Over 85% of current MBAs and applicants say they’re considering entrepreneurship as a current or future career path, according to a new survey by venture capital firm Illuminate Ventures. The online survey of MBA applicants and current students was conducted between late 2019 and mid-2020, capturing responses from more than 500 students across 20 U.S.-based MBA programs. Men responding to the survey were more likely to indicate intentions on considering their own venture or joining a startup than women, by a margin of 88% to 80%.
Most MBAs responding to the survey say they are more likely to dip their toes into entrepreneurship rather than diving in by launching their own venture. The majority of respondents indicated they wanted to start their post-MBA entrepreneurial paths by either joining an early-stage startup or co-founding a company that doesn’t involve their entrepreneurial idea. Most women responded that they’d rather start at an early-stage venture while most men said they’d like to start as a co-founder. The least likely starting path among both women and men was starting a company with their own idea that they already have.
Some 48% of men responding to the survey indicated they’re already involved in entrepreneurship, while just 34% of women indicated they’re currently active in some form of entrepreneurship.
Measuring and evaluating the differences between men and women was one main purpose of the survey. Illuminate Ventures is led by Cindy Padnos and Jennifer Savage and is one of the rare all-female led venture capital firms.
RESILIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE LISTED AS MOST IMPORTANT ATTRIBUTE OF ENTPRENEURIAL SUCCESS
There were differences between men and women, to be sure. But there were also many similarities. For example, the single highest motivation for becoming an entrepreneur among both men and women is bringing their ideas to market. And the lowest motivating factor for both groups was making significant financial gains. MBAs were then asked to rank six attributes for entrepreneurial success. Again, both men and women agreed the single-most-important attribute for a successful entrepreneur to have is resilience and perseverance. The least important attribute? Domain knowledge.
However, there were differences among the attributes in the middle. For example, male MBAs listed the ability to attract a team as the second-most important attribute behind having resilience and perseverance. Women, on the other hand, listed the ability to attract a team as the second-lowest important attribute, just above domain knowledge. The second-most important attribute for women was having networks for access.
When it comes to ranking the barriers of entrepreneurial success, women and men were on the same page. Both listed financial security concerns as the biggest barrier and having a unique idea as the lowest barrier. And both groups listed access to capital as the second-highest barrier.
IMPLICATIONS FOR BUSINESS SCHOOLS AND EDUCATING FUTURE MBA ENTREPRENEURS
The percentage of surveyed MBAs considering entrepreneurship is remarkably high, even taking into account an inherent bias toward entrepreneurship and venture capital, considering the survey was conducted by a venture capital firm. But the survey results have some interesting tidbits for business schools and how entrepreneurship education is approached. When asked about the data sources they valued most, MBAs put traditional forms of education lower on the list. For example, entrepreneurship clubs, professors, and classroom educational programs were listed as the three-lowest data sources MBAs most valued.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs whom students have met were by far the most important data sources for current and future MBAs. Following entrepreneurs the students had met were mentors, websites, and publications.
The entire report can be found here.