Executive MBA 23 May 2018

Starting a company while studying the UCLA-NUS EMBA

Developed jointly by UCLA Anderson School of Management and NUS Business School, the UCLA – NUS Executive MBA  programme aims to prepare its participants for C-level management in organisations around the world.

Alumnus Brian Samson (Class of 2016) shares how his experience in the programme has brought him the knowledge and success he has today.

Brian (second from left) visiting the Taj Mahal during the UCLA-NUS EMBA course’s India segment with fellow classmates

I’m the Co-Founder & President of True North, a software company with 50 employees focused on building FinTech applications for leading technology companies in the U.S. and Asia. I lead our strategy, finance, operations, and recruitment teams.

When I was enrolled in the UCLA-NUS EMBA programme, I was working as a Human Resources and Talent executive for a series B funded technology company in San Francisco. I was hoping to build my overall business outlook and better understand big picture strategy. Midway through the programme, the company was acquired and this opened the door for my next opportunity.

I immediately began working on the idea for True North with my business partner. We built our pitch deck, met with investors, and secured funding. During the second half of the course, we launched the company and navigated through the early startup phase. The programme came at a fortuitous time, as I learned many relevant subjects at the perfect time.

Negotiation class study group during the India segment

For example, I took corporate finance with Prof Ho Yew Kee around the time we negotiated the valuation with our investor which helped me look out for important areas that I needed to take into account for. Similarly, while working on the management practicum project with talented colleagues such as Stuart McGillivray and Rob Luna, the process taught me how to ask the right questions when discussing scope and deliverables, which I’ve incorporated into the process of working with True North clients.

True North became a global company quite quickly – our investor is based in China, my co-founder and I are based in California, and the majority of our development team is in Buenos Aires. Running a distributed organisation, which is also multi-lingual definitely has some challenges! However, we have learned how to better communicate internally and ensure we are all on the same page. Interacting with other course participants and working in several study groups who were from across Asia and the U.S. was helpful in my understanding and approach to navigating various time zones and cultures while working on a shared vision.

Sushi dinner during the LA segment with classmates Maresuke and Rob

As course modules were held in six different cities where participants could fly in for the sessions from anywhere in the world, I really enjoyed the informal outings like the dinners held in the LA and Singapore segments. My classmates were fantastic and had so many interesting perspectives and stories from their own experiences, which helped me better approach business challenges. This gave us a chance to bond and laugh without the pressures of coursework.

Personally, I feel the programme was awesome, in that it gave me the confidence to take the leap and run an entire business, rather than a single function. I would definitely recommend it, especially if you are looking to make the leap from manager/director level to the C-suite. The networking has been fantastic, I’ve had several calls with classmates in the past year discussing possible business ventures and hosted several others for dinners when they’ve visited.

A night out after completing the Shanghai segment coursework

For more information on the UCLA-NUS EMBA programme, please visit http://ucla.nus.edu/.