MBA in Entrepreneurship
The MBA in entrepreneurship has always been the subject of much debate – is it necessary for would-be entrepreneurs to build up a suite of skills at business school, or is it a waste of time and money that would be better spent actually launching and running a business?
For some, the degree will be a huge help in building a professional network, seeking venture capital, and building a successful startup. It also affords you a rare chance to fail in a safe environment, whereas a failed venture outside of a business school environment can be devastating.
So, what exactly does this enigmatic degree entail, and who should pursue it?
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Flexibility is one thing anyone who wants to head their own startup must possess. Since around 90% of new ventures fail, according to Forbes, entrepreneurs need to be willing to change and reshape their ideas any number of times in order to make them successful.
The specific skills that are required, however, depend of course on the product or startup that the entrepreneur wants to develop. Turning it off and back on again won’t fix a software venture without some technical IT skills, a food and drink startup not backed with decent culinary talent is likely to get scraped into the disposal unit and a consultancy without some half-decent consultants…well, you get the idea.
Above all, passion for the product or service is the number one skill required.
The soft skills developed on an MBA include networking, team working, leadership skills, creativity and flexibility in decision making – all of which will stand you in good stead for launching a startup. While a venture may start off as one person in a room - if you have any ambitions of growth - other people, with whom you’ll be working in close proximity, are going to have to be involved at some stage. Being able to work well with them, therefore, is pretty important!
In terms of hard skills, you’ll be getting an overview of how all aspects of a business work. Given that you’ll have to be taking care of all aspects of business in a very small team, having a well-rounded skillset is essential. You’ll have to understand strategy, finance, marketing, analytics and much more.
More specifically, an MBA in entrepreneurship will also help you with some of the challenges that can be unique to the entrepreneur turning an idea into a successful business. You’ll be looking at things like managing growth, how to secure finance, social impact, market research and monetizing innovation.
Preformed business idea or looking to formulate something in school?
While walking into the first course of an MBA in entrepreneurship with a business plan in hand is not necessary, it can certainly be helpful to know exactly what you want from your MBA and why you are at the business school you are at. As with any other MBA career path, the clearer an idea you have, the more you’ll be able to get out of it (pro tip: it’ll also help you at the application stage).
However, if you don’t have a preformed business plan, do not worry – an MBA in entrepreneurship is built around helping you to create and implement startups and new ventures. In many ways, having a preformed startup in mind is like having a specific position at a company as your post-MBA goal. While it can be helpful, you might just find that your MBA takes your preconceived notions and rips them to shreds. When it comes to startups in particular, who knows how the new ideas you’ll be exposed to and the people you’ll meet will inspire you?
Common entrepreneurship MBA courses include:
- Generating new startup and venture ideas
- New venture feasibility
- Financing, managing, and marketing new ventures
- The legal structures behind a new business
- Sustaining a startup
- Venture capital
- Entrepreneurial strategies
- Social innovation and entrepreneurship
- Product design and marketing
You can choose to further specialize, with a huge range of MBAs in entrepreneurship that target specific industries available at top business schools. Specializations in IT, retail, any of the STEM fields, the environment and green tech, biomed, biotech, healthcare, marketing, and finance are just some of the options out there.
Concentration vs. degree in entrepreneurship
Many top business schools offer entrepreneurial electives to help students develop specific skills. By grouping several of these courses together, students can gain a concentration in entrepreneurship. This may be less tightly focused from day one on starting a business than the MBA in entrepreneurship in name. However, in both cases you’ll study core courses which aim to give you a fully rounded view of business as well as more targeted modules focusing on entrepreneurship.
It all really depends on how clearly you know your goals before enrolling. As ever, ensure you thoroughly research the school and the program before applying to make sure you get what you need. Being in the right environment is one of the most important things! Even if you have a clear idea you want to focus on entrepreneurship you might find you’re better suited to a school with a less concentrated track.
Venture capital competitions
Venture capital competitions are a central part of an MBA in entrepreneurship, allowing students the chance to fail without serious repercussions. Failure is a huge part of success in entrepreneurship as it allows the chance for the entrepreneur to see their ideas in a different light, reshape them, hone them, and, ultimately, make them better. Venture capital competitions typically pit students from different business schools against each other to have their business plans judged by venture capitalists and professors. This allows for the plans – including the winners – to be analyzed and criticized, but also to secure funding and other prizes to help them fund and develop business plans. The VCIC (Venture Capital Investment Competition) is one of the best known and largest venture capital competitions.
The top 10 business schools for entrepreneurship in the last edition of the QS Global 200 specialization MBA rankings for entrepreneurship are:
- Harvard Business School
- Stanford GSB
- IE Business School
- MIT Sloan
- London Business School
- F.W. Olin School of Business, Babson College
- Columbia Business School
- The Kellogg School, Northwestern University
As the entrepreneurship MBA is largely held to be on the creative side of things, as far as MBA programs go. However, as with any other MBA, a well-rounded background that includes leadership, quantitative, and soft skills lends itself well to an entrepreneurship degree. Courses cover a wide range of areas, including generating ideas for new ventures, getting them off the ground and managing subsequent growth, the nuts and bolts of how a business works, creative business decisions, product design, marketing, and seeking venture capital; you will have to be something of a polymath – which is, of course, also necessary for starting a business.
Online or traditional?
An online MBA (see the QS Distance Online MBA Rankings) in entrepreneurship is a good option for a couple of groups of people: those looking to change their career without committing to leaving their current role while they study, and those who have already started a business but are looking to formalize their skills and learn how they can take their business to the next level.
A traditional, on-campus MBA in entrepreneurship allows students to participate in a community of like-minded peers, an atmosphere in which they can bounce ideas around, get instant feedback, participate in case studies and discussions, and engage with professors in a one-on-one and face-to-face environment. There are pros and cons for both online and on-campus formats, naturally, and the choice will most likely come down to an applicant’s individual circumstances.
Is an MBA in entrepreneurship really necessary?
One of the more contentious debates among MBA entrepreneurs and their non-business schooled counterparts is whether or not an MBA in entrepreneurship is actually necessary. There are plenty of successful businesses, started by people like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), and Sam Walton (Walmart) who never studied for an MBA in entrepreneurship, or related postgraduate business degree. At the same time, there are plenty of people like Phil Knight (Nike), who used an MBA to build a successful company that has helped to make them millions. And let’s not forget the CEOs with MBAs who head companies, for whom entrepreneurial nous is a prerequisite.
So, the real answer to the question of whether or not an entrepreneurship MBA is necessary is a personal one.