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How I Made It Onto The Forbes 30 Under 30 List And Why I Chose Stanford’s MBA Program

Martin Aguinis Stanford GSB first-year student

Stanford Graduate School of Business is renowned for its entrepreneurial spirit. Of the 417 graduates within the 2019 graduating class, 15 percent started their own business.

This is partly explained by the fact Stanford GSB offers a wide variety of courses to help students develop their skills in entrepreneurial leadership – with over 60 courses in entrepreneurship and innovation to choose from. In fact, the GSB Entrepreneurship Club is one of the oldest student-run entrepreneur's clubs in the US.

One of these student entrepreneurs is Martin Aguinis, who is currently in the middle of his first semester of Stanford’s MBA program. However, Martin isn’t your usual MBA candidate, as he has already earned a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list earlier this year and also received the Rising Star in Product Marketing award last year, given to just one recipient globally each year.

Taking the plunge for an MBA

Throughout his life, Martin has wanted to innovate at the intersection of business and technology. When he was just six years old, Martin started Perfect Toys, a platform for selling toys online. In college, he got involved in start-ups and helped to create and scale a pre-Uber ride-sharing app called GreekRidethat was used by 1,800 students.

After school, Martin worked at YouTube and then Google – where he led Global Marketing for Flutter bringing it to two million users – inside well-established teams with unlimited resources. However, he told us his heart always remained with start-ups and he was ready to take the next big jump in his career.

So, earlier this year, Martin joined the Stanford GSB MBA program to allow him to keep taking risks and progress further in the start-up space.

Martin co-founded AccessBell with two fellow GSB ’22 classmates Kamil Ali and Josh Payne, which helps build more integrated video software in light of new needs for digital connections.

He said: “This started as a platform to instantly connect people getting furloughed or losing internships at the start of COVID with professionals and eventually expanded to serve other markets such as Telehealth.”

“As we evolved this concept and built out our video conferencing software, we were able to continue finding broader and wider issues to tackle and now also service other use cases like Telemedicine and Sales with multinational clients including TATA.

“Getting the company off the ground took work, but it was a pleasure to do. The important part is to love the journey and those you work with because once you are passionate about what you are doing, everything else starts falling into place.

AccessBell is now backed by several VCs including Pear, Contour Ventures, UChicago Booth, MBA Fund, and Decent Capital.”

The reality of the MBA

Thinking about Stanford’s MBA program, is the MBA experience what Martin expected? He says yes and no.

He said: “There is no travel or large group gatherings, which is different from the ‘normal’ experience. However, I do feel privileged to still be learning, growing, and meeting new people at a time where that is not easy to do.

“I respect and applaud our professors for adapting to the virtual classroom teaching style so quickly. The level of education we are receiving still feels very high.”

Running AccessBell is a full-time job for Martin, meaning his days are filled with constant virtual business meetings, as well as virtual Stanford classes. But Martin admits he’s still able to get outside with his classmates during breaks and weekends.

He said: “Stanford has put outdoor tables with social distance precautions for us which is fantastic to be able to work around other students. It also looks like some of our classes will begin to be hybrid — offering a socially-distant in-person component as well.”

An entrepreneurial mindset

Martin Aguinis Stanford GSB

Martin says he constantly wants to innovate, take risks, make an impact, and work hard – something he spoke about at a panel of students recently – and  admits he’s learned and grown from his various venture.

He said: “GreekRide was a wonderful way to immerse myself in the world of start-ups and build something those around me could use and benefit from.

However, after his initial start-up experience, Martin realized he needed more work experience at established firms, and so he landed roles at YouTube and Google.

He said: “This gave me the chance to gain more foundational skills and knowledge from very intelligent people that I’ve taken with me.

“I see your 20s as a reverse funnel; it’s important to gain broad exposure to various roles and industries and start narrowing it down as you progress in your career.”

Why Stanford?

Martin describes the MBA as a rocket ship for his career – having met lifelong friends and connections who inspire him daily, as well as being able to apply what he's learned about accounting and managerial skills to his start-up.

He said: “Seeing such instant applications and rewards from the fantastic curriculum offered only validates how good of a future investment Stanford’s MBA is.”

He told us Stanford challenges you to take risks and to feel uncomfortable. He said: “You will be surrounded by total rockstars and often feel ‘imposter syndrome,’ but that is the best way to grow.

“I love the quote, ‘If you are the smartest person in the room… go find another room.’ However, that’s never a problem at Stanford GSB.”

Advice for future entrepreneurs

Martin admits you have to be in love with the journey and the iteration process. He says you learn so much from starting your first company, and it becomes easier and easier the second and third time.

He said: “I continue to learn about product/market fit in today’s evolving landscape. Throughout the past two months, we pivoted AccessBell several times, and it’s been interesting to see how these different changes make our product more beneficial and create additional value-add.”

One of Martin’s favorite books, The Lean Start-up, talks about how important it is to build that minimum viable product.

He said: “Essentially, what’s a version of your product that requires little-to-no funding, but that you can start getting feedback on? As long as you can get feedback on the product, you can start iterating and building on it with the end-user in mind. Another great book is called The Mom Test and teaches you how to properly ask the right questions early on in a company’s inception.”

Niamh Ollerton, Deputy Head of Content at QS
Written by Niamh Ollerton

Niamh is Deputy Head of Content at QS (TopMBA.com; topuniversities.com), creating and editing content for an international student audience. Having gained her journalism qualification at the Press Association, London and since written for different international publications, she's now enjoying telling the stories of students, alumni, faculty, entrepreneurs and organizations from across the globe.  

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