Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Mike Wise, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Mike Wise

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

“A food and agriculture investor looking for a taste of the entrepreneurial experience.”

Hometown: Hinsdale, IL (Chicago most recently before Kellogg)

Fun Fact About Yourself: I attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in New Zealand for 3 months between undergrad and work.

Undergraduate School and Major: Princeton University, Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Seed 2 Growth (S2G) Ventures, Investment Associate

In this role, I conducted company and market due diligence, deal execution, portfolio company support, and internal reporting for a leading mission-driven food and agriculture venture capital firm, making investments across the food supply chain and company stages (seed round to growth equity). S2G’s portfolio includes companies such as Beyond Meat, Sweetgreen, Apeel Sciences, Ripple, Good Eggs, AppHarvest, and Benson Hill.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? There were many aspects of Kellogg’s programming that were attractive, especially in the areas of entrepreneurship and finance. For entrepreneurship, Kellogg has developed an extensive entrepreneurship pathway focused on early and growth-stage company development.

For finance, Kellogg has initiated a Finance Fellows program for those who have demonstrated interest in making an impact in the finance industry – of which I am in the inaugural class. Kellogg’s interest in developing future finance leaders was a significant driver from a programming standpoint, as this aligns with my medium and long-term interest in venture capital and growth equity.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Spirited. I am continually impressed by the energy, enthusiasm, and determination of my peers. I think this is reflective of the Kellogg culture and certainly rings true in and outside of the classroom.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am most excited about Kellogg’s Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital (EVC) Club – this is a community for learning and application of all things entrepreneurial and investing. Over the past few years, interest in entrepreneurship and VC has grown significantly among students and, with this, so has the EVC platform; I am hoping to get more involved – to learn from others’ experiences and share my own.

Kellogg is often described as “team-driven.” In your experience, what is the most important quality of a team member? How do you intend to bring that into Kellogg? To me, the most important quality of a team member is empowerment of others. This goes beyond constructive discussion or sharing in praise when things go well. Empowerment means providing autonomy to team members, deferring to their expertise, amplifying that expertise and thinking, and providing everyone with the tools to feel included and successful. I have had past colleagues and managers who I feel have done a particularly good job at this in a work context and hope that I can develop a similar style over the years to come.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Executing a few deals that have subsequently led to big company commercial milestones or kept a company alive to rebrand and grow. Many of the deals I’ve been a part of are allowing entrepreneurs to drive significant positive change within food and agriculture.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Beyond the obvious reasons (e.g., rounding out business education, developing network, graduating from a top program), I wanted the opportunity and support network to explore different startup ideas and gain early-stage operating experience (either by founding a startup or working at one). I have been interested in entrepreneurship for a while now – moving from innovation consulting with F500 companies to investing in early and venture-stage founders.

This is an opportunity to apply some of that experience while working with faculty, students, and others in the Kellogg network. I think this will make me a better investor and businessperson now and in the long-term.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford, Harvard

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? What is the biggest challenge you expect to face at Kellogg? This was a question posed during my Kellogg alumni interview. I felt this question – while unexpected – opened up the conversation and gave me an opportunity to get perspective from the interviewer.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The main factors for me were the quality of academics and faculty, the culture, and the location. To evaluate the former and understand the experience at a high-level, I attended school info sessions, reviewed sites such as Poets&Quants, and looked at potential courses of interest for each school. For example, I sat in on a strategy case discussion at Kellogg’s Global Hub last fall and reached out to several Kellogg Innovation and Entrepreneurship (KIEI) faculty members for coffee chats; these discussions were invaluable in understanding the path I could take at Kellogg and demonstrated the engagement of the faculty. To better understand culture, I also spoke with several current or former students about their respective experiences.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? When I began at S2G Ventures, the investment team was beginning to explore the aquaculture space as an area for potential investment. As we did so, I was ‘thrown into the deep end’ as a representative of S2G at the InvestAqua conference in Utrecht, Netherlands. This led to working sessions with industry experts, co-development of an aquaculture market report, and, as recently announced, a new $100m fund at S2G, dedicated to aquaculture.

The entire process instilled two beliefs that have prepared me for business school:

1. As a novice in a room full of aquaculture experts, there is tremendous value in having a broad business skillset and using that language to understand and build on the ideas of others. To me, this validated the breadth of a business school education (e.g., being able to communicate across marketing, strategy, accounting).

2. There is growing interest in the ability to ‘do well by doing good’ within business. Innovation that promotes greater sustainability, health, education, and equity is an increasingly market-driven proposition. MBA programs are a growing pipeline for those interested in driving this change, and this is something I want to be a part of.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I wouldn’t say I have a favorite, but two notable companies I think are interesting right now are Tractor Supply and Ferrero. I list Tractor Supply because I think it’s an interesting recent case of e-commerce and omni-channel leadership entering less digitalized sectors. I added Ferrero because of its work to become a leader in responsible sourcing of palm oil – which speaks to a broader focus of integration of ESG into business performance evaluation and also the work still to be done to improve sustainability across the board.

DON’T MISS: MEET NORTHWESTERN KELLOGG’S MBA CLASS OF 2022

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