Transparent MBA Re-Launches As TransparentCareer

The TransparentMBA Google profile

The TransparentMBA Google profile

CODING 60 HOURS A WEEK WHILE IN B-SCHOOL

Marvinac and Kirby met at a pre-MBA networking event in Chicago for Booth admits. Some eight months later, the two met again, and this time both had a startup idea in tow.

“He (Kirby) approached me and said, ‘Hey, I have this product pretty much built,'” Marvinac says. Indeed, while taking classes Kirby had been spending roughly 60 hours a week to teach himself how to code, and he had built out the bones of what is now TransparentMBA. “I immediately abandoned my idea,” Marvinac says.

After the launch in March, things grew rapidly. By April, Kirby predicted 10% to 15% of current MBAs at the “top 10” MBA programs were registered users. Later in the spring, the platform snagged a victory in Chicago Booth’s New Venture Competition. And now, a quarter of the elite MBA population is registered and the duo has almost $1 million to develop. The growth, Marvinac says, is exactly why he decided to pursue the product in the first place.

“I saw the product and realized, yeah, this is what we’re missing out there,” Marvinac says. “We have Glassdoor. We have Payscale. We have Comparably and some of the newer platforms out there. We have LinkedIn. We have all of these career resources that are large but don’t answer the question, ‘How do I know this is relevant to someone like me?'”

AIRBNB INTERNSHIP PLUS STARTUP PLUS MARRIAGE

Still, the growth hasn’t come without some consequences. By the time they had traction, Marvinac was already signed on for a coveted summer internship at Airbnb, working in host acquisition. “When I took the internship at Airbnb, we didn’t know if this would be a product we could scale in MBA programs, much less beyond MBAs,” Marvinac says. Plus, he adds, “going back on the offer wouldn’t have been a good look for the school or us. It also wasn’t a right or ethical decision.” Booth’s career services department had been making inroads on a potential Airbnb pipeline, and Marvinac didn’t want to mess things up — for himself or the school.

So, as soon as he arrived in San Francisco for the summer, Marvinac told his supervisor up-front about the side project he had going. But already his circumstances had changed. When Marvinac arrived, a person in a role similar to his was promoted — so instead of an intern, Marvinac would be filling in for the full-time employee who had been promoted. Suddenly he was maxed out. A typical day included a 6 a.m. wakeup call, two hours of TransparentMBA work, lunchtime investor meetings, a full day at Airbnb, dinner and at least four hours of evening work for TransparentMBA.

What’s more, Marvinac was getting married at the end of the summer.

“It was definitely a situation I would rather never do again,” Marvin says, laughing. “Without going into details, I’ll say my wife is a saint.”

DECELERATING THE MBA

Taking into account the momentum built over the summer and the potential of the product, Marvinac elected to decelerate his MBA. Students at Booth (and many other MBA programs) may elect for deceleration when they pursue a business by staying enrolled in one course at a time, or even completely putting the MBA aside for a few years.

Starting a business is definitely not the norm at Booth. According to the most recent official employment report, 3.3% — or 19 out of 505 — of the graduating class of 2015 elected to start a business or be an “entrepreneur.” In 2014, the number was just 1.6%, or nine of 509 graduating MBAs. In 2013, it was 2.9% — 17 out of 520.

Marvinac is enrolled in one course at Booth this fall and has promised his wife he’ll finish the MBA “eventually.” Asked why he doesn’t just spend another year cranking out coursework alongside the startup, Marvinac says what he and Kirby have is just too good. “We’re onto something big here,” Marvinac says. “Every entrepreneur is going to say that, but I really, truly believe we are onto something bigger than we even think right now.”

A lack of focus, he says, is one of the biggest threats to the venture.

“Our biggest threat internally is focus. There are so many directions we could go in,” Marvinac explains. “If you’re in a startup and you’re not focused, you won’t survive.”

CRIPPLING DEBT OFTEN DAMPENS STARTUP DREAMS

While an MBA program can be an ideal springboard for launching a business, Marvinac says debt keeps many from going for it right away. “If you take on the amount of debt many MBA programs will force you to take on, the opportunity cost is prohibited,” he says. “And the weight of your debt will encourage you to go in a different direction.”

One way to avoid a heavy debt burden, of course, is to only spend one year in B-school. And for Marvinac, right now, that’s just fine.

“We just know we can provide a ton of value for students and professionals in this space,” he says. “We also know it’s not just MBAs.”

DON’T MISS: THESE BOOTHIES CREATED A GLASSDOOR FOR MBAs or MBAs AT MICROSOFT, BAIN & GOOGLE TOP PAY SWEEPSTAKES