Stephen Greer started his own business straight after college, at the ripe old age of 24. He moved on to create a global scrap metal company, which he eventually sold for 250 million dollars. After Harvard Business Review had written about him and he had published his experiences in the book “Starting From Scratch”, Greer was invited to tour a number of business schools to talk about his life.
On campus he was always presented with the same question, he writes: “You didn't get an MBA, nor did many other successful entrepreneurs, so if I want to start my own company, is business school a worthwhile experience? Is it worth paying all this tuition — or will my degree just be a resume-builder?"
The fact is, MBAs are more interested than ever in becoming entrepreneurs. Out of all of the Stanford Business School graduates of 2011, 16 per cent chose to start their own company, reports BusinessWeek. And these numbers even beat the all time record during the dot.com boom when 12 per cent of Stanford MBAs declared themselves to be entrepreneurs. The question is: why?
Explaining the race for one’s own company in the first internet boom in 1999 and 2000 is not difficult; everyone wanted a piece of the action when the net was all shiny and new. The frenzy then ultimately led to many failed businesses. But why for the first time since then, is the percentage of MBAs who are going out on their own now hitting new records? According to Pulin Sanghvi, director of Stanford's Career Management Center, the school observes a “a generational shift toward entrepreneurship”, since the number of MBAs who chose to work for start-ups is rising, too.
According to BusinessWeek, the new entrepreneurial fever is in part due to the at-tention given to tech start-ups like Facebook and LinkedIn or Zynga “and the ascen-sion of the late Steve Jobs as one of the great entrepreneurial geniuses of our time”. Also students seem to be more comfortable with the risks of starting a business, especially since there is not as much security in the larger companies as there used to be. The big layoffs during the financial crisis did cost the corporate employers a lot of their glamour.
Accepting the risks of founding a start up also has a lot to do with knowledge, since Stanford dedicated a significant part of its curriculum to entrepreneurship. And Stanford is not the only one: many schools have launched business plan competitions, increased the number of elective classes on entrepreneurship and put start-up projects into the curriculum.
Harvard Business School for example dedicates a lot of time and effort to students with a focus on entrepreneurship, from courses called ‘the entrepreneurial manager’ or ‘entrepreneurial marketing’, field studies, venture creating programmes, and immersion stunts in Silicon Valley to a minimum viable product award and a business plan contest.
The web site entrepreneur.com created its own ranking with the top US business schools for entrepreneurs, led by the Babson College’s Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship, Brigham Young University’s Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology and University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.
However, LinkedIn membership data shows that the following five schools produced the most start-up founders: Stanford, Harvard, MIT Sloan, Berkeley's Haas School, and Dartmouth College's Tuck School. The next five on the LinkedIn list are Wharton, Columbia, Babson, Virginia Darden, and the Johnson School at Cornell University.
According to all these reports and rankings, the top addresses for aspiring founders are all in the U.S. But Europeans should not despair; there is plenty on offer in the Old World, too. The QS topmba.com for example lists: Insead, IE Business School and London Business School in its “Entrepreneurship MBA rating”.
And wherever you chose to study: don’t forget, even the most traditional MBA employers are increasingly focusing on the entrepreneurial talents of their new hires, since in tough times they value graduates who can develop fresh sources of revenue.