It was a massive year for MBA-founded startups. Unique ventures were launched. Established startups had Goliath-like seed rounds. Others grew and scaled at breakneck rates. And Poets&Quants covered much of it.
We thought we’d take the time to go back and look at the entirety of ventures we covered in 2015 and compile a list of the ones that stood out to us. One thing is for sure: there is probably no boundaries to the entrepreneurial use of an MBA from a top school. From organic juice to a dating app to shower caps, the list represents a diverse set of interests, passions and problems MBAs possess and set out to solve.
These MBA entrepreneurs are in various stages of growth, but they all have grit, determination, intelligence, bravery and have poured much of themselves into their ventures. And for that, they’ve made our 2015 list of favorite MBA startups.
10. TarDisk, Founder: Pierce Schiller, Harvard Business School
Pierce Schiller is a builder. He’s also incredibly intelligent and savvy. Before embarking on his highly valuable and equally expensive Harvard Business School MBA, he came upon a frustration. Months after purchasing a brand new MacBook, he ran out of space. So he looked for micro SD memory cards for MacBooks and was disgusted by the prices. He could do it for less, he thought, a lot less.
So Schiller created his own micro SD memory card for $2. To see if anyone wanted it, he tried to sell it on Ebay. It sold. Schiller began outsourcing production of his micro SD cards to China and charging $6 per card. They didn’t sell. His girlfriend reminded him of his market. “These are people buying Apple products,” she told him. “They don’t spend $6 on anything.” So he charged $20. They sold. He raised the price to $30. They sold even more. Before beginning his MBA, Schiller had raised enough money to pay for his MBA (with some financial assistance from the school) and had a plausible business idea that he calls TarDisk.
9. TripWeave, Founder: Daniel Valenti, Chicago Booth
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Harvard, Daniel Valenti had no idea what to do. He stumbled upon high-end travel guide service, Rustic Pathways. Soon Valenti was rubbing shoulders with some of the wealthiest travelers from around the world. He spent nearly four years exploring some of the most remote regions on the planet. And then it wasn’t enough. Valenti wanted to call the shots and work for himself.
Entrepreneurship and specifically, Mark Tebbe and the Polksy Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, brought him to Chicago Booth. Early on in an entrepreneurship class, Tebbe told the class of his idea to do a Rustic Pathways-sort of venture for incoming MBA students. At 10 a.m. on the Saturday after that class, Valenti received a phone call from a random Illinois number. It was Tebbe and he wanted to help Valenti hatch out plans to create the venture, which ended up being TripWeave.