A Columbia Business School MBA. An associate at Goldman Sachs. A portfolio analyst for a major hedge fund. Founder of his own investment firm.
Talk about bona fides. Chris Haroun had the pedigree for a successful career in finance, and two feet in the door. But he didn’t have what he wanted.
He wanted to teach.
Haroun, author of 101 Crucial Lessons They Don’t Teach You in Business School, the 2015 book that Forbes called “one of six books that all entrepreneurs need to read right now,” left his budding Wall Street career after more than a decade and turned to what he considers a far more important, and rewarding, pursuit: education. “Education,” he told Inc. magazine in 2019, “is what brings kids out of poverty, blasts prejudices into oblivion, and knits disparate communities together in common interests.” His new path took him to Hult International Business School, where he taught as a professor, and to regular guest lecturer and advising roles at McGill University, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, and Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaching about venture capital, entrepreneurship, technology, strategy, and more.
His path also took him online, and that is where Haroun has made his biggest impact. As a teacher at Udemy, a learning platform for professionals and students, Haroun authored several popular courses (among them one based on his 2015 book), including the all-time top-selling online business course, “An Entire MBA in 1 Course,” which to date 350,000 students have taken across the globe. In June 2016, he founded Haroun Education Ventures, through which, in four years, he has sold more than 1 million online business and self-improvement courses in 12 languages. He has customers in every country in the world.
“I used to work in venture capital, hedge funds, Goldman Sachs, and stuff. And I was never happy,” Haroun tells Poets&Quants. “And I thought I was depressed. The only time I was happy was when I was mentoring other people or helping other people. And so I started teaching at night, and it gave me this unbelievable euphoric feeling to be able to help people. And so I don’t see it like a job. I see it like a passion. I love it.”
AN INTERNET SENSATION: 350K PEOPLE SIGN UP FOR ‘AN MBA IN 1 COURSE’
When Chris Haroun says “Thank you for coming to my TED Talk,” he caps the expression by giving you a link to an actual TED Talk. And when the native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada talks about his YouTube sessions, his constant work in production design, his nonprofit work, his weekly webcasts, and the many other ventures that occupy his time, he’s talking from a place of first-hand knowledge — and he can provide links.
The same is true when Haroun talks finance, or startup strategy, or management consulting, or public speaking and presentations. In his 2015 book and his lectures, Haroun displays a polymath’s curiosity for every enterprise and an excitement about students’ capacity for learning in every teachable subject, making him a natural central figure in all the courses at Haroun Education Ventures.
The enthusiasm is fully evident in “An MBA In 1 Course,” the eight-hour online class that, four years after its launch, is the single biggest seller on Udemy and can legitimately be described as an Internet sensation. Hundreds of thousands have signed up to learn to launch a company from scratch, gain understanding of financial models and investment banks and venture capital, and learn market analysis, company valuation, fundraising, and more — all in what amounts to one normal work day. The best part: It costs as little as $10.99 (depending on promotions).
The course’s origins lie in both Haroun’s desire to teach, particularly under-represented kids, and his dissatisfaction with graduate business education — including his own B-school experience, which culminated with an MBA from CBS in 2000.
‘”I found that when I graduated and when my friends graduated, the most important lessons in business they just didn’t teach us in school,” he says. “Like how to interview, how to sell, how to get a job, how to manage our own money. We know how to manage other people’s, but we might not our own. Years after business school, when I was in my thirties, I called my buddies that graduated with me and I said, ‘How does a mortgage work?’ They’re like, ‘I don’t know. I asked my mom.’
“So they don’t teach you the most important skills. The most important skillset in business is selling. That’s what a great entrepreneur and CEO does. And so it was frustrating. And I learned this on the fly when I worked at Goldman, in venture capital, in other industries, in my own companies. And then I started teaching during the evenings and volunteering. This is what made me do this.
“I’m on the board of this great not-for-profit in East Palo Alto, where the high school graduation rates are like 40%. It’s called the LEMO Foundation. And we give full-ride scholarships to students to go to high school, the best schools, private schools, all that stuff. My kids are in public school, but we can give full rides. And the issue with east Palo Alto — and in many places in the world — is there are a lot of deadbeat fathers. I don’t believe in such things as a deadbeat mother. I know that’s opinionated, but only 40% of people have high school degrees there. And so what I did was, I started teaching them on the weekends. And this whole MBA thing on Udemy was accidental.
“One Saturday I was teaching them, and there were 17 students. And I made a degree for them in early January of 2016. And these kids were unbelievable, they were so focused. And this event really changed my life and made me want to just teach forever. And then what happened was the next day I taught them over 12 hours, and I called it ‘An Entire MBA in 1 Day.’ And then I put up a camera at home and just recorded myself. And it took off.”
A 300-HOUR ONLINE MBA PROGRAM, COSTING BETWEEN $500 & $1,500
Haroun offers 16 other courses, each available through Udemy or his own website — everything from video production to cryptocurrency to public speaking. Among them you’ll find not only the course based on his book, 101 Crucial Lessons They Don’t Teach You in Business School, but also Intro to Finance, Accounting, Modeling and Valuation; Intro to Business Law; and more. Worried about your delegation skills? There’s a course for that. Looking for a guide on resumes and interviews? Haroun has you covered.
However, most of his time these days is spent managing his growing online MBA degree program, launched last December. Featuring three different levels — Silver, Gold, and Platinum — it includes 300 hours of lessons and costs between $499 and $1,499. All include a 30-day, 100% money-back guarantee.
The Silver program is accepting applications now through August 15. It’s 300 hours of lessons with no time limit to finish. The Gold and Platinum programs both begin in mid-December and both feature 200 hours of live Q&A in addition to the 300 hours of lessons; but the latter, the most expensive option, also features several hours of one-on-one meetings with Haroun via Zoom or in person in the San Francisco Bay Area.
More than 150 have enrolled in the Gold or Platinum programs, Haroun says, while interest in the newer Silver program (which only launched in April) is high. “We’ve had a ton of signups. I don’t know the exact number yet, but it’s been fun — and humbling as well,” he says.
Haroun offers the courses so cheaply because money is not his main motivation. His latest foray into online business education is sparked by the same driver as his first, when he created “An MBA In 1 Course” for the kids of East Palo Alto. “I just want to help. That’s all,” he says. “It was never about money. I think if you chase money, you lose your dreams and your money.
“But if you chase your dreams, as long as you’re willing to fail at least a couple of times — and I certainly have more than a couple of times — then good things can happen.”
See the next pages for a Q&A with Chris Haroun, founder of “An Entire MBA In One Course,” which has been edited for length and clarity.
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