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HBS Alum Series: Christopher Michel

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Christopher Michel is an American investor, he is an entrepreneur, a Navy man, a photojournalist, an author and HBS alumni. He is the founder of Affinity Labs and Military.com and currently runs Nautilus Ventures, a seed venture fund. In 1999, after a brief stint at Mercer Consulting he decided to build his own company, Military.com. It is an online portal for service members, veterans and their families. In 2006, he was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug again and he founded Affinity Labs, which runs a portfolio of online professional communities. Both of his ventures were later purchased by Monster Worldwide. Chris served as a Naval Flight Officer in the United States Navy before forging into the business world.

What was your path from HBS to Serial Entrepreneur?

When I got the invite for a phone interview from HBS, a friend of mine suggested I should take a chance and drive to HBS for the interview, so I did.  I appeared in the admissions office in uniform and my interviewer was surprised, I left thinking it was not a great idea but the next week I got a package in the mail www.replicaforbest.co.uk, I got in!  I was admitted in the January Co-hort program that no longer exists, but the way it worked was we started in January and worked all through the Summer so we were caught up with the rest of the class that arrived in September.

I started out at HBS with the intention of becoming a defense contractor since I came from that background and had worked prior in the Pentagon as Aide to the Chief of the Naval Reserve. I worked really hard at school as most of the material was new to me considering I did not have a background in business replica breitling Aeromarine . I did a mini-Summer internship with Mercer Consulting in DC and found it interesting but when I got back to school I enrolled in an entrepreneurship class and caught the bug. Dan Bricklin (also an HBS alum, creator of the spreadsheet and co-founder of VisiCalc) gave a talk about looking back on your life and creating things could be really meaningful and have an impact. That was when I realized I wanted to build something that was meaningful, and even though I got a job working at Mercer after graduation I was not content.

How did Military.com become an idea?

In 1999 I was working as a Reservist and while on the base some people were complaining about how hard it was to get access to their benefits and they did not know how to navigate the process, which is when I got the idea for military.com.

How does a student get recruited for an entrepreneurial job?

I never went through the traditional on campus recruiting process because I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I encourage you to branch out of the traditional recruiting model as there are a lot of companies that are innovative and entrepreneurial but don’t recruit on campus replica breitling bentley 6.75. There is always stress during the recruiting period and if you don’t get a job right away you feel like your lifeboat has been taken, but it could be a positive thing! You have more time to figure out what company would be a perfect fit and you can always be really creative with your pitch to get into a company that suits what you want. It would actually be wise to decide where you would like to live and just go and see what is out there. There will be a job there for you because chances are most companies would want an HBS gradate and you can be very creative by giving them an offer they can’t refuse.

What was the most important thing you got out of your HBS experience?

One of the most important things I got out of HBS was the friendships I made, including my best friend and co-founder of Military.com, Anne Dwane (who is the current Chief Business Officer at Chegg.com).

The truth is, if you are using a pure economic model to evaluate your HBS experience then you are missing the big picture. HBS is about creating relationships and it is not solely networking but you can create some of the best friends you will ever have. As a military person you are cognizant of how you influence those around you and that is something that I was able to carry into my relationships at HBS. I would leave you with a piece of advice from Thoreau, always remember to “go confidently in the direction of your dreams & live the life you have imagined”.

December 4, 2013
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