Back To School: Where VCs Get Their MBAs (& Where I’m Getting Mine)

I’m 30-years old and I’m going back to school. Yikes.

Last summer, I applied to a few MBA programs. Here’s why I decided to go back, how I used data to evaluate my options, and ultimately, where I’m landing this fall. Let’s dive in.

Why Get an MBA?

How do I justify forgoing two years of salary and taking out massive amounts of student loans? It’s a tough question (and one that every school asks).

I thought about my career like a portfolio manager. I spent the last three years making riskier decisions, like quitting my job at JPMorgan to raise a venture fund. We successfully raised the fund and made investments (including our first exit a few weeks ago). While things go well, business school is a safer play. It’s insurance, among other things.

The networks are nothing to scoff at. My colleague Steve’s Harvard Business School connections changed PMV’s fundraising trajectory and BEMAVEN’s John Gannon sourced many of our first customers from his Columbia Business School peers. In 10–15 years, my future classmates won’t all be titans of business. But some will.

When I put together my pitch deck, what logos do I include? It’s stupid, but logos are powerful when you’re pitching investors. The right school adds credibility.

Plus, I enjoy school. The classroom experience will make me a better investor and operator.

I wanted to step back. To have a reality check about where I am and where I’m going. I’ve been tactically focused on solving today’s problems for the last few years. I want to prepare for my long-term goals.

One day, I want to raise a betaworks-styled fund: invest in and build startups directly. To get there, I have gaps to fill. An MBA and later stage tech experience will help close them.

Where To Apply

Instead of picking schools based on reputation or ranking, I took a more quantitative approach.

Last year, I looked at 27 firms to see where other investors got their MBA. I used that data to influence my application decisions. Yes, I acknowledge 27 firms is a small sample size. But VC is a small industry. This is one of many ways to analyze it.

I included a high-level review of the results in an infographic below. I’ve also added light commentary. If you’d like to view the raw research, you can find that here. It includes investor names, location, firms, alma maters, and more.

For alma maters, the results aligned with my expectations (for the most part). Stanford’s performance isn’t surprising, but still impressive when you consider their graduating class is half the size of HBS and Wharton. On another note, I expected to see more MIT Sloan and Berkeley grads. Again, small sample size.

Do schools have advantages in certain locales? Both Stanford and Columbia have hometown advantages that could provide you an extra edge. HBS travels very well, and so does Wharton to a lesser degree.

Do firms vary in how many MBAs they employ? Of course. Bessemer had 19 VCs with MBAs (14% of the overall population in my study). Accel, Bain, and Redpoint had more than 10.

Do some firms hire disproportionately from specific MBA programs? Yes again. HBS sent 10 to Bessemer and 8 to Bain (of Bain’s 10 total VC MBAs). Stanford sent 7 to Redpoint, which employs 11 VC MBAs.

Again, I’ve included my data here. Let me know if you can drive any other insights.

Where I’m Matriculating

Armed with this info, I applied to Columbia, HBS, Stanford, and Wharton. The application process was brutal. GMATs, resume prep, recommendations, and essays after essays. I did over 30 drafts for my essays.

I was lucky enough to interview at Columbia and Wharton, and luckier to be accepted to both. Meg and I visited each school and we were blown away. We had a decision to make. But we also had data to fall back on: Wharton let us travel, Columbia was a double down on New York.

My motivation for business school was to make a low-risk investment. The added location optionality edged one school over the other.

In February, I sent my deposit to the University of Pennsylvania. I’m taking my talents to Philly.

See you this fall, Wharton.