Warren Kucker spent almost three years working at Apple’s Silicon Valley HQ in Cupertino, California. From a sunny office on the US West Coast, he managed the tech giant’s global logistics, a multi-million-dollar operation.
Warren was thriving at one of the world’s richest companies but he wanted to use what he knew to help firms across the business ecosystem.
The same month he quit his job at Apple, Warren launched Boxton, a logistics startup which simplifies the processes involved with shipping products.
Warren didn’t go into his first startup experience blind. In the lead up to his career leap—while working at Apple and while planning out his new startup idea—Warren took an online MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.
With online learning on the up, fewer people are taking part-time MBAs based in the classroom. Warren, an experienced professional who studied business at undergrad level at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, chose an online MBA over an Executive MBA program.
“With the prevalence of video conferencing and global teams in day-to-day business, I thought an online MBA would not only be just as valuable as in-person classes, but would actually be pretty representative of how organizations are collaborating across different mediums and time zones,” he explains.
“The Online MBA was a great look forward into how to truly build and organization and a culture in today’s environment,” Warren continues. “Building upon my undergraduate degree with an MBA from Fox was invaluable when we were launching Boxton.”
For busy entrepreneurs, an online MBA could be the best option, saving them the time and money associated with full-time programs. With Boxton, Warren enjoyed six-figure revenues last year and plans to build on that twenty times over in 2018.
“An online MBA is a phenomenal avenue for learning all of those skills which allow you to execute your ‘big idea’,” he says.
The MBA degree is increasingly seen as a route into entrepreneurship. People want flexible study options. With interest in online learning on the up, more schools are jumping on the online MBA bandwagon.
Lancaster University Management School, which has traditionally offered only campus-based experiences, now delivers a significant proportion of its revamped EMBA program online. Speaking to BusinessBecause in April, the school’s dean, Angus Laing, said discussions were underway regarding the launch of an online MBA program.
Birmingham Business School has invested big in the online learning space. And its 100%-Online MBA program has benefited a flurry of entrepreneurs spread out across the globe.
Like, Jane Mutamangira, a Birmingham Online MBA student, a mother, and the managing director of a luxury taxi firm in Zimbabwe; or Florence Britton , who founded her UK-based home care agency as a single parent in 2005; or Munyaradzi Chikwanda, a South African software developer who’s launched his own business training local people in IT.
Birmingham’s Online MBA is the world’s first fully-online MBA to be accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA). Its students gain the same credible qualification—and the same certificate—as students on Birmingham’s top-ranked, full-time MBA program.
Neighboring Warwick Business School, which offers its Distance Learning MBA with a residential component, is now extending its reach. The school recently launched a new online MBA option based out of London, with face-to-face weeks held at the school’s campus in The Shard (pictured below ©warwick.ac.uk).
Ranked first in the world by the Financial Times, Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA includes elective modules for budding entrepreneurs and, like Birmingham’s Online MBA program, a project element whereby students can develop their own business ideas.
Students have access to the Warwick Entrepreneurship Professional Network (WEPN), consisting of more 1,500 members, as well as professors with real startup experience.
“The course has seen the emergence of several startups with the latest being a consultancy for public sector urban renewal projects,” says John Colley, associate dean for the MBA at Warwick.
“Unlike many other schools our online MBA does not differ from the full-time and Executive MBA in terms of its curriculum, so part-time students have to cover the same volume of study, and are marked at the same level as full-time students.”
Kostakis Bouzoukas will graduate from Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA in July. He’ll receive the same graduation certificate as students on Warwick’s full-time MBA course.
Kostakis also works online, as a technology consultant for an IT consulting firm based in Silicon Valley. He travels throughout the year and runs his own consultancy.
In September last year, Kostakis moved to live with his wife in Paris—she’s pursuing a full-time MBA at HEC Paris.
Why did Kostakis choose an online MBA? “I wanted keep working,” he says. “I was working on fascinating projects, at the edge of technology, with a great team, and I didn’t want to have a gap in my work experience. The tradeoff between the time off my job and a full-time MBA was not worth it.
“Plus, for software engineers who work in tech and want to stay there, the gains from having a top full-time MBA degree are minimal. The extra investment in money and time out of tech was not good value for money.”
For Kostakis, an online MBA program presented a more affordable alternative. The format made sense. Kostakis’ work comes in bursts; some months he’ll have to work more than others. Being in a specific place at a specific time wasn’t a realistic option.
“An entrepreneur needs that flexibility,” he says. “All MBA programs have classes on Strategy, Marketing or Operations but only an online MBA gives you the ability to do the Strategic Advantage final assignment in the Sheremetyevo airport when your flight gets delayed!”
Entrepreneurs also need the right kind of network. According to the US News and World Report, the average age of online MBA students enrolled in US programs between 2015 and 2016 was 33. Warwick’s Distance Learning MBA class has an average age of 36, with an average 12 years of work experience. 43 nationalities are represented in the class.
This, Kostakis notes, can only benefit budding entrepreneurs. “First, as a source of inspiration,” he says. “Second, as a place to find co-founders. Third, as a place to test and evaluate a business idea.
“Having people from all over the world means the MBA can also act as a bridge between the entrepreneur and a new market.”
What’s the future for the online MBA? There are free alternatives available online. MOOC platforms, like Coursera and edX, attract a lot of interest. But, Kostakis says, the advantages of an online MBA are clear: accreditation, links to a university, experienced professionals on-hand to help, and a rigorous admissions process ensuring a high quality student body and network.
“Even though the degree is online, candidates are formed into groups and interact with each other, just like in the full-time MBA,” he says.
According to GMAC’s latest Alumni Perspectives survey, 94% of online MBA participants said they would definitely or probably still pursue their degree knowing what they know now. The online MBA is here to stay.