Starting up and Standing up: Brian Sterz launches Accessible Capital Partners

How big do you want your life to be? How much risk are you willing to take? How many partnerships and alliances can you build? Will you be true to yourself along the way?

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Brian Sterz ’14, CEO and Founder of Accessible Capital Partners

I’ve been working on this profile of Brian Sterz ’14, CEO and Founder of Accessible Capital Partners for a month now–with great anticipation–because Brian is leveraging his FEMBA degree to build a bold new chapter of his career and life.

Brian just graduated FEMBA and he’s launched his own company, Accessible Capital Partners. He was an extremely involved student leader during FEMBA, serving on the Executive Board of FEMBA Council and actively participating in ASAM (Anderson Student Asset Management).

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The 2013-2014 FEMBA Council Executive Board, Brian is second from left.

Dylan: Brian, let’s start with your professional journey, then we’ll hear about the personal transformation you’re undergoing.

Brian: For sure Dylan.

I entered Anderson armed with my professional experience and my Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation ready to learn how to start and run an effective asset management company.  During FEMBA, I further honed my financial skill set, augmented with a summer internship in investment banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Los Angeles.

I challenged myself, I really got out of my wheelhouse, with marketing, operations, and negotiations courses, and others, such as Data Analytics with R with Professor Rossi and Strategy with Professor Rummelt, that rounded out my capabilities.  These courses, along with daily interactions with my entrepreneurial FEMBA classmates, are what emboldened me to venture out to launch on my own firm.  Investing has always been my passion and I needed the education and experience that I gained at UCLA Anderson to make this entrepreneurial leap.

I learned to better manage an organization with my two years on FEMBA Council.

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FEMBApalooza, hanging out. Brian Sterz ’14, Gonzalo Freixes (Faculty), and Mike Walden ’14.

Dylan: Love it! Now tells them what happened after FEMBA.

Brian: After completing my UCLA Anderson FEMBA education, and having effectively completed a career transition, I decided to take the entrepreneurial leap in starting Accessible Capital Partners, a bridge lending fund based in Los Angeles.  Having seen the investment management industry from several perspectives during my career prior to Anderson, including experience on the derivatives trading floor in San Francisco, at Callan Associates where I was part of a team that advised public pension funds on their fixed income investments, and later as a member of the investment committee at a local Registered Investment Advisor called EP Wealth Advisors, I knew that I wanted to open my own fund after business school.

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Stephen Shar 14, Brian Sterz, Brandon Flora 14, Jennifer Chiang 14, and Freddy Wolfe 14, Brian’s  Global Access Program teammates, Team ‘Drink Cup,” December 2013.

Dylan: What components of FEMBA supported you to take the leap?

Brian: My experience with the Ziman Center for Real Estate, and particularly the passionate instruction of Eric Sussman and Paul Habibi, led me to combine my prior experience in fixed income with real estate to create Accessible Capital Partners.

My interest in real estate began during the heart of the global financial crisis in 2008, when real estate prices experienced their nearly unprecedented decline.  During that year, I began the process of getting my real estate broker’s license in an attempt to take advantage of these prices that would undoubtedly prove to be bargains in future years.  As Southern California has recovered from the crisis, though lessons-learned remain squarely in mind, conservatively-underwritten bridge financing appears to be an attractive route to pursue.

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Looks pretty calm after taking the leap to create his own company. Brian Sterz ’14.

Dylan: Great Brian. Now, let’s shift a little bit to the personal. One of the things that’s impressed me about you is the friendships you’ve cultivated here, and your student involvement. (For my readers, it was Brian who collected all the testimonials that comprised the Doug Longo ’14 tribute blog post back in March.)

Brian: For sure. I was friends with Doug Longo through classes, ASAM and FEMBA Council. Also in ASAM with us was Ryan Hughes, who has also created his own company since FEMBA.

Ryan and I, during school and before we each created our own companies, we actually sent a lot of business each others’ way. Another example of FEMBA helping your career immediately, during school.

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Brian on-stage at the Hollywood Improv on September 21, 2014. “I wanted to put myself out there,” says Brian Sterz. His third show will be November 5, 2014.

Dylan: And what’s this about Improv? Tell them about that.

Brian: Well this is a big deal for me, taking the leap and starting my own company. I knew that it was going to take a lot of persistence and boldness on my part.

I wanted to put myself out there. I love public speaking, but wanted to get better at it. I signed up for an improv class because I knew it would force me to grow. We met four times and at the end we each got a 5 minute slot in front of a real audience at the Hollywood Improv.

I did that set at the Improv. There’s this whole comedy community in LA, and a guy in the crowd came up to me afterwards and he then got me booked The Comedy Store. I’ve already done the second show, and my next performance is November 5th! I’m doing it again! I post invitations on my Facebook page.

Dylan: Which was scarier, Improv or your GAP Final Presentation?

Brian:  Ha! No comment!

Tell you what. Really what’s scariest is starting my own company. I’ve gone from having safe, comfortable, high-paying jobs to starting from scratch. While I’m getting started, I’m doing things like driving for LYFT and renting my apartment on airbnb to bride the gap. This isn’t all roses. I’m pretty sure it’s a very small percentage of b-school grads who are driving for LYFT. But I’m OK with that. The point is I’m doing what it takes to get my business profitable and successful.

Dylan: I love it. Thanks for the reality check. Anything else?

Brian: Well I’m a start-up, so I just have to put in one more pitch for my firm.

Accessible Capital Partners seeks to provide debt capital to real estate entrepreneurs and developers who require timely and flexible capital which traditional banks simply cannot provide in today’s environment.  The fund seeks to conservatively underwrite loans and partner with borrowers to create mutually beneficial long-term relationships.  In this way, the fund can provide sustainable, risk-adjusted returns for its investors.  As technology changes the face of real estate investing, the fund will seek to leverage crowd sourcing platforms to both raise and deploy capital efficiently and effectively.  Currently, we’re seeking investment partners.

The Anderson Alumni community has already been so supportive of this effort and I look forward to partnering with our esteemed colleagues for many years to come! Interested persons, please reach out to me via LinkedIn.

Me, a life-long learner too

I’m in my third straight day of class: Saturday, Sunday and Monday. This weekend, the Wisdom Unlimited Course, and today, day one of the Executive MBA Council Conference. Both conferences are talking about the power of education, the power of language.

Here are some random quotes I’ve heard the last 72 hours that are inspiring to me. They all live in the context of education, purpose and living a life with passion.

  • “Face-to-Face” is our core competence (especially education in US)
  • Can I talk about anything, with anyone, anywhere, at anytime?
    If not, why? Why can’t I just listen and give someone the experience of being heard?
  • When raising kids, what if the goal of education was to raise fully functioning, self-determining people? Would that change how I approach my children’s education?
  • The Best Three Things about America (one presenter’s idea)
    1. Our Constitution
    2. Higher Education
    3. Blue Jeans
  • Learning is like loving. It is a very personal thing. There’s no such thing “intellectual engagement” in isolation.
  • Why do people go to university sports games, but sometimes find classes ‘boring’? Maybe it’s because the outcome in sports is unknown, but too often classrooms become predictable.
  • Leo Burke gave a keynote that highlighted Notre Dame’s “Integral Leadership Institute” which sounds like a great program, “Look inward to Move the Organization Forward.”
  • Monica Sharma, MD, talked about the Global Leader of Tomorrow, who will have an appreciation for Context, Complexity and Connectedness.
  • Leo Burke also talked about Elinor Ostrom (from UCLA, even though he didn’t mention that) the first and only woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics. He explained how she provided new thinking to the idea of the Commons. This past weekend, there too we were looking at what is possible for humanity in the social commons, when resources flow between people.
  • Finally, Leo was speaking about five great pillars that support civilization, and the interplay between the five: food, water, energy, climate and population

Going to have to leave this conference in 15 minutes to make it back to campus to pick up my child. Been an enriching three days. Can’t wait for tomorrow.

 

 

Admissions 101

Want the inside view on how we make our admission decisions? Want some practice with your pitch and polishing your resume? Several times a year, we host “Admissions 101″ where I attempt to distill some useful perspectives based on my 12 years being accountable for FEMBA admissions. Monday, October 13, 2014, we had our first Admissions 101 session for 2014-2015. If you like what you see, please sign up for one of our future Admissions 101 events.

Or

Watch the October 13, 2014 “Admissions 101″

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Sunday Breakfast with the Flexers

Sunday morning I joined the FLEX breakfast (along with my seven-year-old who happily ate bagels and watched the iPad) to witness the launch-weekend atmosphere of FLEX. I also gathered a few great perspectives from FLEXers to share with you.

20141015 Karen Shang 17Karen Shang ’17.  Karen a brand new FEMBA and the mother of a three-year-old and a one-year-old. Karen works in accounting/finance and was actually admitted last year, but postponed to be with her second child.

Regarding adding UCLA to her already full life, she told me, “While everyday life with work and kids could be exhausting and even draining at times, being a part of such a dynamic learning environment re-energizes me… this is my space where I feel replenished and stimulated intellectually…Believe it or not, I’m working on starting a LinkedIn profile. I’ve always been so wrapped up in my jobs that I never really invested any time in networking, but I definitely plan to take on the opportunity to network extensively here at UCLA, especially with the intent of transitioning into the education consulting sector within the area of finance/accounting.

20141014 Ola Dokun 17Ola Dokun ’17 is an IT Process Delivery Specialist at The Walt Disney Company. UCLA Anderson will be her second master’s degree. We talked about the crazy ramp-up that the first quarter of FEMBA requires.

Ola told me, “I would say if you are going to do the Femba program you probably will have a lot of constraints with time and structure around work and personal life. Flex gives you that added Femba bonus to pick and choose what time and pace to learn anywhere you want with deadlines of course that prevents procrastinating and creates discipline. There is an assumption that the Flex section is for people who don’t live in the LA area but a handful of us live only a couple of miles from UCLA so we still get to benefit from attending the extra curricular events weekly. I love the schedule!”

20141014 Rebecca Stolz 16Rebecca Stolz ’16 is Assistant to the President of Occidental College. She was in all-day Saturday for her first year of FEMBA, but has moved into the FLEX section because her five-year-old daughter Grete has begun school and it works better for her family and work to use the FLEX format for classes. Later Rebecca sent me these photos of Grete. Look how many FEMBA events Grete’s attended with Mommy!

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Grete, Rebecca’s daughter, with Katie Kroeger-Davis ’16 at FEMBApalooza 2014, with matching butterfly face paintings.

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Grete with Mommy’s friend Nancy Yao ’16, in the bounce house at FEMBA Section Wars

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Grete, running in the light blue outfit, inspecting Mommy and her FEMBA classmates at Section Wars, 2014

20141014 Anthony Patterson 16Anthony Patterson ’16 is a Senior Associate at Revel Consulting. Anthony commutes from Seattle and he explained the value to me, “FEMBA FLEX has been a great experience that I didn’t discover during my initial search for an MBA program. Not being sure if I wanted to stay in Seattle long-term, I wanted an MBA with a more global brand, but wasn’t ready to move my life across the country. FLEX offers the same experience and instruction as other programs, but allows for flexibility to maintain consistency in my life week-to-week. I find myself looking forward to flying to So-Cal once a month to get some sun and learn with my classmates.

It’s a great way to immerse yourself in an MBA, but on focused weekends instead of each week. Many of us look forward to our sunny weekends in Westwood!

20141014 Vinay Kondapi 16Vinay Kondapi ’16 is a Product Manager at Impinj. Vinay, along with Anthony, is also commuting from Seattle down to UCLA and for him joining FEMBA turned out to be great accelerator for his career.

“Dylan, it’s already happened for me!” Vinay told me Sunday. “I wanted to switch out of engineering and into product management and it’s already happened, within 3 months of joining FEMBA. Immediately after getting admitted to UCLA Anderson, I attended a career seminar for FEMBA students and quickly learnt that I don’t need to wait until I complete my MBA to switch into product management.

UCLA Anderson’s brand name is well recognized in the industry and the fact that I am admitted into business school served as a proof that I am serious about my career switch and got me interviews for product management positions. FEMBA Career coaches -Gordon Hill & Susan Cowell– helped me understand my career choices, position and switch into product management career. In hindsight, joining FEMBA turned out to be a key decision which accelerated my career.”

I felt like a proud father, hearing about Vinay’s success. He also emailed me a photo he prizes, from the Ropes Course of Leadership Foundations.

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Vinaky Kondapi ’16 during Leadership Foundations last year. Vinay’s already made a successful career leap, during FEMBA, with support from Gordon Hill and Susan Cowell in Career Services.

20141014 Fang Fang 16Rachel Fang Fang ’16 is Owner and CEO of CN Winners, Inc.

Bonus interview! Rachel isn’t in Flex, but she happened to be on-campus to study and I got to speak to her too. Rachel is a successful entrepreneur already and she’s got several “what’s next” ideas percolating. I love talking to serial entrepreneurs. It’s always inspiring and stimulating, the way they’re always focused on the future, and making things happen. She also told me about a classmate who just got married: Congratulations Jordan!

My final breakfast conversation was with the one-and-only George Ingersoll ’09, Director of Hybrid Learning Initiatives at UCLA Anderson School of Management.  George earned his UCLA Anderson MBA back in 2009, and now is in our PhD program while he simultaneously works as the Director of Hybrid Learning. George has been instrumental in launching FLEX and improving it. FLEX wouldn’t be half as great as it is without George.

20141014 George Ingersoll and Rebecca Stolz at Flex breakfast

George Ingersoll ’09 and Rebecca Stolz ’16, at the FLEX breakfast on Sunday.

That’s it for me from Sunday morning with the FLEXers. My son Jackson loved his yummy breakfast at Daddy’s work, plus his iPad time. We scooted out of there and were able to catch up to Mommy at church. Life at the speed of FEMBA!

Failing is just another word for growing

Ahh…Friday afternoon. The day before Saturday classes if you’re a UCLA FEMBA. The day before Texas A&M faces another Mississippi team if you’re me, and time for a Friday Footnote!

I’ve committed myself to no longer have email be an albatross around my neck, but rather to ‘go with it’ and open all of ‘em.

In that spirit, as I ‘went with it’ this week and was reading all my unopened emails, I came across an incredible note from a favorite alumna, Amy Cheng-Tran ’13, Director, Strategic Partnerships, enso. Amy wrote me over a month ago to update me on an inspiring campaign they were launching for Khan Academy. Their launch film, see below, has 1,485,465 views in six weeks.

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Amy Cheng-Tran ’13, from the enso website http://www.helloenso.com/we-are-enso/

Hi Dylan,

Hope you are doing very well. Can’t believe it’s been over a year since graduation.

Today is a big day for enso, and I wanted to share it with you.  

For the past few months we’ve been working with Khan Academy, as its first agency partner of any kind, with the objective of amplifying its current level of success (over 10M students per month, 400M+ lessons delivered and over 2 billion problems solved).

Rather than create an ad campaign for Khan Academy, our approach has been to develop a creative campaign that can spark a movement around learning.  We’ve based this on Dr. Carol Dweck’s work at Stanford, which shows that our relationship to struggle and challenges determines our success — a ‘growth mindset’ as opposed to a ‘fixed mindset’. In a fixed mindset people believe they are born with an innate, fixed level of intelligence and are ‘just not good at math’, ‘can’t do languages’ etc. — over 50% of people have a fixed mindset.   So our campaign is designed to put the core idea into the world:  

You only have to know one thing.
You can learn anything.

Today we launched the first creative for You Can Learn Anything, which we hope becomes an idea many people can get.

Here is the launch film You can learn anything.

This is something I think I knew was true in my heart but wish the growth mindset had been more ingrained for me earlier on in my education, as it could have perhaps gotten me through some really hard courses and all-nighters at Anderson with less pain! So I wanted to share this with you as I think it will resonate with a lot of fellow classmates.

All the best,

Amy

I hope you were inspired by the Amy’s enso film for Khan Academy, but wait, there’s more!

Amy directed a prize-winning film here at UCLA Anderson for our All Anderson Commercial Challenge in 2011, and I wanted to post it here, to give you one final inspiration for your Friday afternoon. (that’s Amy, front left)

P.S.

To get the reference to today’s title, you have to watch the enso film.

Wake Forest, Krispy Kremes and Football

Listening to top peer schools at the annual Part-Time MBA conference hosted by Wake Forest this year. We are in the Bridger Field House, looking out at the football field. They put our names in lights.

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Above, that’s me with Megan Krueger, Assistant Dean, Student Life, Kellogg. We had a visit from the Krispy Kreme doughnuts truck, below.

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