Wharton | Mr. Data Dude
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Columbia | Mr. MD/MBA
GMAT 670, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Mr. Cricket From Kashmir
GMAT 730, GPA 8.5/10
Harvard | The Insurer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seller
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Tepper | Mr. Automotive Strategy
GMAT 670 - 700 on practice tests, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Researcher
GMAT 700, GPA 3.2
Tuck | Mr. Land Management
GMAT 760, GPA 3.85
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Microsoft Consultant
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.31
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Backyard Homesteader
GRE 327, GPA 3.90
Wharton | Mr. Finance to MBB
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
London Business School | Ms. Social Impact Consulting
GRE 330, GPA 3.28
London Business School | Ms. Audit Meme
GMAT 710, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Tech Start-Up
GMAT 720, GPA 3.52
Tepper | Mr. Insurance Dude
GMAT 660, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Ms. Indian Marketer
GMAT 680, GPA 8.9/10
NYU Stern | Mr. Middle Eastern Warrior
GMAT 720 (Estimated), GPA 3.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Chile Real Estate
GMAT 740, GPA 3.02
Yale | Mr. Sustainability Manager
GRE 319, GPA 3.52
NYU Stern | Mr. Beer Guy
GRE 306, GPA 4.0
NYU Stern | Ms. Legal Officer
GMAT 700, GPA 4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Education Non-profit
GRE 330, GPA 3.0
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Social To Tech
GMAT 700, GPA 2.7
Wharton | Mr. Mobility Entrepreneur
GMAT 760, GPA 1st Division
HEC Paris | Mr. Business Man
GMAT 720, GPA 3.89
Harvard | Mr. Football Author
GMAT 760, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Deferred Admission
GRE 329, GPA 3.99

The Most Successful Harvard MBAs

Excellence

Entrepreneurs Reflect on the Value of an MBA

 

“You need to learn the rules before you break them.”

“How can you fund a venture if you’re $200K in debt.”

“You don’t know what you don’t know.”

“The best teacher is experience.”

If you’ve weighed enrolling in business school against starting a company, those arguments probably sound pretty familiar. On one hand, an MBA curriculum provides a blueprint for managing an entire operation. In fact, some quip that an MBA teaches you everything you need…once your company reaches maturity, that is.

Yes, the launch and growth phases are never easy. And entrepreneurs, an ambitious and impatient lot, struggle with sitting in class when they could be writing code and wooing investors. They believe in now or never, understanding that the messy process of ‘getting there first’ is often as important as the b-school mantra of ‘getting it right.’

In entrepreneurial circles, an ‘MBA’ is often used as a punch line. Question is, does it have value for entrepreneurs – and how? In a two part series in the Chicago Tribune, entrepreneurs reflected on their experiences on the pros and cons of an MBA. Here are some of their thoughts:

“By and large, having professors in MBA programs ‘teach’ entrepreneurship is like having a priest teach sex education. You need people who have done it, not watched it. The ‘analysis paralysis’ that is part and parcel of the MBA education process is an absolute detriment to successfully building a new business.”

–  Howard Tullman, CEO, 1871:

“An MBA is helpful if you’re going into a field that absolutely requires it or you’re attending a top-five school. Otherwise, you need to find new, creative, refreshing ways to differentiate yourself and learn the adaptability necessary to thrive in today’s ever-changing marketplace. Paying to be handheld through an 18-month program just doesn’t cut it any longer.”

– Victor Saad, founder, Experience Institute

“Past failure can be as much a predictor of future success in a startup as anything … risk tolerance, team experience with chaos and uncertainty, the ability to pivot from plan. ‘This is the way things are done’ is antithetical to entrepreneurs. Pursuing an MBA doesn’t diminish our interest in you as an entrepreneur, but I don’t think it enhances our expectations much, either. It used to be that MBA schools were a great place to meet and network with people you were likely to spend a career doing business with, but today’s hyper-connected world really negates that advantage. The best entrepreneurial schools in Chicago are the ones aggressively pushing alignment and interaction outside the classroom and beyond the textbook.”

– Terry Howerton, founder and CEO, TechNexus

“The MBA is not necessarily needed, but it is certainly helpful. Since founding the company, my business partner and I have both begun MBA programs and directly applied knowledge from classes to our business. Specifically we have applied skills learned in accounting and finance to our business model, and we have new perspectives on approaching new customers. Additionally, getting to know the people in our programs has opened the door to many new industries and therefore a larger customer market.”

– Pat Aylward, co-founder, Onward Coworking:

“MBAs are especially helpful for individuals who are reassessing their career direction and need a birds-eye view of the options. Bankers decided they don’t want to crunch numbers, advertising folks feel they need more rigor, or consultants want to get their hands more dirty with front-line management experience. They are also helpful in broadening the scope of professional relationships that can help during future endeavors. On the other hand, if an applicant knows with great conviction that they want to be a trader on a risk (arbitrage) desk, or develop SaaS products, they are better off skipping the MBA in favor of finding a position in those fields directly.”

“An MBA is often part of the recipe but doesn’t have to be. More important is having a team of folks aligned against a simple mission, but with different skill sets that complement one another. An MBA can provide the “long view” and reference points for many of the challenges that arise, but capabilities can similarly be attained through a good old-fashioned array of mentors that set high expectations early in peoples’ career.”

– Jay Hoffmann, co-founder and CEO, RocketMiles.com

“It’s helpful only if it is required for what you are trying to do. Otherwise, experience is king in this Internet-obsessed world. Internships (even the unpaid ones) provide a toolbox of experiences that simply a framed (post-bachelor’s) certificate, or MBA, just can’t quite match. Think if it this way: While some sit in class getting their MBA, the true entrepreneurs of society are MIA and off building their own empires. Case-in-point: Chicago’s own Experience Institute, a higher-education platform based on real-world experiences.”

– Ashley Aspiranti, lead curator, NextSpace Coworking

“No idea. I think it’s a waste of time and money, frankly. Super valuable for networking and securing a good job at a big company that requires certain degrees or credentials for advancement — but that’s not the startup world. MBAs are as often frowned upon as they are admired in tech, so the benefit is not the paper you get at the end, but how it develops you as a person … because in startups, resumes are about as meaningful as ideas — they count for (nothing) compared to execution.”

– Logan LaHive, founder and CEO, Belly

“(Perseverance) can’t be taught, but the MBA can help with (learning agility and network, especially network). So if someone is considering entrepreneurship and debating whether or not to get an MBA, they need to analyze what the MBA experience will provide them with. A network is essential when creating a company out of nothing. Additionally, graduate school is one of the best times to meet your co-founders and incubate your business. But that must be weighed against debt burden, as entrepreneurship is difficult if you walk out of a top business school with $250,000 of debt.”

– Samir Mayekar, co-founder and CEO, SiNode Systems

DON’T MISS: B-SCHOOLS MISS THE MARK ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP AGAIN

To read feedback from other entrepreneurs, click on the links below.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune