Rio Center Stories: Manoj Pooleery, Columbia Business School

June 30, 2017
Professor Manoj Pooleery smiles to the camera.

Manoj Pooleery is one of the instructors of Columbia Business School’s Venture for All® (VFA) program. He is also the Founder and CEO of M-Phi Innovators, a specialized technology services company that provides full range of innovation services to businesses. He provides end-to-end technology and business strategy definition and implementation to both startups and established businesses. He has helped many companies get started, out of the Columbia Business School as well as outside. In June 2017, he spent a week in São Paulo teaching a one-week VFA course to Brazilian students.


How was the Venture for All® program created?

Venture for All® program was created to enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world. Quality education especially around entrepreneurship has been restricted to the select few who could afford it at the Ivy League schools. The program was founded to take the quality entrepreneurship education to emerging and frontier markets around the world.


Why bring Venture for All® to Brazil?

The program has been very successful in Africa, South Asia and Middle Eastern countries. We have been looking to expand the program to other areas of the world, especially the Americas. Brazil is at the forefront of the emerging markets in the region. With a young population amounting to 16.9% of the total population and an economy that is going through an interesting and intense growth phase, the situation is ripe for a disruption in terms of entrepreneurship. Small business alone account for about two thirds of private sector job creation. In addition, it is artificially devoid of international competition.  More than anything else, crisis creates opportunity. As such, it is the correct time to bring the Venture for All programs to Brazil, who could benefit greatly from a structured, world class approach to entrepreneurship.


How was teaching to Brazilian students?

It was exciting to teach the Brazilian students. A good mixture of high school and college age students, varying in backgrounds, gender, ethnicity and capabilities, it proved to be an excellent experience. The presence of a Lemann fellow from a completely different background added a unique element to the overall experience. They had ventures ranging from a noble not-for-profit that was helping connect those who wanted to give, to those who needed it, to a direct-to-home gourmet delicacy business, to a brand-new battery for electric vehicles and many more exciting ones. Each team got into the competitive spirit throughout the class, providing constructive feedback to their peers. The final pitch session was exciting and intense, with a very sweet ending as the direct-to-home gourmet delicacy venture - aptly named Sampa Sweets, brought their “minimum viable product” - some excellent chocolates and pastries, which the judges and audience enjoyed and appreciated thoroughly. As each team had put in excellent efforts, the judges had a tough time deciding the winners. Overall, it was one of the best classes taught throughout the VFA programs.


How do you think we can enhance the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Brazil?

There is a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in Brazil. In order to be perceived as the purveyor of quality entrepreneurship education and training in that ecosystem, Global Centers and VFA needs to be connected well to it. For this, first, be visible in all the related activities. The suggestion is to use an entrepreneurial approach. The first strategy is the get-keep-grow one.

  •  Get:
    • Identify the segments to go after - additional private schools like Beit Yakoov, international schools like American School of Rio de Janeiro etc.
    • Partner with professional organizations that need entrepreneurial education/training - banks like Santander, Safra, Itaú, Banco do Brasil etc.
    • Partner with startup accelerators like Papaya Ventures, Tree Labs, Programa Locaweb Startup etc.


  • Keep:
    • For the class that has concluded, reach out to the students individually, obtain testimonials, make a few key ones “brand ambassadors” - each student from the top three ventures can be used for initial enquiries. Get these on video, which can then be put on the website/social media channels. Make sure that the Rio Center follows the CBS VFA social channels and share them on their own.


  • Grow:
    • This is where the parents of the students who have completed the course come into picture.  Identify all those who came to the final pitch session as that shows that they are heavily invested.  From the looks of it, most, if not all, of them left with a good impression.  Use them as recruiting channels.  Ask them for references - each one should be able to bring at least two more references. 


How can Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro help develop entrepreneurial practices locally?

Plug in to the Columbia Alumni circle, identify influential entrepreneurs and senior executives, facilitate information sessions between potential students and these groups, reinforce our education offerings.


What are the brands you like the most when it comes to entrepreneurial practices? Why?

Google - Irrespective of their octopus like grip on all the information that gets disseminated online, Google still keeps proving themselves at the forefront of entrepreneurship. Almost all of their product lines have come from efforts of their own employees, the freedom that has been given to them to really think out of the box and come up with new ideas. The prime example is the current CEO Sundar Pichai.  The whole Chrome eco system started out as his brain child and currently it has the biggest footprint on the web. Google employees get about 15% of their time to pursue their own interests, be it related to Google or elsewhere.

Microsoft - By historical trends, this company should have been history(!) by now.  The onslaught of new companies like Google, Facebook and even Amazon has all but ensured that established giants like IBM, Oracle and Microsoft included got pushed onto the sidelines. However, despite all the setbacks, it has continued to innovate and set itself apart.  It got late into the game of Cloud computing, but with its Azure offerings, the Augmented Reality kit - Microsoft Hololens and many others, it has managed to make a comeback and has remained quite competitive.