Titans of the sector such as Airbnb or Uber have revolutionized their industries, and have disrupted traditional players and raised billions in investment. This is not lost on MBAs, who are eyeing innovative firms like car-hailer Lyft and P2P lender Prosper.
“We are visiting the undisputed leaders within the sharing economy segment, namely Uber and Airbnb,” says Ways Hassas, an MIT Sloan MBA who is organizing a “tech trek” to San Francisco.
The Silicon Valley excursion highlights two trends: the MBA migration to tech, and a growing lust for the financial technology industry.
“Fintech is a booming trend at the moment, so we chose to visit Square,” says Ways, the recently floated payments start-up run by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “In cloud computing/storage, we are visiting VMware,” he adds, a leader in cloud computing and big data.
Interest in fintech has grown as market leaders like Zopa and Funding Circle have driven further down their paths of disruption. Regina Resnick, associate dean for careers at New York’s Columbia Business School, says: “There are a number of Columbia Business School students interested in the intersection of finance and technology.”
Meanwhile, not only are MBAs more interested in working at sharing economy businesses, but these firms are hiring from schools in greater numbers.
“Uber has been the most involved in hiring [MBAs],” says Jonathan Masland, director of career development at Tuck School of Business in the US, placing them into cities it is expanding into. “Technology is allowing people to share assets,” Jonathan says.
About 50 Tuck students visited tech bellwethers as part of a trek to San Francisco last year, including Lending Club, the P2P lender at the forefront of the sharing economy.
It is not just US schools seeing the trend. “We have relationships with a number of those companies here in London,” says Richard Bland, head of employer engagement at London Business School, who believes some of the best career opportunities are with start-ups, alongside stalwarts like Uber and Airbnb.
He says the sharing economy is an increasingly interesting sector for LBS students. “They use these services every day.”
Robyn Gleeson, director of the career development centre at the Australian Graduate School of Management in Sydney, says Uber is working closely with the school to identify tech-savvy students.
“Uber has indicated that they are looking to attract motivated, entrepreneurial individuals, with a depth and breadth of understanding of global business — which is something innate in MBA graduates,” Robyn says.
The taxi app, operating in 70 countries, is aggressively expanding. Uber has been among the top recruiters at European schools such as IESE Business School, and has hired MBAs from HEC Paris, Cass and INSEAD, annual reports show.
The lure of entrepreneurship has also pulled MBA students to the sharing economy.
FlatClub, which has raised about $1.5 million in venture capital, has 75,000 verified members, and features property from the alumni of more than 50 of the world’s top universities, including UCL and King’s College.
Nitzan says the best opportunities for entrepreneurs in the sharing economy are with services and products that command larger transactions. “It can still be rentals of cheap products, but for longer periods, where the income is higher.”
Harvard Business School MBA Rob Biederman set-up HourlyNerd, a freelance consulting marketplace that forms part of a cottage industry of flexible employment platforms.
HourlyNerd, which is backed by GE Ventures and Bay Area VC firm Greylock Partners, has 17,000 consultants, or “Nerds”, 95% of whom are MBAs.
Rob says the company is ushering in a new era of consultancy work. “People are no longer constrained to hiring individuals who are in their immediate vicinity,” he says