ENTREPRENEURSHIP GAINING INTEREST AT OTHER SCHOOLS AS WELL
Of course, HBS and the GSB are not the only schools reporting increased interest in entrepreneurship among MBAs in recent years. “We’re seeing a big increase in interest in entrepreneurship in the student body compared to five to 10 years ago,” says Jeremy Kagan, the managing director of the Eugene Lang Center for Entrepreneurship at Columbia Business School.
“More and more MBA students are realizing they will be entrepreneurs or at least entrepreneurial in their careers at some point — whether or not they start a company while in school, or five or 10 years later, or simply join a thriving growth company,” Kagan continues. “Columbia has not only expanded and deepened its curriculum for entrepreneurs, but also the definition of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
Kagan says the school has built upon foundational courses like the Foundations of Entrepreneurship and Lean Launchpad to include coursework on “everything from building an enterprise sales team to design thinking.” What’s more, he says, “We also have broadened our audience, engaging not just entrepreneurs planning to launch their company while in school, but recognizing those for whom the big idea hasn’t yet come or the timing isn’t right and encouraging them to build their skill sets as well.”
MIT’S ‘FOUR H’S’ OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, intermingling is the modus operandi.
“We are completely integrated with the rest of the school. So when MBAs come here, to our center, they walk across the street and they’ll see engineers, policy people, lawyers, post-docs,” says Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurship, if it’s just MBAs is interesting, but if it’s MBAs plus technical people, policy people, and design people, that’s an order of magnitude more interesting and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Aulet says Sloan’s approach is less about raising capital and starting companies.
“If someone invests in you, they want your fish. If you go to an economic development agency, they want you to start a company. Here, we’re teaching them how to fish,” Aulet explains. “We’re teaching them how to become entrepreneurs. Those entrepreneurs may start companies or they may work at McKinsey or the New York City government or work at MIT.”
With that comes the “four H’s” of entrepreneurship. Aulet says first is teaching future entrepreneurs to have heart. “An entrepreneur is anti-fragile. That means they can thrive in instability,” he says. Next, successful entrepreneurs must have a head. “Do they have the knowledge needed,” Aulet says. After that it’s having hands, or being able to put theory into action, and lastly it’s home, or being part of a community and being able to create and expand communities.
Aulet says the ability to raise venture capital is not an indicator of entrepreneurial ability. “I don’t believe how much money you raise is a proxy of how good of an entrepreneur you are,” he says. “I know it’s not as sexy, because people always want to say, how much investment money has your company raised, how much revenue have they done, how many jobs have they created. And we can give you numbers that would blow your brains out. But that’s not what we should be focusing on. That’s a misnomer.”
But if venture capital money is the route for a startup, Aulet recommends heeding some advice.
“One you take that money, you have lit a fuse. It’s a really great fuse and it’s a powerful fuse. But you better know where you’re going. Because you’ve lit a fuse and you only have a certain amount of time,” he says, noting it’s best to push the fundraising out until startups have a clearer idea of product-market fit, an execution plan, and a culture. “If you’re at the point where the only risk you have is a financial risk, then raising $5 million is a beautiful thing. If you don’t know where you’re going, raising $5 million can destroy a potentially good company.”
MBA FOUNDERS OVER THE PAST FIVE YEARS
Over the past five years, no top MBA program has produced more startup founders immediately after graduation than Harvard Business School: 356, ahead of second-place Stanford GSB’s 297. When size of class is taken into account, however, the GSB’s percentages of graduate founders has doubled Harvard’s over the past five years. Wharton has produced the third-most MBA founders immediately after graduation over the past five years with 216. Columbia Business School follows with 146, and MIT Sloan rounds out the top five with 137.
No matter the school, entrepreneurship faculty and leaders are high on bringing potential startup ideas with you when entering into full-time MBA programs.
“If you have a venture idea, by all means, bring it into your class projects and apply what you’re learning to evaluate that venture idea,” Whitman says. “Several alumni entrepreneurs who percolated a new venture idea while in their MBA program and then started the company after graduation have said that having a startup idea in mind helped them get more about of all their MBA classes, because they kept thinking about how they would apply the learning in any class to their startup idea. So, I think evaluating one (or more) new venture ideas while you’re in your MBA program is a great, hands-on, way to learn that important skill. If you identify and vet a startup idea that you think is so amazing that you want to invest your next career move in it, I’d encourage most students to plan to launch it after you graduate so you can give your startup the best shot possible.”