How UX Can Help MBA Student Entrepreneurs

How UX Can Help MBA Student Entrepreneurs  main image

Today, more and more MBA students are choosing to specialize in entrepreneurship.

And for a good reason: having an entrepreneurial mindset can fast-track your success in the business world.

As many countries across the globe work to curb high unemployment rates, research by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows that entrepreneurial ventures can promote innovation, productivity and employment in business ecosystems, especially in emerging economies.

An MBA in entrepreneurship can provide you with the skills necessary to become a leader and an innovator in any business field, as well as the confidence and acumen to start your own company.

However, many students get to the end of their MBA with specific business plans in mind but nothing to show potential investors, inevitably delaying their entrance into the start-up world.

For this reason, the Zell Lurie Institute at the University of Michigan created a program – Zell Labs for Technologies (ZLT) – that pairs student teams with UX designers to build prototypes for the start-up ideas they come up with during their degree.

“The core idea for ZLT formed as we examined our portfolio offerings,” said Rashmi Menon, Lecturer and Entrepreneur in Resident at the Zell Lurie Institute and part of the team that created ZLT.

“While we had several programs available for our entrepreneurs to learn about business planning, modeling, customer discovery and fundraising, we had no programs in place to help our entrepreneurs learn how to manage technology teams and build software products.”

Rashmi and her team believe that working with UX designers allows students to learn more about the design process, an opportunity they don’t often get on a regular MBA.

They also claim it benefits designers, as it gives them a chance to learn and develop their skills through hands-on experience with real start-ups and products.

Rashmi said: “Hiring UX designers is key to this process as good products require UX designers to build. Working with them has tremendously improved the quality and professionalism of the products they [students] are building.”

ZTL student testimonies confirm this.

The proof is in the pudding

Michael Bettis, MBA Class of 2021, said: “ZLT has provided me with the mentorship and resources I need in order to turn my passion into a reality.

“This program is the most realistic business experience that I could have on a b-school campus, because I am literally launching a business through it.”

Michael’s business venture is Sports Booster, an e-sports application that allows fans to compete against friends and other fans to predict the outcomes of games and in-game events while also introducing them to universities’ donor ecosystems.

UX design played a critical role in the creation of Sports Booster, as it allowed Michael to create a model that “invited, persuaded or enticed” users to interact with the product.

He said that, while he had reservations about UX before starting the program, he now recognizes it was critical to understand how to create a product that “appealed to its users without overwhelming them.”

Adam Smiddy, MBA Class of 2020, agrees with Michael.

He said: “In today’s world the look, feel and usability when you launch your product determines your future. It’s also important to investors – they are used to being impressed by design so falling flat is very detrimental to your investability.”

Adam’s business venture is YourCheck, a service that allows anyone to obtain background, education and other types of checks and share them across a high-tech protected platform.

Although he felt confident at first about putting YourCheck out in the marketplace, being in the ZTL program made him realize the platform’s user experience aspect needed improvement.

He said: “For entrepreneurs, our products have no good will with the consumer, so every interaction a consumer has with our product is a moment of truth.

“Designing a UX that is physical, or pixel, is an essential part of any product plan if you want to have people open their wallets.”

Adam makes an extremely important case for the use of UX in MBA programs.

While a typical b-school curriculum teaches students how to handle pressure-cooker-type situations, those who dream of becoming entrepreneurs ought to possess the ability to come up with practical, flexible and quick solutions to any problem that might arise during the creation of their business.

UX plays a key part in this process because it allows entrepreneurs to anticipate these problems before they launch their ventures.

This is another reason why ZLT staff and students believe user experience should be a part of many, if not all, b-school programs that involve building products or services.

Briana Feng, BBA graduate at the University of Michigan and Co-Founder of real estate platform Reasi, said: “UX at its core is fundamentally understanding the problems that users face and fulfilling their needs.

“A course in UX would not only be great for students to learn about general information architecture, but also see how exceptional user experience can influence business success.”



Written by Linda Mohamed

Linda is Content Writer at TopMBA, creating content about students, courses, universities and businesses. She recently graduated in Journalism & Creative Writing with Politics and International Relations, and now enjoys writing for a student audience. 

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