Call it a sign of changing times, but somehow, the intersection between start-ups and MBA programs is growing… and not just because MBA students and grads are increasingly considering going down the entrepreneurship route. A considerable number of my fellow MBA students at Chicago Booth are ex-entrepreneurs with technical backgrounds, who decided that they needed more than just a awesome programming skills to get a start-up off the ground.
I see this as a good thing: an indicator that the sector (and online media particularly) is maturing and reaching a higher level of sophistication and understanding of its customer base than what might be encapsulated by the words: “Build it and they will come.”
I choose, at least until I am proven wrong, to dismiss that other somewhat scary notion that MBAs, due to their attraction to whatever is glamorous and trendy at the moment (and as Steve blank mentions in his video, entrepreneurship is indeed a “glamor industry” at this point), are somewhat of a leading indicator for economic collapse and bubbles just waiting to burst. After all, they (we?) only got into the whole dot.com thing in 1999-2000, and were really into hedge funds and private equity by 2007… My own educational choices perhaps prevent me from taking this to its logical conclusion.
But leaving that aside, the reality is that, whether you’re an MBA student now, or you’re only just beginning to consider taking the GMAT, chances are the thought of starting your own company has crossed your mind. If so, then definitely check out this interview with Steve Blank (serial entrepreneur, Berkeley Haas professor, and author of “Four Steps to the Epiphany” that I keep promising myself to read).
It contains some truly great morsels of wisdom on what it means to be an entrepreneur.
A few choice quotes:
“Hubris combined with passion is what makes entrepreneurs create something out of nothing.”
To MBA students torn between starting a company or accepting an offer from McKinsey: “Join McKinsey. Because, unless you’re waking up in the middle of the night, taking notes on your start-up, or by the time you get to your shower in the middle of the morning, you can’t wait to work on your start-up, that’s not what you’re cut out for.”
“A start-up is an irrational passion. It is not a job.”
He also has some really useful advice, once you’ve taken the plunge and decided to start your own venture, on how to attract customers, which really is 75% of what running a start-up is about. And there I will add, an MBA does come in very useful.
Anyways, lots of good food for thought… Stuff that can make even de facto entrepreneurs wonder whether they’re in the right business.
Also worth exploring is Steve Blank’s blog: a must for anyone interested in entrepreneurship.