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Kellogg School Branching Out to Silicon Valley Startup Scene

Kellogg MBAs are set to benefit from a new connection to the San Francisco Bay Area

Business school students across North America (and the world) have become obsessed with Silicon Valley. The area is, after all, home to big-name employers, such as Amazon, Apple and Google as well as MBA startups, such as DoorDash and Beepi.


So, it should come as no surprise to hear that the Kellogg School of Management has launched its very own hub in the San Francisco Bay Area, some 2,000 miles away from its main campus in Evanston, Illinois.

“Bay Area boom” and growing interest in tech sector

“Kellogg’s San Francisco winter quarter program…is part of the Bay Area boom and the growing interest among MBA students in startups, early-stage companies, and venture capital in a region with the world’s most advanced technology and dynamic economy,” says Linda Darragh, director of the Kellogg Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative (KIEI).

Around 60% of students in the full-time MBA program at Kellogg take at least one startup-focused course. In addition, 22% of graduates in the class of 2016 went on to work in the technology sector (up from 15% in 2015), with 26% of the class total accepting jobs on the US West Coast.

Kellogg MBAs are set to benefit from this new connection to Silicon Valley companies in many ways. For one, there’s the opportunity to network with some of the world’s foremost technologists and innovators, as well as some 3,500 alumni of the Kellogg School that currently work in the Bay Area.

“Students participate in regular organized events with alumni throughout the quarter,” Darragh says. These include a field trip to three different venture capital (VC) firms hosted by Kellogg alumni, and a visit to HotelTonight, a mobile app founded by Kellogg alumni, Sam Shank and Jared Simon.

Classes take place at the Northwestern University campus that was established in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district in 2016. Kellogg School students can also engage in experiential learning opportunities during the program: Growth-stage companies as well as private equity and VC firms provide on-site internships for students, in which they work three or four days per week.

Interning with startups provides insight into working environment

“Interning within a startup or venture capital fund as part of this program provides students with better insights of what it’s like to work within that type of environment,” says Mark Achler, managing director of MATH Venture Partners and one of the Kellogg professors teaching in the Bay Area. “It also allows them to gain an understanding of which skills startups and VCs need most, then develop that broader set of skills, which is critically important during recruiting.”

The San Francisco program forms part of a broader seven-year strategic plan led by dean Sally Blount. KIEI was launched to foster collaboration across departments and academic centers, to further empower student successes.

Entrepreneurial mindset can be taught, says Kellogg School director

While many startup founders argue that the skills needed to succeed in a tech venture are best acquired outside the classroom, Darragh argues that an, “entrepreneurial mindset,” can be taught.

“We define that as a mindset that helps leaders drive innovation with lasting value,” she says. “It’s about understanding how to identify and verify a problem, developing a hypothesized solution, testing your prototype, and using customer feedback to iterate as needed until you are able to launch a startup offering a game-changing product or service.”

There is some evidence that this approach is working: Of the startups launched by Kellogg alumni who graduated between 2011-2015, 77% of the companies are still growing.


The Kellogg School Zell Fellows Program also helps aspiring student entrepreneurs who are launching, acquiring or leading companies. The program has supported a total of 57 students since 2013, who together have raised more than US$25 million for their startups. 

Seb Murray
Written by Seb Murray

Seb is a journalist and consulting editor who has developed a successful track record writing about business, education and technology for the international press.

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