MBA - good or bad for a tech start-up?
I’d always thought an MBA was a waste of time. Yet here I am, expecting to graduate from the Richard Ivey School of Business in 2014. What’s up with that? Let me explain.
As an entrepreneur and technologist who has lived in Silicon Valley for over a decade, I have believed that people who change the world are those who actually create something people care about. That something could be a product, an idea, or a movement. And I always thought that having an MBA couldn’t substitute for domain knowledge, insight and drive.
And it can’t. But it can augment those things.
As the first hire at Bump Technologies, I witnessed the intersection of domain knowledge, insight and drive firsthand. I saw the company raise its first round of funding and helped build the team and a product that millions wanted. I also attended YCombinator events and saw the effort and preparation that went into Demo Day.
My experience at Bump led to great personal growth and insight, and I realized that building a company takes more than just good product sense. I wondered if I could make the leap.
With A4 Labs and Bump, I’ve seen that starting and running a company means continuously making decisions across different dimensions - customers, people, product, distribution and funding to name a few.
That’s a tall order, and one I realized I needed some help with. So I found a really bright co-founder who I’ve worked with and known for a long time.
I also decided to get my MBA. I chose a school that taught using the case-based method because it supposedly makes you a more effective communicator and strategic decision maker.
My experience has borne this out. Every class that I have attended, and every meeting I have had with my learning team has forced me to prepare and refine my thought process.
Of course, the curriculum does cover the technical details necessary to manage a business, but the real focus is on presenting you with hundreds of cases and for each one asking the question: ‘what would you do in this situation?’ Answering this intelligently, and communicating your reasoning to others is great practice for any role - whether you are an individual contributor or you are running a Fortune 50 company.
Look, I understand that lots of people have run into MBAs that are focused on the bottom line, and have no product sense or technical skill. And that’s okay - not every role needs deep domain expertise.
But to those people, especially in the technology field, who dismiss MBAs: consider that anyone’s technical expertise can be amplified with the broader strategic, leadership, and communication skills that a good MBA program provides.
Update: Lots of good discussion on Hacker News