Neither Pandemic Nor Recession Will Prevent This Stanford MBA From Doing A Startup

Stanford MBA Ben Leff on the campaign trail

After working for Goldman Sachs and then Peterson Partners, Ben Leff arrived at the Stanford Graduate School of Business determined not to pursue a mainstream MBA job but instead to use his MBA experience to create a startup.

At any other time, he would be in the right place to do that. After all, MBA startups founded on the campus in the heart of Silicon Valley have raised more money than MBAs at any other school in the world for three years straight (see The Best MBA Programs For Venture-Backed Startups).

But these are highly uncertain times. Still, undaunted by either the horrifying pandemic or the coming of a deep recession, the 25-year-old isn’t about to change his plans to launch a company.


“This is when real opportunities present themselves, at the bottom of the market,” he says while admitting that his parents are somewhat skeptical about his decision to walk from the lucrative world of investing into the less certain world of the entrepreneur.

His idea? Reality Check, a new political polling company that leverages social media tools to increase engagement and get more accurate results than traditional polling methods. Response rates for traditional public opinion polls have declined from 36% in the 1990s to under 6% today. In fact, research shows that 94% of Americans won’t even answer their phones to speak with a pollster. By smartly harnessing social media through more engaging surveys, Leff believes he can bring new people into the political discussion with response rates far in excess of what traditional pollsters achieve.

“If there is one recession-proof business, it is going to be politics, particularly at this time,” believes Leff, who graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University. “One thing that is very certain is that the election is going to happen, and $10 billion is going to be spent on this election. It is going to be more important than ever to learn what voters are thinking because you are not going to see big rallies and you probably aren’t going to be allowed to have many door knockers collecting polls on the ground. So using digital tools to talk to voters and connect with them is going to be of critical importance.”

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