THE 2010-2011 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient:
How did you find the position?
I met Edwin Mejia from Vladar Films through a college friend who worked at Lehman Brothers with Edwin. I originally spoke to Edwin in the fall of 2009, because I was curious about the film industry; at the time I had written down a few ideas for a script. By Spring of 2010, I had started writing a script, but I had not found a summer opportunity that really interested me. Vladar was in the infant process of launching a new production, for which they would need to raise private capital, something they had never done before. I saw this as an opportunity to leverage my private equity experience and break into the film industry, by helping them raise capital.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I think being entrepreneurial and being ‘the’ entrepreneur are not necessarily mutually inclusive paths. For example, I’ve never seen myself as brilliant idea guy, rather I am more of an executioner; raise capital, operations, sales, accounting, whatever needs to get done, I can get done, period. I knew that the only way I could embrace this type of complementary role and make an impact would be by joining an early stage venture.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
First, ask yourself ‘what is my goal?’, ‘what am I trying to get out of this experience?’, write down the answers. Be honest with yourself. Next pick an industry and then a role (ie, corporate development, sales, etc). Although it sounds cliché, this will give you a visionary map of the entrepreneurial road you do and don’t want to take. Remember that being entrepreneurial is being able to think different; this introspective pop quiz will certainly help you get started.
About the Summer Experience
VLADAR FILMS COMPANY
Vladar Films Company is a boutique independent production company with in-house development, production, marketing capabilities. In 2008, Vladar launchedBig Pun: The Legacy, which had a successful world premiere at HBO’s International Latino Film Festival in New York. In September 2010, Vladar premiered its first feature film at the Hollywood Film Festival, Last Day of Summer, which stars DJ Qualls (Road Trip, Hustle & Flow) and Nikki Reed (Twilight).
My role at Vladar was a very independent and self driven process since I had essentially created my own internship. Vladar was in the infant process of launching a new production, for which they would need to raise private capital, something they had never done before. Given that I had experience in both raising and investing private capital from my private equity days, I knew I could help Vladar, even though I had zero experience in films. The original goal was to build a presentation that summarized Vladar’s strategy, credentials, financial projections and proposed terms. I initially spent hours online simply understanding methodologies and terms used in the film world. Understanding the financial statements and projections was another hurdle. Unlike most financial vehicles (ie, private equity, hedge funds) the film production terms operate on a waterfall structure, where they don’t generate earnings until investors and distributors (ie, Universal, Disney) are made whole. Essentially 60% to 70% of my time was spent understanding these nuances. The rest of the time was spent on actually building the financial models and presentation.
THE RESULT AND WHAT’S NEXT
Edwin from Vladar was extremely happy with the final product; it has been the primary tool used during investor presentations. I’ve kept an informal relationship with Vladar during the fall and I am still involved in the capital raising process. On my end, my goal is to complete my script and partner with Vladar to develop and produce it. Indeed, my definition of being ‘entrepreneurial’.