An Interview with IBD Project Client Ross McConnell (MBA ‘04)
Working with Berkeley Haas alumni is always a privilege for an IBD team, especially when the project client is a passionate entrepreneur and co-founder of a New Zealand startup known as Blinder Ltd. In the spring semester 2020 IBD course, FTMBA teammates Victor Gorrachategui, Daniel Alston, Eduardo Guraieb, Donald Huan, and Max Silva had the pleasure of collaborating with Ross McConnell, Blinder CEO and MBA’ 04, to work on a strategic consulting project. IBD interviewed Ross recently to learn about his experience engaging with the IBD program, including his student team and the project’s faculty mentor.
“It’s been amazing getting to work directly with a Haas alumnus on his startup. I’ve learned how to better engage directly with a client and think on my feet to manage expectations.” Max Silva, IBD team member
Blinder Ltd. was established in 2016 as a SaaS platform solution that offers professional sports teams and players the ability to share voice or video calls on their mobile phones without sharing personal contact details. The Blinder solution is used currently by World and Olympic champions (including the US Women’s Soccer Team), Grammy Award winners, and sports teams in organizations ranging from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to the English Premier League (EPL).
What follows is our interview with Ross McConnell about this year’s IBD project with Blinder, and what it was like to work with an IBD student team during the challenges of COVID-19.
IBD Interviewer: Why did you decide to partner on a consulting project with the IBD program this year? What did you hope to get out of the experience?
Ross McConnell: We were in the process of bringing a new product to market (Blinder Video – a remote video interview platform developed for content producers and media organizations) when we committed to the IBD project, and knew that we’d benefit from the focussed insights that a team of five MBA consultants (and their faculty supervisor) could generate for our business during the project.
IBD Interviewer Can you share what you asked the IBD team to work on? Were the project goals or objectives met? Do you plan to implement the IBD team’s recommendations?
Ross McConnell: The “problem” we asked the IBD team to focus on was how to best commercialize Blinder Video over time. We’re a typical SaaS subscription model, but felt there was significant scope for business model innovation that would help us to capture greater value from customers that are using our platform.
The project goals and objectives were definitely met, but I knew from previous experience with IBD projects that the initial project scoping phase is crucial for project success, and that clients need to be realistic during this scoping stage about how much ground can be covered during the project timeframe (further exacerbated by COVID-19 this year, which prevented the consulting team from spending the final three weeks with us in-market).
We have already implemented several of the project team’s recommendations.
IBD Interviewer: You have strongly supported earlier IBD projects in New Zealand in the past. What was it like to participate this year for the first time as a client sponsor of an IBD project?
Ross McConnell: I was effectively the client sponsor for a previous project (albeit several years ago), but this was the first time I had experienced the new project structure – working with a project Team Leader (Victor) and a dedicated project scope definition stage. These changes have delivered great improvements to the overall management of the consulting projects.
IBD Interviewer: What was your experience in working with this year’s IBD team after the onset of COVID-19 mandated a remote delivery of the IBD project deliverables? Were you able to work well with your IBD team to reach your project’s conclusions?
Ross McConnell: First off I was mostly disappointed for the team, who started the project thinking they would get to visit th “world’s best IBD destination”. The I was just hugely impressed with how the team put that disappointment behind them and got on with delivering a great project for their client. Losing three weeks of full time effort with the team in New Zealand obviously required a significant reduction in the scope of the project – but this process was well managed by our project leader and faculty adviser, and we were able to work well with the team to reach the conclusion. I think we’ve all got better at working with remote teams since the start of the pandemic!
IBD Interviewer: Would you recommend the IBD consulting experience to other project clients? Speaking as a Berkeley Haas MBA alumnus, would you recommend the IBD course to our MBA students?
Ross McConnell: I would definitely recommend it to other clients; and for any MBA student who’s considering a career in consulting or entrepreneurship, this program provides you with direct experience solving real business problems (and the opportunity to make sales if you’re super motivated 😉
We want to thank Ross for making a difference this year in the IBD program — and for issuing a standing invitation to his IBD student team to visit him in New Zealand in the future!