Today on the blog we catch up with Corbin Norman (GEMBA 2018)! This is part of an ongoing series of interviews with members of our Class of 2018 about how the executive formats of the Darden MBA impacted their careers. Be sure to check out our earlier interviews with Jess Ching (GEMBA 2018), Chris Barchet (GEMBA 2018), Erin Breitzka (EMBA 2018) and Sagar Joshi (EMBA 2018).
What have you been up to since graduation?
Since graduation, I said goodbye to Washington D.C. after eight years, relocated back to Jackson, Mississippi briefly before working in “North” Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia for two months. Check out my work in the Western Balkans.
Since November, I’ve relocated to Amsterdam indefinitely, supporting Startupbootcamp, one of the most successful global innovation accelerators in the world. Among the 13 startups I’ve coached, Emcee, a US-based startup, originally entered the program as a ‘paying it forward’ platform, allowing individuals to invest alongside the best and donate a portion of their profits to a charity of their choosing. But to fit the European market, the team made a pivot in just 21 days and is now Bits, the world’s first brand loyalty and investing platform.
The firm is creating a new currency for rewards programs while giving future generations a new way to experience investing. I was part of that 21-day pivot, and I now serve as the company’s Chief Growth Officer, I encourage all to check out Bits at Startupbootcamp Amsterdam FinTech & Cybersecurity 2019 New Frontiers Demo Day (33:00). The team is part of the Startupbootcamp Commerce as a Scaleup-in-Residence, and we are preparing for our US and EU launch in April (follow us on Instagram and Facebook and visit Bits to learn more about the #getbitschallenge).
How do you feel like your Darden experience prepared you for what you are currently doing?
I’m currently the Chief Growth Officer for Bits, where my sole purpose is to grow and engage Bits’ user base across the entire customer acquisition lifecycle. I can’t express enough just how much classes like Marketing, Design Thinking, Global Economics and Markets and Entrepreneurial Finance prepared me to support Bits’ fundraising efforts. The team is 50% through our seed round and the company recently pivoted to a region experiencing a great deal of uncertainty in its financial and regulatory environment because of Brexit. Topics like branding, digital marketing and analytics, Brexit, and venture capital have played a role in my success to date, and these are all things I had an opportunity to learn about and explore at Darden.
For you, what was the biggest takeaway from the program?
Learning to work across different cultures and geographies. Over the past year, I’ve worked in seven countries across Europe with people from all over the world. I am now based in Amsterdam, working with a team of Americans building a Dutch, FinTech company. Understanding how to do business in a culture of consensus, structure, egalitarianism and openness is a challenge, and, without Darden, I wouldn’t have been able to quickly adapt and integrate so easily. Darden put me a few miles (or kilometers) ahead of everyone else. Nevertheless, I still have a LONG way to go with my Dutch.
Now that you are out of school, what do you miss the most about the program?
I miss my classmates. I miss them dearly. Being far removed from the Darden community is felt, but I still talk with classmates frequently through WhatsApp or similar platforms. I look forward to visiting some who are now based in Europe.
What is your best advice for prospective students?
Be very clear and candid about your intentions in the program. Set expectations early, well before your first case, and stay the course. It can be hard to trust the process when you are thrown into classes like Accounting, Finance and Decision Analysis very early in the program, but believe in yourself, your classmates and the Darden faculty and staff. There is a light at the end!