B-Schools and the Business of Startups

There’s been quite a bit of press recently questioning the benefits of a business education for those who want to start their own businesses. For instance, in an article titled “You Could Get There Faster Without An MBA” in the Business Insider, author Jay Bhatti says that the cost and the time commitments for getting an MBA make the degree less valuable than just jumping right in and innovating.

An article in Forbes echoes this thinking:

[I]f you’d prefer to bypass the corporate ladder and actually build something of your own, spending upwards of $140,000 and two years without pay is just about the worst way to go about it. Because looming outside those classroom walls is a creature far less merciful than any b-school professor: the market.

However, an MBA can help nascent entrepreneurs understand the market, and come up with business models based on a solid foundation of skills that many can’t develop outside of a structured environment like a business school. And a business education can also provide a fertile ecosystem where entrepreneurs can network and build essential relationships with angel investors and venture capital firms. Indeed, a recent Financial Times story points out that many b-schools are embracing innovation and creating infrastructures to encourage entrepreneurship:

Harvard Business School has opened its own “innovation lab” to foster team-based and entrepreneurial activities among students, faculty staff and entrepreneurs. And the Haas School at the University of California, Berkeley, has overhauled its core MBA curriculum with an explicit commitment to shaping innovative leaders.

Reinforcing this trend, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has recently upgraded its San Francisco campus (which hosts the school’s West Coast EMBA cohort) in hopes of deepening its connection with the networks and capital from nearby Silicon Valley, a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity.

And really, as to whether b-schools can foster innovation and help students create new businesses, the proof is in the pudding. As we noted a while back, business schools were launch pads for some innovative social enterprise startups, including a company that helps turn coffee grounds into gourmet mushrooms, and one that is helping to get electric lighting to India’s poor. And you can also read more stories of MBA grads who successfully created new businesses in a Find MBA article here.

In this short video, Slava Rubin, the co-founder of IndieGoGo, talks about how the Haas School of Business, through its startup incubator and curriculum, helped enable and foster the creation of his business:


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