Stanford GSB Launches a New Online Program for Entrepreneurs

Stanford GSB Launches a New Online Program for Entrepreneurs main image

US business schools have been seeking additional revenue streams and the ability to reach different audiences for a while now. More people have been reexamining the value of higher education Stateside in light of a college debt crisis. In addition, a booming economy makes the thought of leaving the workforce for traditional two-year MBA programs less appealing.

As a result, business schools are coming up with more flexible curriculum and applications of their teachings to a wider swath of industries. Recently Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) announced the launch of Stanford Embark, which it describes as “a virtual companion for your entrepreneurial journey.”

Essentially, this online platform provides a startup guide, self-assessment, interactive activities, and a speaker series for aspiring entrepreneurs. They can buy into the content and use it at their convenience. The introductory price of membership is $99 for three months, and the standard price will be $395 for six months.

Stefanos Zenios, the Investment Group of Santa Barbara Professor of Entrepreneurship and Professor of Operations, explained that many students have come to him and his colleagues on behalf of friends who were launching businesses. They would ask the professors how they could pass on the information they were learning in class to their ambitious friends.

That got the professors thinking they should develop some sort of tool, especially since few people actually get accepted to Stanford GSB. Of 7,797 applicants, only 419 joined the Class of 2020. Participants should realize, however, that there is no certificate or credential for completing the suggested workload.

Instead, the platform provides a list of activities, such as researching your customer and determining both the problem your product or service addresses and the ultimate solution you are offering. The goal is to take entrepreneurs from one step to the next and help them find the flexibility to make changes when necessary.

In the speaker series, participants hear from people, such as Tony Xu, CEO and co-founder of DoorDash, who is also an alumnus. In fact, Xu is the inspiration for this program because he built his business in large part based on what he learned at GSB, says Zenios. 

Professors and speakers, however, can’t provide feedback to participants, but they hope what they’ve posted offers some inspiration and lessons. Also, eventually the platform should include a forum, which will allow people to learn from the community of entrepreneurs. The platform “will be a living organism,” says Zenios, who adds that the plan is to regularly add to the speaker series and curated material.

For five weeks before the official announcement, some aspiring entrepreneurs served as beta testers for Stanford Embark. Jennifer Proskine is working on developing a startup related to identifying and recruiting women in business. She considers Embark to be a user manual for entrepreneurs, and she appreciated the action items.

“Checking things off on a list feels good and makes the process less overwhelming,” says Proskine, who is working from the US.

Hafi Rahman is working on a fair banking venture, and he asked to try Embark. He says the platform is helping him apply tools and frameworks. He expects to use the information he is generating through the actionable items when fundraising and interacting with potential and current customers.

“Embark has taught me to avoid getting sidetracked down rabbit holes,” says Rahman. “It gets me out of my own head and helps me validate the customer need.”

This is for people at various stages of launching a startup but seems most practical for those who just have an idea in their head.

Zenios says, “Embark is designed intentionally for those who have not started a business before and want to dip their toes.”

At QS, we support innovation in education. One of our major efforts is the Wharton-QS Reimagine Education contest, which rewards innovative approaches aimed at enhancing student learning outcomes and employability and offers $50,000 in funding to the overall winners and 16 “Oscars” of education.

The point is, QS recognizes good ideas for teaching people new ideas. Stanford GSB certainly seems to be trying to reach a large audience with an integral part of its curriculum. 

“We expect thousands to tens of thousands of people to use Embark,” says Zenios. “We want this to be the go-to place for entrepreneurs to launch their business.”

For years, business schools have combatted the myth that entrepreneurs cannot learn anything in an undergraduate or MBA program. There has been an evolution in the way the subject is taught. Some schools have moved from teaching about strict business plans to having students actually test their ideas. But the foundations of business are useful to any entrepreneur and having such training can increase their chances of succeeding. This platform is meant to provide a step-by-step guide on how to turn an idea into a functioning business. 

Without having used the service, it’s hard to say whether the value is there. Certainly, the brand has a pristine reputation for its teaching, especially when it comes to educating innovators in the startup world. And any effort to help new businesses successfully launch and provide nourishment to the economy is welcome. Time – and the entrepreneurs who sign up for the service – will let us know if Stanford Embark comes through on its promises.

Nunzio Quacquarelli

Nunzio is the founder and CEO of QS. Following completion of his own MBA from the Wharton School, he has gone on to become a leader in education management with over 25 years of experience in the industry. He is truly passionate about education and firmly believes in the QS mission to help young people to fulfill their potential through educational achievement, international mobility and career development. 

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