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MBA Students Take Lessons From Silicon Valley

Business schools are beginning to take lessons from Silicon Valley – essential for MBA's entrepreneurial development.

Wed Aug 27 2014

MBA students are taking lessons from Silicon Valley as business schools seek to immerse their classes in the San Francisco Bay area in light of a growing entrepreneurial trend and uptick in technology firm recruiting.

Before even beginning classes, 38 incoming Tuck School of Business MBA students were flown to Silicon Valley at the start of the month.

The technology sector has become popular among MBA students as recruiters have stepped up hiring. This spurred Tuck’s Career Development Office to launch a Silicon Valley boot camp for incoming students to explore tech sector careers on the west coast.

Nearly 40 MBAs took part in panel discussions involving top tech industry recruiters, second-year students conducting internships, and alumni with Bay area start-up experience.

“This isn’t about being funnelled into a specific career or role – it’s an opportunity for students to relax and really explore Silicon Valley and the Bay area, and the breadth of its tech companies and functions,” said Jonathan Masland, Tuck’s CDO director.

Tuck tapped into its alumni network. Talks from past MBA students included a director at YouTube and a vice president at Open Table, a real-time restaurant-reservation service.

Students also toured search giant Google, Electronic Arts (EA), the video game maker, and Nasdaq-listed real estate database Zillow.

London-based Cass Business School flew its MBAs to the Valley earlier this year. They visited four different companies a day for four days, including Google and Salesforce.com, the cloud computing giant.

They also visited Silicon Valley Bank and Stanford University. “We tried to cover each stage of the Silicon Valley ecosystem, including the early stage start-ups that have grown rapidly,” said Jeanine Leuckel, a Cass MBA.

As president of the school’s marketing society, she was particularly interested in “growth hacking”, a marketing approach used by Facebook and other big technology companies to boost user numbers.

“That’s something that you can really see in action… What companies do to grow,” Jeanine said.

One of the biggest benefits of these field trips is the networking opportunities, according to Damon Koo from the Cass MBA cohort.

He met workers at Oracle, the NYSE-listed computer tech firm, as well as online ticketing service Eventbrite.

“It opened my eyes to a new horizon of creativity... Start-ups invite students to pizza parties, hoping they will ‘get to know’ the right candidates,” Damon said. He added: “It changed my perspective of entrepreneurship.”

Entrepreneurship has been gaining ground at business schools. Oxford’s Said Business School sent 30 MBA students to the Bay area during a west coast business trip.

Jim Hall, executive director of the Entrepreneurship Centre, said that countries have tried and failed to reproduce Silicon Valley's unique combination of tech development and easy availability of venture capital.

But although the school embraces the Valley’s tech start-ups, he suggested that it covers entrepreneurship in a multinational way. “What we are doing at Oxford is trying to support and develop entrepreneurship in its wider sense,” Jim said.

David Zelniker, a Canadian MBA, said: “On our weeklong student trek, it wouldn’t be unusual for me and my fellow Oxford MBAs to meet with a 25 person start-up in the morning, a VC firm for lunch and a behemoth like Google in the afternoon. The ideas are here, the builders are here, and most importantly – the money is here.”

Many other leading schools have run trips to the Bay area, including Harvard, IESE Business School and EDHEC Business School