Talk to Srikant Datar for long, and you’re bound to hear about his “three aspirations” for Harvard Business School.
It may sound like a modest catchphrase. Datar, who is starting his first full school year as the HBS dean, can come across that way. It’s anything but that. Instead, the phrase reflects Datar’s ambitious vision for the school and the new roles it can play in the modern connected world beyond what HBS is best known for — that is, educating the next generation of executives and entrepreneurs.
He oversees a school with nearly 2,000 staffers, about 250 faculty members, and 1,700 MBA students. The incoming class of more than 1,000 students is larger than normal, because many deferred entrance from 2020, when classes were virtual because of the pandemic.
Datar took on the deanship like the lifelong academic he is, by embarking on extensive research to help inform his priorities. (He took over for predecessor Nitin Nohria midway through the last school year.) This included meeting with more than 1,000 students, faculty, staffers and alums to gauge their opinions.
He put the results of these discussions into a computer, and used artificial intelligence to pinpoint the most commonly shared visions and goals.
The end result? Those three aspirations that Datar keeps mentioning. Business has a role to play as a force of good in society. Research needs to go beyond the ivy-covered walls of academia, and be put into action in the real world. And the business school can’t rest on its past successes, but needs to keep pace with broader societal changes, including more emphasis on diversity and lifelong learning options beyond the two-year master’s program.
With that in mind, it’s no surprise that HBS was the first school to sign up as an academic partner over the summer with the OneTen initiative, a coalition launched by big-name CEOs dedicated to seeing one million Black individuals get hired or promoted over the next 10 years into good-paying careers. So far, Datar said, about 60 Fortune 500 companies have joined the effort, led by the likes of Merck executive chairman Ken Frazier and former American Express CEO Ken Chenault.
“Society is asking business to engage on environmental, social and governance issues,” Datar said. “What I heard is that this has now become an economic imperative, and that the business school should play a leadership role.”
Get on the plane
When Bostonians buy Delta tickets to Tel Aviv for flights that begin next spring, they might want to thank a small cadre of businesspeople in the local Jewish community — and one congressman — who helped make it happen.
Among the key players in restoring this route: David Goodtree, an entrepreneur who authored a study on Boston-Israel business links; Daniel Kraft, president of international business for the Kraft Group; Marc Baker, head of Combined Jewish Philanthropies; Udi Mokady, chief executive at CyberArk; and US Representative Jake Auchincloss, a Democrat from Newton.
Israeli airline El Al had suspended Boston-Tel Aviv flights after COVID-19 hit Massachusetts in March 2020. It’s not clear when El Al will resume them.
So Goodtree and Kraft went to work in July, first by encouraging Massport to prioritize a revival of Tel Aviv service out of Logan Airport, after noticing a surge in travelers between the two cities — travelers who needed to go through a third airport to complete the trip.
“We went to Massport and said, ‘We think this is an early-return international market [for Boston]; let’s go talk to the carriers about this and see if they’re seeing the same thing,’ ” Goodtree said.
Mokady, whose cybersecurity firm has offices in Newton and Israel, joined in to help make the case, as did Baker. Mokady also asked Auchincloss for assistance. The congressman then reached out to Delta executives to gauge their interest. Massport made its push, including the promise of $350,000 in marketing aid. Goodtree said Delta committed in late September, but everyone had to keep things quiet until Delta announced the new service last week.
The wave of Massachusetts-Israel corporate deals lately probably didn’t hurt. Akamai Technologies is buying Guardicore, for example, while Zoll Medical is picking up Itamar Medical, and Boston Scientific completed its purchase of Lumenis.
“It’s not just for tourism,” Goodtree said of Boston-Tel Aviv flights. “It’s not just for business. It’s not just for academics. It’s not just for family. It’s not just for religion. It’s all of the above.”
Move-in day, delayed
Until now, the New York office of Waltham-based PR firm Inkhouse was simply a shared WeWork space. But chief executive Beth Monaghan decided it was time to get a separate place.
Yes, it may seem strange to sign a lease — or even a sublease, in this case — when so much is still in flux with remote work and the proliferation of COVID-19.
But the New York employees (Inkhouse now has 16) often live in tight quarters, with some turning their bathrooms into makeshift offices for conference calls. That simply isn’t sustainable. So Monaghan found a 3,300-square-foot office on Fifth Avenue for them.
“I do know we need a place to gather,” Monaghan said. “You don’t create a sense of belonging when you’re remote.”
The new office, to be led by former Ogilvy executive Megan Link, was supposed to open Tuesday. But there’s a hitch: Like so many other deliveries these days, a firewall device to protect Inkhouse’s computers was delayed unexpectedly. It still hadn’t arrived as of Friday. So the opening is being pushed off by a week.
“The world is on back order,” Monaghan said. “Firewalls appear to be among the back-ordered.”
Next seat at the Roundtable
Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers has passed the baton at the Massachusetts Business Roundtable to Jane Steinmetz, the head of Ernst & Young’s Boston office. After a term that was extended by a year to three years, Rivers has stepped down as Roundtable chair, and Steinmetz is stepping up for the post’s standard two-year term.
She said Rivers and JD Chesloff, executive director at the Roundtable, asked her to take over. Fortunately for her, some time has freed up in her busy schedule now that her term as chairwoman of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is ending.
“The Mass. Business Roundtable is an amazing organization,” Steinmetz said. “It really is a convener of the largest employers in town, trying to tackle policy issues of critical importance. … It will be nice to work with MBR to figure out how Massachusetts can keep its edge post-pandemic.”
When entrepreneur Paul English launched travel tech firm Lola in 2015, he chose the name because it was a portmanteau of the words “longitude” and “latitude.”
It had absolutely nothing to do with the 1970 hit of the same name by The Kinks, though it might be hard not to hum the song when you hear the company name.
Still, it was only fitting that the tune would come on the sound system at the Barking Crab’s outdoor deck overlooking Fort Point Channel on Wednesday night. That’s where much of the Lola team, including English and chief executive Mike Volpe, had gathered to celebrate: The Lola travel business is being phased out — COVID-19 was not kind to that industry — but nearly everyone is getting hired by Capital One, to help develop payment software for the banking conglomerate. (Capital One is also buying Lola’s technology.)
Volpe was coming out of the restroom when he heard the song.
“He looked at me, and pointed at me,” English recalled. “I said, ‘No, it wasn’t me.’ ”
Volpe said: “Maybe it was serendipity.”
Or maybe it was a clever bartender who noticed that people who said they were with “Lola” would get free drinks. If so, well played, barkeep. Well played.