • NYC guy

    NYC – Best place for FInance and Consulting
    SF – Best place for Tech.
    NYC – Cool people
    SF – Nerds

  • Hahaha

    So if you go by the math, a school like Berkeley that probably has 20% of the SF market still gets a bigger piece of the pie than if all of Boston went to Harvard. (and it doesn’t, they get a 3rd, another 3rd to MIT and another 3rd for the rest)

    This is the same math that Wharton, Booth and Kellogg is thinking when they set up their VC/Tech operations in the Bay Area. Wharton already has NYC but it does not hurt to get more in SF. Booth has Chicago but it makes sense to be in SF too. Give your students and alums options.

  • Hahaha

    New York and Boston have nothing. They are 3rd and 4th on the list. They might as well be Chicago.

    California accounts for 80% of all VC funding. And San francisco accounts for 80% of California.

    Even LA is bigger than NYC and Boston.

    Having said that, It is Wharton that rules New York VC scene, not Columbia.
    It is Booth that rules Chicago VC scene, not Kellogg.

    UCLA kinda rules LA….

  • worldlyone

    in the new world.. location matters more than curriculum.. its all about the network and ecosystem
    Stanford will always rule SF
    Columbia will always rule NYC
    Harvard will always rule Boston
    SF/NY/Boston have the biggest startup and VC scenes

    wharton/kellogg/booth etct… expanding to SF actually shows how how much they are trying to still be in the game.. sadly wont matter much

  • MBA alum

    In sharp contrast to SranfordOrBooth, I am impressed by Northwestern’s initial San Francisco launch. Kellogg is partnering with McCormick Engineering and Medill Journalism, along with their robust Silicon Valley alumni base, to make it a meaningful experience for their students taking classes and internships in SF/Silicon Valley. For phase one alone, Northwestern has 16,000 sq ft of space on one floor and another 12,000 sq ft on another floor of the former Wells Fargo headquarters building in a very prime location of SF. I am betting that Northwestern will continue to rapidly expand its SF footprint like Wharton did when they expanded their operations in the former Hills Brothers Plaza.
    This is one of the many P&Q articles written on various universities expanding their operations in SF and Silicon Valley. To build a truly strong entrepreneurial program, it does help to have deep ties to engineering and other STEM departments, along with creating some classroom and alumni network experiences in the world’s greatest concentration of disruptive innovators, startups and venture capital. This trend is only going to continue. For example, all the investment banks, major consulting firms and numerous other major MBA employers also have been expanding their SF/Silicon Valley footprint. I look forward to learning more about other universities and employer entrepreneurial initiatives in this region.

  • SranfordOrBooth

    Pale imitation. Direct copy of Wharton’s program, without the nice Wharton facilities. They can’t match Booth in Chicago’s startup scene so they are going for the weaker competition – Wharton in SF. But suffice to say, Bay Area is still Stanford’s bailiwick. And then there is Berkeley.