On the 14th of November 2023, the Thunderbird School of Global Management witnessed an engaging and insightful evening at the last Ruebling Table event of this semester Fall 2023, jointly hosted by Das Tor and the VC/PE Club. The highlight of the evening was the presence of Ken Valuvar, a remarkable entrepreneur and Proud Thunderbird Alum who is the Group Director to Bento Sushi, Founder and Chairman of the Ontario Spring Water Sake Company. Ken is also known for his role as a VP and Director in Scotiabank’s Fixed Income Capital Markets in the UK’s vibrant city of London, shared his transformative journey and the invaluable lessons he learned along the way.
The event started with Dastor’s host Sahana Suresh Mohan Kumar introducing the guest to the exclusive audience seated at the pub. The table soon kicked off with the very first question from Mathew Pepper from the VC/PE club about his firsts steps into the business world and how did thunderbird influence him.
Ken openly revealed that he discovered Thunderbird unexpectedly while reading a book, prompting him to contact the author, who happened to be a professor at the school. Intrigued by the prospect of learning Japanese and fueled by the diverse community at Thunderbird, he embarked on a journey that would significantly influence his future pursuits. The power of influence that the professor had on him started right from the book to Ken actually attending one of his case during his years in thunderbird.
Ken’s transition from the banking sector to Japanese cuisine was truly unconventional. His venture into the world of Japanese language and culture was initially motivated by a desire to earn while traveling. Little did he anticipate that this choice would guide him to Thunderbird, ultimately reshaping the trajectory of his professional journey. He further elucidated that the next question delved into his interest in languages and his emphasis on it through the Valvar language lab . Ken emphasized the importance of language learning and its impact on personal and professional growth. As a major driving force behind the reintroduction of the language requirement at Thunderbird through the language lab, he spoke passionately about how languages have enriched his life and encouraged others to embrace linguistic diversity.
His leap of faith in handling situation in business context that are beyond his capabilities are truly remarkable and had the audience engaged by Sharing his entrepreneurial spirit, Ken revealed that his love for bento and sushi, coupled with his proficiency in Japanese, inspired him to leave the world of banking and establish his own sushi company. His journey highlighted the significance of following one’s passion and leveraging language skills in unexpected career transitions. Ken shed light on his mixed relationship with private equity, drawing on his experiences with Bento Sushi. He discussed the challenges of imposter syndrome, stressing the need to overcome internal pressures and jump into social and professional situations with confidence.
Reflecting on his immersion in Japanese culture, Ken shared insights into the importance of reliability and the challenges posed by rigidity. He highlighted the significance of setting the right company culture, emphasizing that certain aspects can be controlled contractually, while others require a more nuanced approach.
The stage was opened to the students who took the opportunity to learn the other sides of Mr Valvar and engaged lighthearted chatter regarding the direction that the school has taken and how he trying to understand its stance as a TGAN member . Ken concluded by offering valuable advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. He stressed the importance of having personal funds when starting a company, cautioning against minimal equity and the dilution of value. He emphasized that equity is the most expensive way to raise capital, encouraging entrepreneurs to carefully consider their financial strategies.
The Ruebling Table event featuring Ken Valuvar provided a unique glimpse into the intersection of language, culture, entrepreneurship, and the dynamic world of private equity. Attendees left with not only a deeper understanding of Ken’s journey but also with valuable insights and inspiration to navigate their own paths in the global business landscape.