In 2017, Joshua Feinblum, EMBA ’18, became a homeowner with the assistance of the real estate law firm founded by his classmate, Kosta Ligris, EMBA ’18. It was a grueling, complicated process—so much so that, at a Christmas Eve party the following year, the two friends decided to transform the real estate lending industry for the better.
They cofounded Stavvy, a platform through which lenders can take direct control of vendors, communications, appraisals, and other pertinent real estate services. Though the goal of transformation remains, Ligris and Feinblum also remain committed to replicating what they learned from, and experienced in, MIT Sloan’s Executive MBA Program.
What made you want to attend MIT Sloan?
Joshua: MIT Sloan, especially the EMBA program, is great at attracting people who really want to change the world. They have great aspirations about what they’re currently doing and believe that they can accomplish what they’ve set out to do. That’s a fantastic network to get access to, but it’s also about the education that you’re going to get—all these new perspectives that are going to push you in new directions, which is certainly what happened to Kosta and me. When I went to the preview workshop, I’ll never forget sitting around a table and seeing the diversity of professions and perspectives represented there. There was one guy who was building apps for kids in hospitals, and another who was the head of college admissions at a prominent university in the Boston area. It wasn’t your typical group. It was pretty diverse.
Kosta: I had always been interested in going back to school to get my MBA. I learned a lot while starting and running my businesses, but I didn’t have the academic framework for it, and I had reached a point in my career where I felt that I really needed to figure out what I wanted to do next within my organization and the industry. It became abundantly clear that I needed some sort of a reset. I needed to surround myself with people from different industries and more diverse backgrounds. The EMBA program gave me the ability to not only explore that but to return to my organizations full-time and exercise my succession plan. It delivered above and beyond what I expected.
How has your time at MIT Sloan influenced your ideas?
Joshua: MIT Sloan academically exposes people to cognitive biases and the different tools and frameworks they can use to affect change at organizations. They throw so many different frameworks at you, and while we’re not expected to fully rely on them in every possible situation, it helps put into words things we’ve seen throughout our careers that we never really knew how to think about or explain. So, whenever you’re encountering a certain situation, you now know how to explain it and the person you’re working with will better know what you’re talking about and how to help. It’s incredibly helpful.
Kosta: I love accounting. I remember taking the accounting class and loving everything about it. Most business schools make you take classes in accounting and finance, and they’re great to have some background in, but it’s the takeaways—the more meaningful stuff—that you’re going to keep using long after you graduate. At MIT Sloan, it’s what you learn about organizational processes and the work you do with your cohorts and your Action Learning team. That’s what it’s all about because at the end of the day there are really smart people in accounting and finance who can deal with those issues, but it’s really about your experiential learning and how you apply that knowledge elsewhere. That level of maturity and experience really shows, but don’t kid yourself—we’ve all made mistakes and will keep making them. I think the biggest difference is knowing what lessons to take away from those experiences.
Why is it important to give back to MIT Sloan?
Kosta: I don’t think I actually ever left Sloan. I went there and I’m still there, which is pretty remarkable. MIT has this incredible way of bringing people together, bringing people back to this new sort of entrepreneurial ecosystem—like with my being an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. Engaging with the Institute has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. There’s this notion that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. What I love about MIT Sloan is I’m never in the wrong room on this campus. There’s always something new to learn. I’ve learned something through every program—like being involved in the last two delta v accelerators, talking to students about their ideas and what they’re developing. It feels like I’m living through an extension of the EMBA program. I’ve become ingrained in this ecosystem, and the least I can do is give back by helping students and young founders to avoid some of the early-stage mistakes I made and offer them some substantive advice. Giving back also gives me an opportunity to continue to learn and sharpen my skills. Just being in that ecosystem is so rewarding.
Joshua: The reason Kosta and I remain involved with MIT Sloan is very closely tied to how we feel about becoming a great place to work, and you can certainly see this in the EMBA program. They possess an underlying willingness to mentor and help others. If Kosta and I had an issue, there’s no one in our cohort that we couldn’t reach out to for help. Whether we had a close relationship with them or not. You see this from many other MIT Sloan alumni as well. You can see it across the entire MIT ecosystem. The people entering these programs want to have an impact. They want to change the world, and most of them understand that one person can only have so much of an impact. So when we go out, we can provide guidance on the things we’re good at while learning about the things others excel at. You kind of create a reinforcing loop that keeps making everybody better and more successful—that keeps making the world a better place. It’s just one of the many things that make MIT Sloan such a special place.