Citi Ventures Pays It Forward with Student Design Challenge

By Mike Peña | June 16, 2013
Ideas on Post-Its at Citi Ventures Late last month, a flurry of wild ideas blew through the Palo Alto offices of Citi Ventures, in the form of energetic Stanford students interested in working with financial industry professionals around the future of personal finance. Stanford students at Citi Ventures design challengePutting fun into the personal-finance experience was the aim of a May 30 design challenge led by Stanford faculty Tina Seelig, Leticia Britos Cavagnaro and Rich Cox. The two-hour session gave students the opportunity to work on real-world challenges alongside global executives from Citi Ventures who grapple with them daily. In true divergent-to-convergent form, the workshop began with the inviting office’s glass panels covered in sticky notes – each bearing a separate idea – and ending with just a handful of concepts that the teams then drilled down on and fleshed out. Working on teams with the pros, students considered personal finance broadly: from retirement investing and credit card management to fundamental questions such as why we even carry wallets. While some of the ideas proposed were worthy of further exploration, the real goal of the challenge was to let students try out techniques and exercises in creativity taught at Stanford. “A lot of it was just reinforcing the tools we learned in class,” said student Jeffrey Sweet, who discovered the workshop through an STVP-affiliated Management Science and Engineering course taught at the Stanford titled “Creativity and Innovation.” Sweet’s team focused on the familiar frustration of having multiple credit cards, each with their own rewards program. One team suggested coming up with a universal card that would allow the owner to distribute charges among various rewards programs online. Citi Venture's Busy Burr posting post-it notesFor Citi Ventures, the benefit of hosting the design challenge was simply being exposed to the energy and enthusiasm of the students and faculty. As the venture capital arm of the global financial services company, Citi Ventures has taken part in other extracurricular activities and resources for students at Stanford. As part of an active partnership with STVP, Citi Ventures has participated in a panel discussion on women in entrepreneurship earlier this year during Stanford Entrepreneurship Week, as well as offered free professional mentoring through Coaches on Call. “We at Citi Ventures were thrilled to be able to collaborate with the Stanford faculty and students in the design challenge, and to support the students in their journey to become great entrepreneurs,” said Debbie Brackeen, Managing Director of Citi Ventures. “The insights and ideas we generated together were awesome.”