Stanford GSB | Ms. East Africa Specialist
GMAT 690, GPA 3.34
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Nonprofit Social Entrepreneur
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
MIT Sloan | Mr. Low GPA Over Achiever
GMAT 700, GPA 2.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Minority Champ
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Ms. Start-Up Entrepreneur
GRE 318 current; 324 intended, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Health Care Executive
GMAT 690, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Fintech Nerd
GMAT 740, GPA 7.7/10
Harvard | Mr. Professional Boy Scout
GMAT 660, GPA 3.83
Darden | Mr. Senior Energy Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 2.5
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02
IU Kelley | Mr. Clinical Trial Ops
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.33
IU Kelley | Ms. Biracial Single Mommy
, GPA 2.5/3.67 Grad
Rice Jones | Mr. Simple Manufacturer
GRE 320, GPA 3.95
NYU Stern | Mr. Low Gmat
GMAT 690, GPA 73.45 % (No GPA in undergrad)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Finance Musician
GRE 330, GPA 3.6
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Wake Up & Grind
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Improve Healthcare
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
N U Singapore | Ms. Biomanager
GMAT 520, GPA 2.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Indian Telecom ENG
GRE 340, GPA 3.56
Harvard | Mr. 1st Gen Brazilian LGBT
GMAT 720, GPA 3.2
USC Marshall | Mr. Ambitious
GRE 323, GPA 3.01
Harvard | Mr. Merchant Of Debt
GMAT 760, GPA 3.5 / 4.0 in Master 1 / 4.0 in Master 2
Tuck | Ms. Nigerian Footwear
GRE None, GPA 4.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Low GPA To Stanford
GMAT 770, GPA 2.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 360 Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Low GPA High GRE
GRE 325, GPA 3.2

How We Started A Career Site Used By 50% Of Top MBAs

Cover page of the pitchdeck for TransparentCareer


We both felt our risk was fairly low relative to our tolerances, and thought we would retain similar career options even if the business didn’t take off. Additionally, the momentum we were carrying had us excited, and early signs from partners and potential investors were positive.

Regarding capital: one of the best thing about the New Venture Challenge and the MBA experience overall was the exposure to venture funds early and often. At the seed stage, they’re betting on you as a founder as much as the market or the product, so having these relationships was key.

After raising an $850,000 seed round from Hyde Park Angels, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Pritzker VC, Origin Ventures, OCA Ventures, and General Catalyst’s Rough Draft Ventures, we set out building a team and transforming TransparentCareer into a platform that could serve any type of professional career.


Yes, it has absolutely been worth it. But the long answer is much more nuanced.

We’re proud of what we’ve built, and gained a ton from the experience of building a company right after school. We earned (through blood sweat and tears) a skillset you’d never attain in the context of an MBA program. We built an amazing team of top developers and salespeople from absolutely nothing – we still can’t believe they wanted to work with us.

But we’ve also gained an appreciation for just how hard basically everything is when you’re a no-name startup. Starting niche was the key to our initial success, but no one outside the MBA community knew us when we opened our site beyond B-school students.  Monetization is always difficult in network businesses; and ours is subject to long sales cycles and a healthy dose of customer inertia.

Here’s some advice to aspiring MBA entrepreneurs based on our experience:

Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything. The usual line – it’s cliche at this point, I know. But I can’t think of a piece of advice that has rung more true for us.

Making assumptions can be a dangerous trap. It’s easy to say “if we do X then Y will happen” and be logical, but ultimately incorrect. In startups, especially in the beginning, making assumptions is part of the game, but it can be easy to forget that they are just that – assumptions – and not something you’ve proven true. In every decision you make recognize what assumptions you’re making and try to validate them as quickly as possible.

Use your .edu email address like a weapon. You’re at b-school for the network. Use it. It works. Our first 500 users came from Booth. Our next 5,000 came from grassroots efforts, reaching out to other MBA students from our school email addresses. Our first customer – and 60% of our current customers – were referred by other Boothies.

You can win with hustle in the beginning. But have a long-term plan. Most successful entrepreneurs we’ve talked with have reiterated this – when you’re in seed stage, hustle can make all the difference. But have an eye to the future – whether it’s building your business through resale, partners, content marketing, referrals, whatever. You can’t out-hustle everyone forever.

Good luck!

Click here to download the pitchdeck (financial details redacted) we used to raise our first $850,000. It’s not the best – trust us, we know – but hopefully it shows that you can do it without a pretty PowerPoint.

If you’re interested in the startup route, you can use our startup filters to learn which companies are hiring MBAs, and how much compensation they earn by company stage (seed, Series A, etc.)


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.