MBA’s, Entrepreneurship & Growth Companies

While entrepreneurship as a whole is a fairly central topic to most MBA curriculum and a good number of schools have entrepreneurship clubs that organize minor events, and amongst other things panel discussions with successful entrepreneurs. A few programmes have taken their involvement with the entrepreneurship community to the next level.

LBS is one such school where it’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Speaker series focuses on bringing in successful entrepreneurs who students can learn from, INSEAD is another with the Global Entrepreneurship Forum will feature a close look at the global trends in angel investing, fire pitches by leading entrepreneurs searching for funding, a panel discussion on effective entrepreneurial leadership and the announcement of an initiative to celebrate INSEAD’s leading entrepreneurs.

At ESADE in Barcelona the entrepreneurship club has organized the “Quest for Talent” a conference inviting not only growth companies to attend and look for top talent form the region’s top MBA programs, but also, strongly focuses on MBA students interested in entrepreneurship as well as on startuppers seeking partners – overall a novel and innovative approach.

In the U.S. schools have been doing this for some time now, the Stanford business plan competition is among one of the most recognized in the country, and MIT’s commitment to entrepreneurship with it’s Entrepreneurship Center, 100k Competition, Executive summary contest, and the b. plan contest goes far and beyond that of other institutions of the same caliber. Though whether “twitch” is a good idea or just more hogwash around twitter is yet to be seen.

It’s safe to say that the collaboration between enterprise and academia initiated by student initiatives is on the rise. But what is more important is the initiative that can be seen at an event such as Quest for Talent and its focus on growth companies. Considering the need for expansion in human capital as well as market, there is a clear need for growth companies to hire and bring on MBA’s to take the reigns and lead those companies forward – and likewise MBA’s should look for jobs within growth companies aside from your typical blue chips, banks, and consultancies. Why? Reason being – more of an active stake in the role, more of an impact on the company as a whole, and of course a possibility of options. If that company goes M&A, or IPO – it means a big cash payout.

Criticisms of Academic Entrepreneurship

Academia is great, and understanding basic as well as advanced business concepts will undoubtedly help any entrepreneur in their journey towards launching the next top startup. However, there has been a recent trend among MBA programmes to focus a more of their coursework on entrepreneruship.

This coursework predominantly focuses on business plan writing, scalability and a lot of the things that we talk about here at f3fundit which in concept is not a bad thing, learning from others best practices and others mistakes gives us a leg up on the competition, however, what it does not do, and never will do, is substitute the real life experience that one gets from actually “doing it”.

Moving from Teaching to Doing

After all, reading every book in the lexicon on football, does not make you a good footballer, you have to go out there and practice, practice, practice. The same goes for entrepreneurs.

In the current academic spectrum, schools and professors are too preoccupied with teaching students theory, rather than having them do. The focus needs to shift to a more hands on approach. The question is how?

As start uppers will tell you, they are always underfunded, don’t have enough time, and are understaffed. The last of these is where the academic and real life – entrepreneurial words need to bride.  Here we don’t mean summer MBA internships at startups, we mean active participation throughout the course year for credit.

Managing Expectations for Startup Internships

Students interested in entrepreneurship need that hands on experience, and truth be told, three months is simply not enough to learn what a student needs to. This bridge also needs to act as a tool to manage expectations of MBA’s and startup jobs.

You’ll find that a majority of top 10 MBA students will have egos, however, the start up process is decisively different than working for even an established SME. While the student may have expectations that he or she will work on strategy formulation, the reality may be that for two weeks the team may spend long hours doing nothing more than making cold calls, or even data entry. Being bootstrapped means that every penny counts and hiring three people at €8/hr to do data entry for three days is sometimes just not an option.

This is something that unfortunately the academic approach lacks, instead of a reality that oftentimes sees longer work hours than investment banking or consulting, the picture is painted that the start upper is an engine of innovation, and that securing financing is something relative to being in California in 1998 and starting a dotcom, whereas the real picture is more attune to a Mad Max style post apocalyptic grind. Which truth be told makes it fun.

Implementing Change

Implementing change is never an easy task especially within institutions that have over time developed bureaucracies and have long embedded traditions and employees with a certain mindsets. One method, that does however prove effective in stimulating change among learning institutions are alumni and current students.

As schools rely on alumni donations on expanding, and as many of the alumni from business schools are or were entrepreneurs their voice should hold mettle among the administration. On the other side of the spectrum, business school students need to actively inform administration of their desire to participate in more hands-on initiatives instead of solely focusing on academic learning whether it be case, or technical, as neither is a satisfactory substitute for “just doing it”.

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