GTE Guest Speaker: JJ Xu

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Entrepreneurship can be a difficult career path. Only those who are able to "follow their hearts" will succeed, according to Founder and CEO of TalkMeUp, JJ Xu. On June 7th, JJ spoke to the summer 2019 intern cohort about her career and journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur.  JJ knew from a young age that she wanted to be an entrepreneur and eventually be her own boss. However, knowing that this would not be an instant or easy journey to success, she took every opportunity she had to learn.

While working toward her Master's degree in microelectronics and solid-state electronics, JJ also worked in the sales industry working as a sales assistant making cold calls.  She later continued on to work at Groupon as Director of Sales and City Head. At both jobs, JJ was able to learn quickly and climb the ranks by applying innovative mathematical models to enhance their existing marketing techniques.

After her rapid success in business, JJ gathered the courage to follow her passion for entrepreneurship. In 2011 she co-founded HotAppMarket and worked on it for 7 months. She never got discouraged during the process, but instead continued to let her passion drive her forward. In 2012, she started working for Huawei Technologies.  After her time at Huawei, she moved on to be a marketing strategist at Magoosh, while working to obtain her MBA specializing in entrepreneurship from the Tepper School of Business. Upon getting her MBA, JJ once again decided to pursue her passion and started her second business, TalkMeUp.

An important part of being an entrepreneur is being open-minded and knowledgeable about the ever-changing world around you. Applying these skills, JJ was able to come up with the idea for TalkMeUp through a survey completed by her fellow classmates. The survey found that there was a demand for a tool that could assist students with their “real world” communication skills. Taking advantage of the opportunity in front of her, JJ created TalkMeUp. TalkMeUp is a unique and innovative software that uses AI to unbiasedly improve its users’ communication skills. It can detect flaws in its user's communication in situations like public speaking and interviews, and offer solutions. By doing this, TalkMeUp is more accessible and 90% cheaper than the conventional in-person interview and public speaking coaches.

JJ spoke about the importance of realizing that a detour is not always a bad thing in your career. It can lead you down a path and open new opportunities for you that may have never been possible before.  Any roadblock that arose in her career was never able to hold her back, she only saw it as an opportunity and took it as a chance to learn. JJ always let her heart guide her through adversity because sometimes it's the paths we don't expect that can lead us to success.  

We would like to thank JJ for her time and words of inspiration!

GTE Guest Speaker: Dave Edwards

On May 24th, GTE hosted Dave Edwards for lunch and a discussion about the asset management industry and current market conditions. After receiving his undergraduate degree in economics from Yale University, he went on to work for Highmark Health in their Corporate Development and Strategic Investments department. In this role, Dave helped identify many high-growth companies and the characteristics of a company that make the stock price go up. After getting his MBA from Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business, Dave was an Equity Analyst for a Dallas-based Investment Management firm.

Dave provided our intern class with plenty of first-hand knowledge and had a thought-provoking discussion about current market trends, stocks he likes, and what to look for when investing in a stock.

He mentioned that, in many cases, young people have an advantage over older “experts” in the investing world because they’re the first to identify emerging trends. He advised that some of the best investments have a clean balance sheet, revenue that goes up, and the company is able to get the asking price for their products. In the long run, almost all that matters when looking for a good investment is revenue growth and an economic moat that allows the company to protect its market share and profitability. On the other hand, stocks that go down often have financial leverage, operating leverage, and cyclicality.  

We thank Dave for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us!

GTE Guest Speaker: Chris Cynkar

Never lose your sense of wonder. We are so often told to grow up and give up our childhood curiosity. We see it all the time – the kids whose eyes once sparkled with joy as they daydreamed about the endless possibilities dull over the years as they are taught to be realistic and get their head out of the clouds. Who said you can’t do both?

We were reminded of the importance of this balance between curiosity and practicality when Chris Cynkar came in for a guest lecture on May 31st to talk to the summer 2019 intern cohort about his life and career trajectory. Chris is a CPA by training, though his true passion shines through his entrepreneurial ventures.

Upon graduating from the Tepper School of Business, Chris began his acquisition search and acquired a commercial printing business. After 4 years, he divested and then closed on another deal for a business that makes MRI equipment. He sold this business after 4 years and then didn’t own another business for 2 years, until he acquired a medical staffing business. He then moved into franchising, on the side, and has been a franchise consultant for the last 6 years.

From these rich experiences, Chris tells us that it is so important to be a business owner because it means you get to determine your own outcome. He says, “There is never a right time to leave your job. It’s always inconvenient. You can make up a list of excuses… It’s like deciding whether to go to the gym in the morning. It’s good for you, so you do it.” Chris also described how many of the things people dislike about being an employee can be solved by becoming a business owner.

He left us with plenty of advice and reassurance and said that he hopes we find the courage and feel empowered enough to take the necessary steps to drive our own success. We thank Chris for taking the time out of his busy schedule to not only speak with us, but also inspire and remind us that our childhood dreams don’t just have to remain as dreams if we compliment them with practicality, financial literacy, and leadership.

GT Entrepreneurs Announces Summer 2019 Intern Cohort

Generational Transfer Entrepreneurs (GTE) is pleased to announce that 17 Private Equity Analyst interns and 3 MBA Search Interns have been hired for the summer of 2019 after an extensive search of some of the top academic institutions in our area. We welcome these new faces to the GTE family and cannot wait to see the positive impact they will have on our ever-expanding firm.

This cohort began their internship on May 20th, 2019 and were divided into three teams, each led by one of our Operators-In-Residence (OIR) and one MBA Search Intern. The undergraduate interns’ primary task is to identify potential acquisition targets and present preliminary proposals to their teams. If the initial proposal is accepted by the OIR, the team will proceed to analyze the company with industry research reports and financial model valuations.

In addition to this major task, the interns also have the great opportunity to learn from a number of different guest speakers throughout the internship program. GTE regularly invites guest speakers and industry professionals to discuss current events, relevant topics in finance and private equity, and provide their professional feedback to our staff. We hope that our interns will utilize the opportunity to gain valuable experience and insight into the world of private equity by developing their technical, networking, and interpersonal skills.

This is the seventh search team for GTE. These interns have ties to the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, and more. They each have their own unique backgrounds and the diverse perspectives they bring to our company will enable them to broaden their horizons. GTE looks forward to having our interns set and accomplish individual and career-related goals while generating leads, evaluating deals, and formulating initiatives to move the company forward.

GTE Resume and Interview Workshop

On Friday March 22nd, GTE held a resume and interview informational event for all interns. The event was led by Search Manager Robert Septak, Operators-In-Residence Gabriel Chick and Dave Jasnos, and MBA Search Intern Joe Hall.  

During this educational event, the GTE staff presented valuable advice on a number of topics related to aspects of the job-searching and interviewing process. They began by sharing resume templates used by Carnegie Mellon University’s MBA students, and told interns how to adapt them to highlight undergraduate experiences. In addition, the presenters discussed common resume mistakes, “action→result” bullet point layouts, and guidance for both tailoring resumes to a specific position and making your differentiating qualities stand out.

Once the resume discussion was complete, the conversation shifted to interview advice. Some points discussed during this segment of the program included preparation, etiquette, questions to ask, and follow-up communication.

The interns truly appreciate Bobby, Dave, Gabe, and Joe taking time out of their busy schedules to share their knowledge on these crucial aspects of professional development. Partially due to events like these, GTE’s interns have historically gone on to have very successful careers.  

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Acta Ventures Guest Speakers: Casey Totten and Andrew Yancey

On February 26th, 2019, Acta Ventures hosted Casey Totten and Andrew Yancey from PNC for a very informative discussion.  Acta Ventures and GTE are closely aligned and both looking to acquire middle market firms. Therefore, they frequently hold joint events to continue the growth of the CMU private equity community. Casey holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame, and his current position at PNC is Relationship Manager. Andrew has a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business from the Virginia Military Institute, and later went on to complete his MBA at CMU’s very own Tepper School of Business. His current role at PNC is Assistant Vice President of Commercial Banking Strategy.

After a brief introduction and discussion of their backgrounds, Andrew and Casey discussed the various responsibilities of their positions as well as a general overview of how PNC is structured. The pair then used their broad combined knowledge to field and answer questions from Acta and GTE’s intern classes about a variety of topics. They gave very interesting and detailed responses on a number of things such as PNC’s long-term strategies, the influx of new competition from both traditional banks and FinTech firms, new marketing and customer relations innovations, and the various departments housed within the bank.

Casey and Andrew offered the interns invaluable knowledge about working at a large bank and the corporate finance world overall. GTE thanks Casey and Andrew for their time, expertise, and advice.

Acta Ventures can be found at

GTE Guest Speaker: Dave Edwards

On February 15th, GTE hosted Dave Edwards via videocall for an enlightening discussion about his background, the asset management industry, and current market conditions. Dave is currently an Equity Analyst for a Dallas-based Investment Management firm. He is a graduate of world-renowned Yale University. After graduation, he launched a tech startup focused on finance-related data analytics. After about a year, he left that role and went to work for Highmark Health in their Corporate Development and Strategic Investments department. In this role, Dave helped identify many high-growth companies, including the very successful health technology firm Axial Healthcare. He stayed with Highmark for four years, before he decided to go to business school at Carnegie Mellon University, where he was classmates with our very own OIR Phil Hahn. Because he was interested in investing from a very young age, Dave transitioned to the asset management industry post-graduation, where he is currently employed.

Dave provided our intern class with plenty of priceless first-hand knowledge. In addition to sharing general career advice, he explained in detail the different paths young people can take to get a position like his. Dave also had a thought-provoking discussion with our interns about current market trends, stocks he likes, and how to get started with personal investing. He mentioned that in many cases, young people have an advantage over older “experts” in the investing world, because they’re the first to identify emerging trends. He advised that some of the best investments people make are often products or services they come across in their day-to-day lives.

We thank Dave for taking the time out of his busy schedule to speak with us, and look forward to speaking with him in person the next time he is in the Pittsburgh area.

GTE Guest Speaker: Carl Koubek

On February 8th, GTE hosted Carl Koubek for lunch and talk about his background and founding of Acta Ventures. Carl is a graduate of Boston College where he obtained degrees in both business management and finance. After receiving his degree, he interned at GSK while starting his masters of business administration at Carnegie Mellon University- Tepper School of Business in order to learn and to grow his professional network in Pittsburgh. After graduating from CMU, Carl worked for PNC as an internal consultant pitching ideas to improve the organizational design. After two and a half years of working for PNC Carl along with a partner founded Acta Ventures.

Acta Ventures looks for companies to partner with in order to grow the company into a profitable partnership. Acta looks to be a consultant to its partners in the short term helping them with technology and finance. Carl shared insights and humor with GTE about his work in both the corporate world and the consultant world as well as his background and education.

We would like to thank Carl for coming to talk to us and for the insightful advice he gave.

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Acta Ventures Guest Speaker: Thomas Freyvogel

On February 7th, 2019, Acta Ventures hosted Thomas Freyvogel, a senior associate attorney within Reed Smith’s Global Corporate Group.  GTE and Acta Ventures are closely aligned and both looking for deals in the middle market. Acta and GTE frequently hold events together to help grow the CMU private equity community. Thomas holds an undergraduate degree in history and philosophy from Boston College, an M.B.A. from Duquesne University, and a J.D. from the Catholic University School of Law.  His main areas of practice at Reed Smith include corporate and securities transactions, corporate governance, and general corporate matters. Transactionally, Thomas’s work includes domestic and cross-border M&A, joint ventures, and private equity transactions, among others.

Thomas centered his discussion around two things: explaining the legal aspects of search funds, and providing a color commentary of the positives and negatives he has experienced providing counsel for search fund transactions.

Thomas explained the general procession of search fund legal documents leading up to the acquisition: first, an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is signed, which is essentially a contract between any two parties that signifies a confidential relationship exists between them. Secondly, assuming the deal has made progress, an IOI (indication of interest) is typically signed, which expresses a conditional, non-binding interest by one party in purchasing a security of, majority or minority stake in, or entire company from an additional party that is currently in registration. Last, an LOI (letter of intent) is signed, which is essentially a more binding version of an IOI and outlines the terms of a deal and provides a grounds for deal negotiation.

The role of attorneys throughout the process depends on which party they are representing. If counsel is representing a potential seller, he or she will be responsible for analyzing IOIs and LOIs proposed by potential acquirers and ensuring that the terms are fair. If the attorney is representing a potential buyer, he or she will be responsible for formulating IOIs and LOIs that will ensure that the buyer is able to freely negotiate a price for a company without risking any legal consequences.

Thomas offered the interns invaluable knowledge about the legal aspects of the search fund process and how to know if a career in business-oriented law is right for them. GTE thanks Thomas for both his time and advice.

Acta Ventures can be found at

GTE Guest Speaker: Greg Martin

On February 1, GT Entrepreneurs hosted Greg Martin for lunch and a discussion about his career, venture capital & private equity, and current attractive industries. Greg is a Vice President at 3 Rivers Capital. He is a graduate of University of Missouri-Columbia. From there he went on to attend University of California – School of Law where he got his J.D. He then began working at Winston & Strawn LLP as an Associate Attorney. He then attended Carnegie Mellon University – Tepper School of Business to receive his MBA with concentrations in finance, economics and entrepreneurship. While at Tepper, Greg worked at Ravel Law as a Business Strategy & Development Intern and founded CaseTree and served as CEO. He then became Director and Turnaround Management Consultant at Compass Advisory Partners LLC. Later, Greg became a Senior Associate at 3 Rivers Capital.

Greg shared some insights into the many different paths to Private Equity, such as consulting vs investment banks. He talked about the different types of challenges he has faced when working with small businesses and where he finds the most initial value is. He also spoke about the ideal industries he would like to move into. He also compared the different roles he has had from practicing law to work he has done post-MBA. He talked about how his legal education has wired his brain differently to attack issues a different way which proves to be a current asset when communicating with attorneys. He also touched about the differences that he has found having worked in a large firm setting versus a small boutique firm setting. He talked about the importance of networking as it has opened many opportunities for him.

Greg was adamant that he is willing to talk with anybody about their careers and to answer any questions that they might have. We thank Greg for joining us and his wonderful talk and advice.

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