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No Experience is Bad Experience

Last week, the Yale SOM Entrepreneurship Club welcomed Uyen Tieu, Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer of Rumble. The first in the club's series of invited speakers, Uyen gave students a candid look into the life of a tech entrepreneur.

In sharing her story, Uyen made many salient points about entrepreneurship, but a few stood out as being particularly valuable for entrepreneurially-minded MBAs: 

  1. No experience is bad experience. Uyen's path to founding a tech startup was anything but ordinary. She began her career in the fashion industry, before working in consulting and eventually moving to the advertising side of the media industry at MTV/Viacom. While at MTV, Uyen earned her executive MBA at Columbia Business School—where she would meet her future Rumble co-founder—and later followed a boss to Microsoft, where she was the head of Global Ad Sales. After some time there, Uyen took a break from the corporate world to think critically about her next career steps. It was during this period, while consulting for startups, that Uyen reconnected with her former CBS classmate about a business idea. Although Uyen describes herself as risk-averse, her experiences up to this point - and the expertise she had accumulated - gave her the confidence to take the leap into entrepreneurship.
  2. Know your market. When Uyen first heard the idea for Rumble, she knew from her time in the advertising industry that the business model would not work. However, Uyen saw the value in the underlying technology—she'd learned how to program as a high school student in Silicon Valley—and knew that it could be used to help media companies generate revenue. It was Uyen's expertise in this area, and her deep understanding of how media companies make money while adapting to new technologies and platforms, that made her an invaluable asset to the Rumble team and ultimately led to the company's pivot.
  3. What got you here won't get you there. According to Uyen, her early and rapid success in the corporate world was due to her ability to communicate her ideas clearly and build internal support for new projects. But in the startup world, the currency of success is actions, not words. Uyen has learned this lesson when recruiting as well — in building her Rumble team, she maintains that the best hires are those who are eager to go out into the world and try things, not necessarily ones with the best resumés.

Uyen's talk reinforced that no two paths to starting a company are the same. For MBAs in particular, it was also a good reminder that no matter what we choose to pursue upon graduation from SOM, entrepreneurship will always be an option, and the opportunity to make the jump may present itself when we are least expecting it.