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MBA grads from top B schools are some of the most talented people I’ve met. I had a chance to work with 600+ founders from all over the world. Few of them were from business schools like HBS, Michigan, Stanford, Yale, Wharton, Kelly.
Some of my best experiences are working with founders who have been from B-schools.
It is really surprising that there’s skepticism in Silicon Valley that MBA grads are not great start-up founders. In fact going for an MBA is often looked down upon.
The truth is there’s no difference in MBA people and technical people as startup founders. Startups are risky. The chances of failure are equal.
Some MBA grads have done extremely well in the Silicon Valley.
• A quarter of all the unicorns have at least one MBA founder.
• Blue Apron, Rent the Runway, Cloudfare are a few rising start-ups where the founders are from Harvard Business School.
• MBA Unicorns are valued at $84 Billion.
I’m surprised that even though we have so many success stories, only a handful of MBA grads build start-ups.
As a B-school student, you have these qualities which I believe are crucial for start-up founders.
Ability to Think Years Ahead
For founders, ‘Vision’ is extremely crucial. To disrupt an industry you have to identify where an industry is going and few problems in that industry.
Lot of technical founders work on building best algorithm ever! But what will it change in the world?
A start-up is about building a great business, not just products. Great product definitely helps, but building a business is crucial. Larry and Sergey of Google had to hire Eric Schmidt to run their business.
99% of products that come into the market fail. Reason? They can’t sell, market, finance or build a business. As an MBA grad, you’ll know how to sell and market. There’s a reason why global biggies rush to B-school campuses to hire them and they become leaders of global organizations.
Your network is extremely valuable to a startup. Most startups fail because they can’t sell. Lot of time it is hard for them to find a connect with the company who would buy their product. Given that you already have friends working in world’s best enterprises, it is easy for you to get in. Sometimes a potential customer is just a phone call away.
Having said that — There are only two things, Persistence and Belief, that can help your startup become successful.
However to increase your chances of success you will have to adapt following things:
Take Risks, Fail.
Almost every MBA graduate is apprehensive to take risks. They would dive themselves deep into research so that they don’t fail. Refrain from doing so.
Well here’s the thing- Startups are risky. You’ll have to learn to fail fast. Don’t think about failure too much, just ship that product out, learn quickly and move on!
“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” — Reid Hoffman
Form Your Team
Go to Meetups (Use meetup.com or eventbrite to know all the tech meetups), connect with employees of your competitor on Linkedin, explore your network. These steps will help you form a team. If you want to move fast, you can also hire a development shop to build a MVP.
You’ll have to get out of the ivory tower. There’s no other option. You’ll have to get into the field and talk to your clients, your users and investors.
You can’t just ‘assume’ a growth number as you do in your excel sheets. But remember, don’t do too much research. Keep it generic. Few percentage points won’t matter.
As a founder, it is your responsibility to get your entire team committed to working on your startup first and foremost, as opposed to we will do this startup if we receive funding, if we get into an accelerator, if a variety of other criteria are met. You can’t just eliminate risk like this. Eliminate risks by building a brilliant product.
Now go out there. Take that plunge, take that leap of faith. If you want a problem to be solved, there’s no reason why you will not be able to find a solution. Your passion and belief to build your idea is central to everything that you are doing. Learn from the data and move on.