Ten Biggest Surprises In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2019 MBA Ranking

A case study professor in action at Harvard Business School

6) No Entrepreneurship, Please – We’re From Harvard

In 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek took a major risk. They shoehorned Entrepreneurship into their ranking, giving it a 15.7% weight to boot. Here is how they frame their reasoning:

“Entrepreneurship: Students see entrepreneurship as central to their overall training, whether they want to start their own businesses or work at a big bank. Alumni told us whether their school took entrepreneurship as seriously as other career paths and rated the quality of training they received to start a small business or startup. Recruiters ranked schools according to whether graduates showed exceptional entrepreneurial skills and drive.”

That’s fair…entrepreneurship prepares students to be resourceful and proactive, to examine all angles, grapple with their worst instincts, and persevere through hard times – not to mention prototype, pitch, and produce. At the top, it would be hard to quibble with Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2019 Entrepreneurship ranking.

1. Stanford GSB: Among recent graduates, their alumni have churned out 39 of the 100 best-funded MBA startups of the past five years. Oh, and the campus is just a few miles from Sand Hill Road. Hard to top that combination.

2. Babson College: Their entire MBA curriculum is built around entrepreneurship!

3. MIT Sloan: Someone is always creating something on campus – and Sloan taps into the larger university ecosystem better than anyone.

4. UC-Berkeley Haas: Great location and synergies with the Bay Area. Let’s face it: startups like DoorDash, GrubHub, Intel, and eBay have Berkeley roots– and Magoosh and Niantic came out of Haas itself.

Then, the ranking jumps the shark…of Megalodon proportions. The University of Maryland at #5. Well, DC has become a Mecca for tech…but better than Harvard or Wharton? The University of Utah at #6? The I-15 corridor has produced some unicorns – and Overstock.com’s founder earned his BA at Eccles – but how has the program differentiated itself from the better-known program? The University of Mississippi at #7? Wait, there is a Silicon Swamp?

Get the picture? Since 2014, Harvard MBAs have launched 21 of the 100 best-funded startups – accounting for $729 million dollars in investment – and it ranks a measly 19th? Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business helps to host the world’s largest business plan competition – doling out nearly $3 million dollars in seed funding each year – and only places 42nd? Recent Wharton MBAs have been responsible for category-changing startups like Warby Parker and Harry’s and the school only ranks 31st for entrepreneurship? At Columbia Business School, Away and RigUp have drawn a combined $230 million dollars from investors in the past four years. Despite this, CBS ranks 20th with Bloomberg Businessweek – below the likes of UC-San Diego and the University of San Diego? Oh, and Northwestern Kellogg and Michigan Ross each house Zell Fellows Programs and still languish at 45th and 39th respectively.

You just have to shake your head. What do these programs have to do to get some recognition for the great work they’ve done in Entrepreneurship?

Stanford GSB Startup Garage

Whiteboards and Post-It notes are a part of the process in Stanford’s Startup Garage

7) Entrepreneurship: More Madness Than Method

Let’s go back to how Bloomberg Businessweek defines Entrepreneurship:

Alumni told us whether their school took entrepreneurship as seriously as other career paths and rated the quality of training they received to start a small business or startup. Recruiters ranked schools according to whether graduates showed exceptional entrepreneurial skills and drive.”

Looks like we’ve found the problem. It seems that Bloomberg Businessweek is concerned with feelings as opposed to outcomes. They want to know if entrepreneurship is taken “seriously” comparatively – a dangerous vagueness that’s seemingly left open to interpretation.

What isn’t subject to perception, however, is facts. For example, Bloomberg Businessweek could measure a program’s commitment to entrepreneurship using data points like the number of faculty specializing in entrepreneurship and the number of startup-themed electives or core courses. Another barometer might be the percentage of alumni who launched startups within a particular timeframe – and the percentage that reached certain benchmarks (revenue, funding, customers, burn rate, value, etc.). You could also gauge a student body’s interest in entrepreneurship by the percentage of students involved in startup-themed clubs or trips. Of course, there is always accelerator space to consider and the support and programming around it, such as seed funding dollars, competitions, and entrepreneurs-in-residence. Such measures create an apples-to-apples compares that separate fuzzy survey sentiments from hard-earned conviction.

Then there are the recruiters – a curious group to use to evaluate startup prowess. How exactly are recruiters the best source to measure “entrepreneurial skills and drive” when these may not be the skill sets they covet (even among those that actively champion intrapreneurship)? Mind you, the representatives of fledgling firms would be the perfect source to evaluate a school’s entrepreneurial aptitude. Problem is, these companies don’t employ recruiters to target MBAs. As a result, they won’t make Bloomberg Businessweek’s recruiter mailing list come survey time.

Sure enough, the views of alumni and MBAs deviate sharply in terms of entrepreneurship. In the 2018 Bloomberg Businessweek survey, recruiters and alumni both selected Stanford GSB as the top MBA program for entrepreneurship. That was a given. Beyond that, only MIT Sloan and INSEAD made both camps’ Top 10. Recruiters scored Berkeley Haas and Carnegie Mellon Tepper as their favorites, with alumni reserving their best grades for MIT Sloan and Babson. Ironically, Babson didn’t even make recruiters’ Top 30, while alumni ranked Berkeley Haas just 19th. That gap shouldn’t exist near the top.

In other words, the Entrepreneurial results are more subjective than quantitative, with recruiters lacking deep exposure to startup programming and alumni missing a means for comparison. The ranking is equivalent to a famous cliché, where two blind men feel different parts of an elephant – each making proclamations without knowing the whole story. Without anchoring surveys to data in Entrepreneurship, Bloomberg Businessweek makes the whole all the more unreliable.

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