From Suits To Start-Ups: Why Top MBA Programs Are Changing

Recently, Poets&Quants published an article highlighting the trend of more and more MBA students in top programs shunning traditional corporate jobs to start their own businesses.

In particular, the piece highlighted that Stanford and HBS grads are 3x and 2x more likely to start a business upon graduation, respectively, when compared to their peers in on other MBA programs. Naturally, this is absolute geek porn for me. I’ve been harping about this trend and my insistence on aplplying to programs that not only talk about entrepreneurship in fluffy, college brochure-like lingo but that produce actual results evidenced by graduating entrepreneurs.


Though I’ve brought up on this trend in several previous posts, I’m pleasantly surprised that it seems to be moving with more fervor than I’ve ever imagined. You see, when I first began considering business school, I thought that I would only be applying to 3 or 4 schools–the usual suspects for entrepreneurship: Stanford GSB, MIT (Sloan), Berkeley (Haas), and possibly USC (Marshall). However, my research has revealed that schools like Penn (Wharton), Chicaco (Booth), Harvard, Northwestern (Kellogg), Dartmouth (Tuck), Yale SOM and Columbia are all doing a heck of a lot to support and foster entrepreneurship in their programs as well.


While having this many viable options is quite a nice conundrum to have on one hand, it is a bittersweet pill on the other. When I was a new entrepreneur, I was actually taught to AVOID business schools like the plague by those who came before me. They opined that business school was where entrepreneurial innovation went to die; not where it lived.

I would have died and gone to heaven to have experienced this kind of a shift when I was 25ish. Unfortunately, the dot com bust and September 11th had the whole business world clinging to every corner of brick and speck of mortar in sight.

The mere mention of a “tech start up” would have been likely to get you slapped in the face by someone who lost half their savings investing in one. Hmm…perhaps I was just born 9-10 years too early; or maybe I was right on time.


One big up side to the not-so winding road that I’ve traveled to arrive at this point in my life is the broad and deep training that I’ve gotten to experience in areas like sales, operations, marketing, leadership and risk management (my own, not someone else’s). Many times, when VCs complain about MBA’s they are referring to the fact that they (newly minted MBA’s) may lack this kind of know-how and/or experience; the kind of know-how that is all that matters during the first 1-2 years of a new company when everybody should be on the front lines and had damn well better be able to either code, sell something or both.

I also don’t believe that an entrepreneur can be made. I’ve always maintained that it is more of a personality type than a career choice–like Pavarotti or Baryshnikov. On the other hand, I’ve known enough entrepreneurs over the past decade and then some to also know that most fail due to a lack of the proper training and knowledge on certain aspects of growing a business; enter my primary reason for pursuing an MBA.


When I was watching the YouTube video of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s speech to the 2012 graduating class of HBS, I really connected to much of what she had to say. Like her (minus oh, a few BILLION dollars) I could not have planned the path that I have taken.

During each transition, I’ve gone after the next opportunity that would teach me what I lacked and needed to know; this strategy has made me particularly well rounded and suited for entrepreneurship. This would be true whether I matriculated through an MBA program or not.