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ESMT Attracting Top VCs To Berlin

Nitin Maholtra, creator of the ESMT Entrepreneurs Club, is luring Silicon Valley VCs to the German business school

By  Harriet Murdoch

Thu Nov 24 2011


Nitin Malhotra is the creator of the ESMT Entrepreneurs club and has organised many events in Berlin, most notably ‘Disappearing into the Fire: Surviving the Start-up Life’ with his start-up friends, Kevin Dykes and Stefan Wolpers. Hosted by renowned New York VC-turned start-up coach Jerry Colonna, the event saw himself engage with venture capitalists and business founders in Europe.

Nitin, 30, has played a hugely proactive role in organising meetings of ESMT students with the Berlin Entrepreneurial community, associating the business school with the tech world of Germany. Nitin says he wants to develop an ecosystem comparable with the ones found in Silicon Valley and Boston/Cambridge.

Born in Bombay, Nitin played water polo at an international level and saw his athleticism as an opportunity to study at an American college. Nitin was accepted at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst , where he stayed for a year before transferring to Bradley University which had a smaller class size and focused electrical engineering department.

After graduating in 2003, Nitin worked as Project Manager for a wireless start-up in Boston and then moved to Seattle to do software consulting work for Motorola. Having built up a strong network back in the New England region, Nitin returned to Boston to work for Keane, a large IT consulting firm as a Principal Consultant.

After three years at Keane, he worked for a boutique consulting firm, Vitech Systems Group, as Senior Solutions Analyst Consultant, where he integrated business processes with the IT systems. “I started liking the business side. After eight years of professional work experience in the US, I knew I would be a senior analyst wherever I went next. I wanted to take a jump, see what was out there, and challenge myself further.” Nitin jumped over the Atlantic and into ESMT European School of Management Technology.

ESMT appealed as Nitin was not looking for a two year programme which he believed would stunt his professional growth and pursuing the MBA degree was a good opportunity to come to Europe. “I decided to do the MBA at ESMT as I was looking at Germany as one of the superpowers in Europe. ESMT was in line with what I think of myself: entrepreneurial, growing and with the credentials to be the best.”

Nitin’s first impressions of ESMT were great. “The education was on par with and the classroom facilities better than say Yale and Harvard.” There were only 39 MBAs on the course which Nitin says meant you got a one-on-one, personalised approach. “That worked out really well as I could go to the professor at the end of a lecture and clear any remaining doubts. You weren’t just one of 300 or even 700 students.”

Nitin took up the mantle of being president of the entrepreneurial club and having spoken to many people landed himself a three week internship doing strategic marketing for Aupeo!, a Berlin-based start-up. He analysed current user demographic and suggested techniques for strategic new product adoption using social diffusion at a global scale. “It was a good learning experience at looking at how start-ups perform, seeing how they have to deal with many things at the same time.”

The tech editor of Wall Street Journal Europe, Ben Rooney, hosted his Berlin-leg of the “WSJ Europe Tech Tour” at ESMT. Nitin believes that “ESMT can support start-ups to grow strategically and realize scalable opportunities.”

Nitin is highly interested in VC and entrepreneurship and wants to engage business with technical expertise and has built up a strong network of transatlantic VCs who are attracted to Europe. Nitin says that Berlin is an exciting city to be part of, “it is a start-up hub. There is not much industry here and the only way to get ahead is to start your own company, you have to be entrepreneurial.”

As part of an ESMT trip to Silicon Valley last summer, Nitin was in charge of setting up some appointments with Silicon Valley VCs, such as Khosla Ventures, and people closely associated with Stanford, notably Steve Blank. Nitin has been looking out for positions in the VC industry in Europe and America, an industry which is notoriously hard to get into, but which he has his targets set on.

With only ten days until graduation, Nitin has already got a job lined up in IT Strategy for Allianz in Munich, which he landed through the campus placement."The job will give me a chance to think more strategically on issues faced by the large firms and how the entrepreneurial mindset can provide solutions. I want to compare business models and innovation outside with the existing model in the insurance industry.”

The ESMT careers service was very helpful to Nitin in helping provide career coaching. “The MBA was a discovery - who I am, what are my weaknesses and where the opportunities for growth are. The career coaches gave me tools to discover where I wanted to go and how I wanted to market myself. Also, the small school size means if you are willing to bring ideas which have some backing, they will listen, encourage, and provide a supportive framework for you to proceed further.”

Nitin believes that Germany is the best place to live in Europe right now. “If you want to work in start-ups, or be a founder, then Berlin is the place to be as it is cheap, diverse and has growing entrepreneur peer network.” Also, he explains it can be tough to do something brand new as the German culture is of perfection before release to market. This makes it difficult sometimes to be a risk-taker in Germany, but Berlin is different. Whereas in America it is all about what did you learn in your failure, if you fail in Germany then people are dubious, but this is changing there are a lot of people coming from abroad and setting up shop, and eagerness to risk taking is increasing.”

In the near future, Nitin sees himself in Europe but in the long run, would like to return to his roots in Bombay, making the most of the booming Indian economy. Ultimately, he sees himself involved in his own start-ups and in venture capital fund. “I have a good network of VCs that I will stay in touch with, will continue to hold events for the entrepreneurial community, in an effort to build the ecosystem.”