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From the Blackboard to the Boardroom

7 entrepreneurs who hatched their concepts with the support of their business schools continue to find success outside ivy-covered walls.

This story appears in the April 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

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The business world has a love-hate relationship with academia. Plenty of industry titans mythologize their dropout status (see Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Ralph Lauren). Others are so enamored with their alma maters that they drop hefty endowments and scholarships on B-schools around the country (see Lee Iacocca, T. Boone Pickens, Phil Knight).

The fact is, school is what students make of it--half of those who enter will emerge with a solid direction, and the other half will be as clueless about their next career move as they were when they started. During the last decade, however, many business schools have shifted away from the nebulous academic study of business and started to offer an unprecedented bridge between academia and the real world. With their increasing focus on entrepreneurship and programs for developing solid, marketable business plans, business schools are becoming the 21st century version of the legendary Hewlett-Packard garage. The cocoon of the business school gives students the chance to develop their ideas under the mentorship of some of the sharpest minds in the business world. In many cases, it also gives them a chance to fail without destroying their reputations or bank accounts.

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