2016 MBAs To Watch: Alex Wesley, Rice University (Jones)

Alex Wesley-Rice-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Alex Wesley


Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business

Age: 27

Hometown: Allentown, PA

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Rochester, B.S. and M.S. Optics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Zygo, product manager, optical engineering firm

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? OwlSpark, Rice University’s startup accelerator

Where will you be working after graduation? Arovia, President. Arovia gives you the freedom to have a large display wherever you want it. Our first product is SPUD, the spontaneous pop-up display which is a high resolution, 24” display that collapses just like a small umbrella to the size of an Apple TV.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: President of the Entrepreneurship Club

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am the first person from the MBA program (maybe any MBA) to be admitted to the National Science Foundation Accelerator, I-Corps, where I earned a $50,000 grant which has enabled us to continue to bootstrap our business.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It is forming the first company to market a collapsible display.

Who is your favorite professor? Al Danto. He got me involved in the entrepreneurship community here. Helped start me on the path I’m on. That’s a hard decision. There are a lot of great professors here.

Favorite MBA Courses? I went on the Ignite Trek, which was great. Al Danto’s New Enterprise class, Utpal Dholakia’s Pricing class, Connie Porter’s Customer Relationship Management class.

Why did you choose this business school? For their great reputation in entrepreneurship. I wanted to live in Texas, Houston specifically. Also, Rice gave me a scholarship.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The entrepreneurship part. OwlSpark was a great resource for me, especially as an alternative to an internship. It’s a no-brainer to be able to work on what I wanted to do. It’s helped me significantly.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? It relates back to entrepreneurship. The people who succeed are the people who aren’t afraid to fail. If you remove the fear of failure and you’re comfortable with what the consequences are … it’s empowered me to do what I do now.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? You get this impression that a lot of MBAs are doing jobs that are like joining the rat race. With Rice, people think beyond that. They are very supportive of each other. My classmates are so supportive of what I’m doing. I feel really lucky to have that.

What was the hardest part of business school? Having the conversation with myself: Do I actually want to be an entrepreneur? It’s difficult to do the thing other people aren’t doing. Owlspark was the right thing for me to do and business school gives you two years to figure out what matters to you.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? If you just want to get a job in finance or investment banking, it might not be the right place for you. But if you want to go into oil and gas, entrepreneurship, health care, you have the chance to be in the top of your field at Rice.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when… when I got the offer from Rice.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… doing product management.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s right-hand man.

What are your long-term professional goals? To continue to grow our business. I really love what I’m doing right now. I can’t imagine doing anything else. But I also want to be learning something new every day. Maybe also space exploration and longevity research one day.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Family. My Uncle Jim Shrawder. He was an entrepreneur when I was growing up and I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. He started his own furniture company and owns the high-end furniture market in the Washington, DC and Philadelphia metropolitan areas. He was a real role model.

Fun fact about yourself: I lived in China for a summer and ended up in an ER in Shenzen from a bad sunburn.

Favorite book: The Happiness Hypothesis

Favorite movie: Gladiator

Favorite musical performer: Beethoven or Armin Van Buuren

Favorite television show: “Breaking Bad”

Favorite vacation spot: Cruises, any cruise

Hobbies? I was a table tennis champion. Four years straight I won the local amateur ping-pong tournament. No one in the MBA program or OwlSpark could beat me. I won the tournament. Also tennis. And I read a lot.

What made Alex such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Alex’s deep area expertise in optics, coupled with his ability to creatively engage with the resources in his environment and to put ideas to practice, is part of what sets him apart as a student.”

Abby Larson

Director of Lui Idea Lab for Innovation and Entrepreneurship 

Rice University




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