MBA Entrepreneurs

How US Business Schools Are Attracting The World’s Hottest MBA Entrepreneurs

One quarter of MBA candidates globally have entrepreneurial goals. Business schools in the US are doing their best to nab them

Written by Marco De Novellis | MBA Entrepreneurs | Friday 16th June 2017 12:39:00 GMT


Food-delivery platform GrubHub came out of Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge

Food-delivery platform GrubHub came out of Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge

Seven out of the Financial Times’ top-10-ranked MBA programs for entrepreneurship globally are based in the United States.

At top-ranked Stanford Graduate School of Business – a stone’s throw from San Francisco’s Silicon Valley – 13% of MBA students start new ventures before graduation. 34% launch new businesses within three years of graduation.

At Babson College’s Olin Graduate School of Business, 46% of MBAs launch new startups within three years of graduation.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), one quarter of MBA candidates globally have entrepreneurial goals. 58% of full-time MBA candidates looking to study abroad have their hearts set on the United States.

Across the board, US business schools are working to attract the world’s hottest young entrepreneurs to their MBA programs.


MBA Entrepreneurs

Patrick Morsches quit his job at a global investment management firm and relocated from Baltimore to Nashville, Tennessee, to pursue a full-time MBA at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management.

“I wanted a change from my corporate nine-to-five job,” he says. “I had been involved in a couple of startups on the side and I knew I wanted to surround myself with other business-oriented people. Owen was a good fit for me to get a startup off the ground.”

He’s launched Let’s Room Together during his MBA, an online platform designed to help graduate students find roommates, and address a housing challenge he himself faced when transitioning back to school in a new city many miles from home.

Patrick graduates in 2018. Already, he’s trialing the service with two different graduate programs. He aims to roll the platform out to several Nashville-based schools this fall, before expanding nationwide.

“Owen has helped me turn my idea into a viable business,” Patrick explains. “Pursuing an MBA helps us students look at the world in a different way and see the need for real change in the products and processes around us, all the while providing us with the skills necessary to actually implement these changes.

“I definitely would not be where I am today without my experience at Owen. Without all the resources and mentorship, my business would still be in the idea-phase.”

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So, do you need an MBA to become a successful entrepreneur? No. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs did pretty well without one. But the support ecosystem business school offers certainly helps.

In fact – according to GMAC’s latest Prospective Students Survey Report – one in 10 MBA candidates interested in pursuing a career in entrepreneurship already manage their own business. An MBA program provides entrepreneurs with the skills and support necessary to help their businesses grow.

“An MBA helps students understand the entire system of business; what the needs are in the marketplace, how to innovate, and how to adapt,” says Pam Delany, director of graduate admission and recruitment at Arizona State University’s WP Carey School of Business.

“With the rate of innovation in our society, a business plan might be obsolete shortly after you’ve created it. The ability to adapt, assess, and evaluate, is something that you will learn through an MBA program.”


Attracting entrepreneurs

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The Ohio State University’s Max M. Fisher College of Business has launched a new MBA specialization in technology entrepreneurship, targeted at MBA candidates looking to start their own tech-based venture.

Fisher MBA students have access to an on-campus startup accelerator and are connected with mentors, proof-of-concept funding, and startup capital, with a view to launching their own businesses by the summer of their second year.

According to Michael Camp, who leads Fisher’s Richard S. Langdale Academy in Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization, around 20% of Fisher MBA students are interested in running their own business, and 70% have worked in startups before.

In 2016, WP Carey launched its new full-scholarship Forward Focus MBA. The university covers the entirety of all incoming MBA students’ tuition, with MBA students working on projects for the school in return.

“We’ve had an increase in entrepreneurship-focused people coming into the program because of the Forward Focus initiative,” says Pam, who saw overall applications shoot up from around 500 in 2015 to 1,159 in 2016 with the launch of the new program.

“A lot of MBA students in any program strive to start their own business. It’s just that the economics of it makes it challenging, so they may wait a few years before they do it,” Pam continues.

“We’ve created an environment where people can take that risk. When they leave the program, they won’t have a large student loan, or have invested all their private funds into their education. Our hope is that these students will be able to innovate and start their own businesses sooner.”


New opportunities

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Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge (NVC) startup accelerator has helped fund over 140 successful businesses, including multi-billion dollar food-delivery platform GrubHub and online payment firm Braintree – acquired by PayPal for $800 million in 2013.

Run by the school’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the NVC dishes out over $750,000 in cash prizes to Boothies with the best business ideas, as well as providing introductions to investors and mentors.

At the University of San Diego School of Business, MBA students – a close-knit group of around 40 per class – can take part in pitching competitions as well as specialist courses on growing a new business and raising money from investors.

Last year, around 35% of the school’s MBA grads founded their own businesses. Past success stories include Bon Affair, which sells low-calorie wine, and GigTown, a booking platform for local musicians.

“Our students who have gone onto be entrepreneurs have given a lot of credit to their MBA,” says Kacy Hayes, the school’s assistant dean for graduate programs.

“They learned a lot of the skills that they’ve needed to make smart business decisions. They grew their network, which helped them make connections with investors. They were able to practice and get feedback on some of their ideas in their coursework.

“A lot of people around the world look to the US,” Kacy continues. “San Diego itself is the home to a lot of small businesses. We have a very entrepreneurial spirit here – it can be contagious.”

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