As the traditional MBA struggles, new players arise to take its place. We call them the Disruptors. This is the second in an ongoing series about who they are, what they have achieved, and what they are planning; see our first installment here.
Roei Deutsch started his first company at 14. At 16, he sold it.
He has been an IT guy, a media consultant, and a member of the Israeli Defense Forces. But one thing he has never been, and never will be, is an MBA.
Deutsch has no interest in working on Wall Street or for McKinsey. And he has seen firsthand how a degree from even the most elite institution doesn’t give someone the ability to manage a business. So why, he asks, would he — or anyone — want to take two long years and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get an MBA?
“I would have very much liked to be able to afford a Harvard MBA because it’s an incredible way to acquire great business skills and open yourself to the world and build your own network,” says Deutsch, a native of Tel Aviv who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Bar-Ilan University in 2015. “How much it costs, it creates a massive barrier. When I talk to my friends who have done it and I look into it, a lot of people don’t have the money. You can borrow the money, but that’s like tuned into your life force forever.
“I started my first company when I was 14 and I sold it when I was 16, and I ran a successful company in Israel. Thinking that I will stop my life for two years and spend this amount of money and put my life into this, even though I may have been able to get in on my merits and experience, that thought was like, ‘I do not see the ROI in this unless I wanted to work for a McKinsey or become a financial expert.’ I think there’s something of an anti-establishment movement happening here, with people understanding that maybe this can be done better, cheaper, faster, and in a model that doesn’t stop your life for two years and doesn’t put you into debt for the rest of your life.”
THOUSANDS SIGNED UP AT ONE OF JOLT’S UK OR ISRAEL CAMPUSES IN 2019
Deutsch’s model: Jolt, an alternative to the MBA that is affordable, less time-consuming, and laser-focused on teaching the skills that business people actually need. Marketed as NAMBA, “Not An MBA,” Jolt is “the business school for the self-made” whose mission is “to give its students a competitive advantage while keeping them out of debt.” Courses are aimed at professionals with undergraduate degrees and at least two years’ experience, or three years’ experience without a degree, who have reached a point in their career where they want to learn new skills, get promoted, or move into a new industry — but do not want to put their lives on hold for learning.
Along with co-founders Nitzan Cohen Arazi and Nadav Leshem, Deutsch launched Jolt in 2015; it opened its first campus in 2017. Since then the number of students has grown consistently. Jolt now has 13 campuses in London and Tel Aviv and plans to open two more in New York in 2020. Though he won’t divulge the total number of current students or alumni, Deutsch says that last year alone “thousands” of students signed up with Jolt and began to take classes; in London alone, he says, Jolt has more students than London Business School, with enrollments growing 25% month-on-month. What do those students look like? “While a lot of our students have pursued an MBA before and have decided to go with Jolt,” Deutsch tells Poets&Quants, “most of our students have only started considering a business education after coming across Jolt.”
All this for a fraction of the cost of a traditional residential MBA. A Jolt NAMBA program costs £175 a month, or around £4,500 altogether. That’s about $5,800. It’s more than six times cheaper than traditional UK MBAs, which average £30,000, and 18 times cheaper than London Business School — even before factoring in loss of earnings and other factors.
HOW IT WORKS
Here’s how it works. Lessons and workshops are run out of co-working spaces, where Jolt builds interactive, futuristic classrooms, and taught by representatives from top companies: Google, Netflix, and Tesla, for example. Faculty are all hands-on practitioners vetted by Jolt’s leadership. Jolt uses live video and the Jolt app to connect lecturers from around the globe with students; lessons are offered outside of working hours, meaning students can complete their studies without having to forgo salary.
With Jolt, students only accumulate — and pay for — the classes they need to build their diploma. They don’t have to complete the full program if they don’t want to. Doing so takes between two and a half and three years; dedicated finishers may graduate in as little as seven months. The lessons revolve around the practical application of skills, debates, and discussions, as well as role-playing and other interactive tasks, making them more immediately useful in a student’s day-to-day career. The point is not to graduate, Deutsch says; the point is to acquire the skills.
Deutsch says Jolt’s approach has resulted in a 40% higher satisfaction rate than traditional MBAs. But it isn’t only students who are satisfied. In January, Jolt raised $14.1 million in Series A funding led by Balderton Capital, a London-based venture capital firm, bringing its total fundraising since 2017 to $23.3 million.
“We think there’s a education bubble in business schools and MBA programs in our industry with a majority of the people saying it doesn’t quite get them ready for actual employment,” says Deutsch, who was named to Forbes‘ 30 Underreported 30 list in 2017. “Essentially we started with building Jolt as an alternate to higher education. Given that this generation measures higher education based on its effectiveness more than ever — by how much it prepares them for actual employment — we think business skills are actually easy to teach once correlated to actual business success. It’s almost obvious.
“We do believe that business skills are something that can be acquired on a continuing basis and flexibly as part of your career growth.”
See the next page for P&Q‘s Q&A with Jolt CEO Roei Deutsch, edited for length and clarity.