The controversy…MBAs & Startups

There has been a lot of debate on whether an MBA makes sense for aspiring entrepreneurs.  The general buzz on the Internet is that it makes no sense to get an MBA by pointing to the cost, what you learn (or don’t), the opportunity cost of the 2 years, etc.  I had many similar doubts upon entering my MBA as well.

Honestly, most of these seem valid.  However, I think a good deal of the real benefit is either unknown by those that did not attend or ignored.  Does an MBA degree really add any value?  It all lies in leverage of the right opportunities.  Even going through the same program, same core classes, you’d be surprised how different an experience two MBAs have. If there was one thing an MBA provides, it is rich and unique opportunities for those with little relevant background in a field.  How else could you fly to Brazil, meet with the CEOs of the top 5 companies in a couple days or go to Silicon Valley and get time with 10 of the top VC firms over a weekend without any background or individual connections.

Beyond that, I’d ask for a little more rigor around these claims, especially with regards to MBAs being inherently risk adverse (purely by attending).  Look at the rate of started companies from the top undergrads/high schools (whatever stage of education you’d vouch for) and compare that to the rate of businesses started after an MBA program.  My gut GUESS would be that Stanford GSB, HBS, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Haas produce more founders per graduate than almost any other programs (baring say MS Engineering at Stanford).

With the advent of sub-communities in the various schools (e.g. Startup Tribe at HBS or Founders’ Club at Wharton), students are focusing on actually building things rather than generating more ideas they leave sitting in little black books (self jab).

To say the least, I see numerous companies started by my classmates and am proud to know 10 students that are dropping out after a summer where they saw significant traction or validation on their projects.   The broader start-up community applauds this as sticking it to the B-schools and I see it completely opposite.  I applaud their departures because they came to school to figure out their next move, became impassioned by an idea, leveraged the resources at hand (alumni, classmates, research for classes) to get validation, test the market, raise funds, get into accelerator programs, etc. (most of which they didn’t even know existed or how to access before they come to school).  I admire their departures but see them as a testament to the value of the very MBA they are leaving.

To departing MBAs – Congrats guys, go kill it!

To other MBAs – build stuff, leverage your time at school make actual progress

To non-MBA haters – stick to critiquing what you know and don’t dismiss MBAs off-hand, they tend to be some of the scrappiest people you could hire (just check their egos, unfortunately a few have given the rest of us bad names)


Posted on June 26, 2011, in Venture & Start-ups. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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