Clifton Smith

Clifton Smith
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country
Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA
Previous Education
BS in accounting from the University of Southern California, 2010
Previous Work Experience
I earned my CPA working for Deloitte; created my own startup consulting firm; ran the operations of and built the digital side of my family’s community newspapers business; and built an international mixed media publication focused on fostering collaborations between politicians, philanthropists and entrepreneurs in emerging markets
Post-CBS Goals
Working in venture capital; founding another startup
CBS Activities
Founding co-president, Venture Capital Club; founding organizer, Columbia Impact Hackathon; co-president, Healthy Living Club; advisory board member, Lang Center for Entrepreneurship; cluster cup chair, Cluster A ‘17
Favorite NYC Activities
Running along the Hudson River, doing hot yoga and Krav Maga on the Upper West Side, and experiencing real seasons for the first time


What attracted you to Columbia Business School?

I’m passionate about venture capital as well as entrepreneurship, and I was drawn to Columbia Business School’s entrepreneurial endeavors. A few of my mentors are alums, so the network really stood out. Also, I come from a media background, so I was attracted by the opportunity to take classes that combine finance and media. This, plus the school’s location in New York, created the perfect mix.


What were your impressions when you got here?

The admissions team does a great job finding not only very skilled people, but also people who are interested in collaborating and exploring new ideas. As an entrepreneur, it’s great because there’s a lot of deep industry experience in the School, and classmates are always willing to talk over coffee or lunch. It’s a welcoming and warm environment.


How did you get to know your classmates?

Before starting the MBA program, I participated in the CBS World Tour, which is a student-organized selection of trips around the world. You can sign up for as much or as little as you want. I went to Croatia, and it was a great opportunity to build and solidify relationships with people prior to starting school. The MBA orientation was very helpful, too. All students are part of clusters, and the clusters give you the opportunity to get to know a small number of people really well. Orientation is supplemented by a class called Lead, which shines a light on the culture-building practices that are applied during orientation. That was very helpful.


What has surprised you?

I didn’t come in with set expectations — not because I wasn’t expecting a lot, but because I had faith in the program. The biggest surprise has been how friendly and flexible the administration is. They strive for continuous improvement and are very open to feedback. For example, I’m co-president of the Venture Capital Club. It had previously been part of the private equity group, but last year, several of us expressed interest in separating, so that we could focus on venture capital. The administration was very supportive. Our aim is to establish the School as a thought leader in venture capital and to connect Columbia more strongly with entrepreneurship in New York City.


What is one of your most memorable experiences?

I created a company with two classmates. We participated in a Shark Tank–style challenge, which included presenting to a panel. Our idea was in the FinTech space, and our panel had several high-caliber Columbia Business School alums. It was phenomenal meeting them, and it was particularly eye-opening to me because it showed how strong our network is. We advanced in the competition and got to compete at another school, where we won for best crowd-pleasing presentation.


What is it like to be part of Columbia University?

In terms of entrepreneurship, one very interesting experience has been working with an undergrad student who found me online, on a platform I participate in. This has led to my mentoring him. We’ve talked a lot about how to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape and the things I’ve gone through — especially what’s made me bang my head against a wall. Across Columbia, there are many students and individuals who are eager to work together to solve challenges.


Fall 2015 Cross-Registration Dates

  • A-term, B-term, and Full-term electives: 10:00 am on Thursday August 20th until 4:00 pm Tuesday September 8th.
  • B-Term electives: 10:00 am Wednesday October 21st until 4:00pm Wednesday October 28th.