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Top Business Schools For Entrepreneurs

A look at what three business schools – in the USA, the UK and Spain – can offer budding entrepreneurs

Stanford is probably the first name that comes to mind when you think about top business schools for entrepreneurs. Its location in the heart of Silicon Valley, alongside Stanford’s famous computer engineering faculty, means you’re more than likely to rub shoulders with the dotcom successes of the future here.

Spain’s IE Business School has built a reputation as a meeting point for VCs and start-ups in Europe. It runs the multi-school International Center for Entrepreneurship and Ventures Development, and also offers its students a twice yearly opportunity to present to investors for real money, Dragon’s Den style.

In the UK, Lancaster is consistently rated one of the top schools for entrepreneurship, and is renowned for its focus on commercializing ideas coming out of Lancaster University’s science and technology faculties.

Stanford Graduate School of Business, California, USA
Business school in Silicon Valley

The Stanford Graduate School of Business has offered entrepreneurship classes as far back as the 50’s. Its Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, which started in 1996, offers 22 specialised courses have been developed.

Approximately six to -10 per cent of 389full-time MBA students indicate they are starting a new venture on graduation. Anecdotally, another wave of alumni entrepreneurs emerge two to five years out of business school, though it’s difficult to get a handle on the exact figure.

Stanford’s outstanding academic program is itself a tool to evaluate and grow your business ideas. Class projects for courses from decisions to market research can feed into business plans. In the two-quarter class “Evaluating Business Opportunities”, teams of students work on a business idea with a faculty advisor and industry mentor.

“The final product is, at minimum, a business plan and pitch, but more frequently a launch-ready product prototype,’ says Linda Wells, Executive Director of the School’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Stanford GSB “does not fund start-ups”, says Wells, other than $1500 available to each team in the class “Evaluating Business Ideas” (S356). It doesn’t need to, with Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists on its doorstep. Successful entrepreneurs and investors co-teach the majority of entrepreneurship classes – your case study is right there to present the case, lead the discussion and debrief you afterwards on what happened behind the scenes.

“A typical GSB student interested in entrepreneurship will have exposure to well over 60 entrepreneurs during their MBA,” says Wells.

Aside from that, the School has a very active, well-connected student Entrepreneur Club that organizes meet-ups throughout the year and the Executive Dean of the School has a hotline to the investor and entrepreneur community and can refer students seeking mentoring, funding and legal advice.

IE Business School, Madrid, Spain
Several scholarships and a twice-yearly opportunity to pitch to investors

IE Business School was founded by entrepreneurs and started offering specialised programs for in 1983. Each year, about 35 entrepreneurs join the International MBA program, out of a total of 300 to 400 students.

On graduation, roughly 10 per cent of the class consider themselves entrepreneurs. Five years after graduation, approximately 25 per cent of IMBA graduates are “involved in entrepreneurial activities”.

Students on the IMBA program team up to design business plans with the help of more than 200 external tutors from the business world. The business teams can submit their plans to the School’s highly selective Venture Lab, which sends a high quality start-up deal flow to a global network of investors.

The Venture Lab culminates in the twice yearly Venture Day, a day in which the top five business plans present to investors and build relationships that can eventually lead to successful funding. Two student-run companies received VC funding as a result of the last Venture Lab. Winning companies also get a further two years of intensive support on all fronts from IE Business School’s Venture Academy.

IE Business School’s recent entrepreneurial successes include: Jose Maria Castillejo, founder of animation company Zinkia; Drury MacKenzie, founder of clean energy solutions firm RenewEn; scientist Damia Tormo, who started BioOncoTech, specializing in melanoma research, after a Master in Biotech Management; and Gonzalo Castellano Benlloch and Philipp Hasskamp, who founded discount website CityDeal, which was acquired by Groupon last year to become www.Groupon.es

There are several scholarships on offer for current or would-be entrepreneurs, including: scholarships for China-based entrepreneurs; Venture Lab Fellowships for students with a proven entrepreneurial track record; ieCommunities Fellowships for Though Leaders for entrepreneurs on a blended learning program; New Age Entrepreneurship Scholarships for Master in Management candidates; Future Leaders of Spanish Enterprise Scholarships for entrepreneurs in Spain; and the Scholarship for The Entrepreneurial Architect for candidates for the Master in Architectural Management and Design course. See the IE Business School website for specific entry criteria.

Lancaster University Management School, Lancaster, UK
Helps existing entrepreneurs grow their firms

Lancaster has been offering programmes for entrepreneurs since 1999. Notable entrepreneur alums of the School include Nahed Taher, one of the FT’s 50 most powerful women in business and founder of Gulf One Investment Bank, and Gian Fulgoni, founder of internet research firm ComScore.

The Institute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development, established in 2003, works with real-life businesses in its three key activities of entrepreneurial research, education and enterprise support.

The LEAD Programme is designed for owner-managers of small to medium sized businesses. LEAD brings together a group of owner-managers for peer-to-peer learning on how to increase profitability, diversify and grow their business.

The Institute has both an Entrepreneur in Residence and a recently appointed Innovator in Residence, Mike Parsons, who built the outdoor brand Karrimor as a major international brand through to 1996 and was responsible for a number of iconic innovations there.

On the MBA programme, a small number of students each year have already successfully run their own businesses. A number of others hope the MBA will lead them to entrepreneurship, in some cases following a few more years of experience in large organisations.

In the first term of the full-time programme, all 85 students work on the New Venture Challenge to produce a business plan for an early stage company. The classroom teaching employs case studies and entrepreneurs in the classroom “to ground the theory in practice”, says Dr Frank Cave, who leads this module. The students also have to defend their ideas in front of a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style panel.

In 2010 the Lancaster MBA team’s business plan for Gaea Naturals, a water purification technology, made it to the semi finals of the prestigious Rice business plan competition.

Aspiring entrepreneurs in the MBA programme can also use the final project to develop their own business concept under faculty supervision.