Alumni Profile: Dominic Blank, MBA 2012

Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Strategy

Pre-Degree Industry/Field of Work: IT & Telecommunications

Post-Degree Industry/Field of Work: Information Technology & Services

Undergraduate Degree: Business Administration

Undergraduate Institution: Berlin School of Economics and Law

Current Employer: savvo digital sommelier solutions LLC

Why did you return to school to obtain your Graduate Business Degree?

I worked for Siemens AG, which is a very large corporation with almost half a million employees worldwide. While I learned from very capable and experienced people, I just couldn't see myself climbing the corporate ladder for years and years. Rather, I felt an entrepreneurial urge that I wanted to pursue.

Why did you choose UIC Liautaud?

The only MBA I was truly interested in was one with an entrepreneurship focus. I deemed this to be the single best way to surround myself with like-minded people to provide mutual inspiration. At the time, UIC Liautaud was among the 20 best entrepreneurship programs, and the Tech Ventures program especially caught my attention. The latter, as well as UIC's location in a great urban setting, were the primary reasons to choose Liautaud.

What has been the most unexpected gain resulting from your Liautaud degree?

I came with the objective to do "something entrepreneurial." I certainly didn't expect to start a medical device company commercialization university IP. Even less so did I expect to meet people with whom I would start another venture after business school. Well, both things actually happened.

How has your Liautaud experience influenced your career to date?

My Liautaud experience hasn't just "influenced" my career, it has profoundly impacted it. Based on my time at UIC Liautaud, I went from a corporate and very narrowly defined setting to an entrepreneurial and broadly complex environment. My industry focus shifted from Telecomm to healthcare and now, with my most recent venture (savvo), marketing and advertising.

Which course or professor was your favorite and why?

Anyone I have talked to could probably answer this question for my favorite course on my behalf: The Technology Ventures Program. People who need structure and guidance won't like this course. Those who have the drive, discipline, and persistence to "go out and do something" while needing the resources offered by a leading research university will consider it highly valuable. "What you get out of it is whatever you put into it"; this statement very much applies to Tech Ventures. It can be a real world experience with world class learning if you make it that.
I also had two favorite professors while at Liautaud: Shelly Brickson and Jelena Spanjol. Both are extremely knowledgable and passionate while pursing strong methodical approaches that ensure sustainable learning.

What was your favorite aspect of the UIC Liautaud program?

Two courses: Tech Ventures and Interdisciplinary Product Development. It's almost absurd to what great degree both have been relevant to where I am today. In Tech Ventures, we had to develop a business around a product. For IPD, we had to develop a product for a business. I am hugely drawing from learnings acquired through both programs. IPD, for instance, taught research and customer validation techniques that go hand in hand with the "lean methodologies" that we applied at savvo.

How would you define the Liautaud student?

Hard-working, disciplined, well grounded, and aspirational. I had classes with people who had full time jobs, wife and kids, roles in student organizations, etc. That's something that really impressed me.

Now that you've graduated, what advice do you have for current or prospective UIC Liautaud students?

Going into the program, have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it. With that in mind, constantly put yourself out there: repeatedly put yourself into positions / environments that allow you to do / get to what you want to do. Also, use business school as a great opportunity to test new things. It may be one of the chances for you to do that (without hesitations).

Is there anything else that you’d like to share with the UIC Liautaud community?

After graduating in May, I joined a healthcare IT startup called ViMedicus. The company was founded by a venture capitalist who saw us compete at C2V (talk about good things happening from"putting yourself out there"). Along with one of the cofounders at NovoView, I cofounded savvo, a company driving wine sales in grocery stores by matching consumers with the right bottle of wine for them; via touch screen decision making guides deployed directly in the wine aisle. We went through the Chicago Lean Startup Challenge in summer 2012 and from over 100 teams that initially started, we made the final four. We recently recruited a technical cofounder and our first three (paying) demo stores.

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