Business School Is Not Street Cred for Startups

March 13, 2014

in Education, Personal Improvement

Continuing the topic of education from yesterday, I saw the tweet above shortly after reading this article entitled, “Could a Harvard Business School Degree Hurt More Than It Helps?” The main point of the article is:

For venture capitalists who pray at the altar of pattern recognition, it would be hard to ignore how few massive tech successes have been founded by entrepreneurs with MBAs on their resumes.

Business school has little to do with starting companies. It is much better designed to produce operators for BigCos.

There are some notable exceptions. For instance, the Georgia Tech TI:GER program does a wonderful job at inspiring and teaching entrepreneurship. But nothing is as good a training as just joining a startup and contributing to it firsthand. In startups, experience coupled with rapidfire self-learning is the master teacher.

This idea of receiving continual training on-the-job was articulated well by Barrett Brooks in a comment on yesterday’s post. I’ve also written about MBAs and startups before.

What are your thoughts on the relevance of business school for startup companies?


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  • Kevin Sandlin

    I spent 2.5 years getting my MBA. Knowing what I know now, if I could do it again, I’d go to work for a tech startup, and get paid to learn the stuff they don’t even think about in B-School

    • melonakos

      Great input! Thanks for sharing.

  • lance

    Well I this is quite the interesting discussion. I suppose the answer depends on how you define the word “startup.” While I have the utmost respect for Steve Blank and agree that startups are not small versions of big companies, I vehemently disagree with his “temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” By that definition most companies that are venture funded are not startups. I am pretty sure that your company is not a startup by that definition. The definition is wrong.

    Regardless, before I went to work for a startup I went and got a MBA and worked for a large corporation. The biggest company in the world. Those experiences did two things. One, it taught me the business of business which once you get to any scale at all is important. Two is it taught me management processes that at some point have to be implemented in a startup (if you accept that a technology company with less than $5 million in revenue might still be a startup).

    I don’t think an MBA and big co experience necessarily helps someone to start a company (and it might actually hurt), but given the right individual personality I believe that these experiences can help someone to scale a startup.

    • melonakos

      I agree that the definition of the word startup is murky. I liked your post today on the topic:

      I also agree that big management requires skills that definitely come in handy as the startup needs to scale!

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Pingback: Startup Lesson 18: Getting an MBA is stupid | Atlanta Tech Blogs()

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