MBA Entrepreneurship: Find Your Dream Team At Business School

MBA business founders must recruit someone who can make up for weak spots, and business school provides the perfect place to pick your dream team.

Eduardo Costa enrolled at business school with an entrepreneurial ambition – but turning an idea into a business reality required human capital.

The MBA graduate came up with a raft of solid socially impactful plans, but needed help to see them come to fruition. “I thought the MBA would be the perfect environment to not just benefit from knowledge, but to find partners for a new business idea,” he said.

That quest for co-founders led him to the Meaningful Institute, a split between a consulting and personal development and coaching business.

“Most MBAs that have an idea follow a set-path: create a project, develop it, look at partners and then raise funds,” said Eduardo, who joined forces with classmates Julia Arno, Jimmy de Koning and Mohamed Rachid. “But what we did was create a team first, and then look for an idea.”

The idea bloomed – they hope to help young people with a coaching program to develop personal and business skills in disadvantaged areas in Brazil – but Eduardo would not have been able to do it alone.

ESADE [Business School] has the entrepreneurial mind-set which is something I was looking for, and on top of that it's a school that fosters social business,” he said. “I wanted to find peers that would allow me to start-up a social business in an international environment.”

Eduardo has been busy beefing up his idea alongside his MBA studies. The co-founders ran a pilot in April, and launched their website last month. Their first program in Brazil will run in November this year, and a two-week course costs €2,200.

Not all entrepreneurs are as happy to bring co-founders on board, or acknowledge that other people might be able to run parts of their business better than they can.

But the most powerful partnerships are about more than filling vacant positons. Effective hiring is an essential tool for start-ups, and it is also one of the biggest stumbling blocks.

On a recent visit to Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that to succeed in entrepreneurship, MBAs must learn to recruit. “That was the most valuable thing I added to Microsoft. It’s the lifeblood. I didn’t know much, but I got the hiring machine going because I interviewed for a lot of jobs,” Steve Said.

Most businesses will need a management partner who has a complimentary strength. Business schools provide the perfect place to bounce ideas off peers, before eventually finding someone who has similar goals.

Spreading a message through his network was how Ammar Halabi found his dream team. After advertising for a technical manager to join his fledgling mobile application firm, he found Bassem Barake, a fellow MBA from a separate business school.

Bassem, a graduate of London’s Cass Business School, helped him co-found Funryde last year. Ammar came up with the idea while in London Business School and the pair connected remotely through Skype sessions.

Ammar took the chief executive’s role, while Bassem became technical lead. “I have really good experience with programming,” Bassem said. He developed the technology with the help of students from Imperial College and City University, Cass’ base. Since launching in February, they have had “more than anticipated downloads”, he added – in the region of 2,000.

For tech businesses in particular, a good management team is essential. Leo Castellanos tied the knot with his business partner after meeting on an executive MBA program at Cass in 2007.

Leo and co-founder Alfredo Ramirez were both raised in Latin America, and shared an instant connection when they met in London. “We were talking about the possibly of taking some proven business models here in the UK to Latin America, and we concentrated on online comparison websites,” said Leo.

“The first thing Alfredo did when he went back to Peru after graduating was put together a pilot, and we launched something right at the end of 2010,” Leo added.

After branding the business as Comparabien the entrepreneurs have expanded into Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and México.

He worked at nights and at weekends to develop Comparabien from London, and raised finance and plotted an expansion course, while Alfredo was the CEO and face of the business in Latin America.

“The region has been growing somewhere between 8% and 10% in the last 10 years… And we realized if this idea will take off somewhere, it should be in Latin America,” Leo added.

While he developed the idea with his partner, Divya Dhar came up with hers and brought in a co-founder afterward. The Wharton MBA graduate launched Seratis, a medical communications application, last year.

After coming second place in the Verizon Powerful Answers Award earlier this year, the co-founders banked $850,000 for their start-up.

The Seratis app itself is in beta-stage. The company is small with just three official employees. They hope to hire a fourth, a launch manager, soon.

Seratis is live in one hospital in Texas. “Everyone else is in the pipeline,” said Divya. Her target is ten sign-ups by the end of 2014.

She met Lane Rettig on the MBA, and he is now the CTO of their firm. He has a background in software development, while Divya had a lengthy career as a doctor in New Zealand. “Him with his technology and me with my [medical] background – we are combining our knowledge,” she added.

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