Alex's Tech Thoughts

Startup MBAs: What Are They Good For? Absolutely Something

There is a lot written about startup MBAs. How they are worthless. How they are not worthless. More recently, Ben Horowitz wrote about how it might be time for startups to hire MBAs.

I think startup MBAs make sense for a few specific use cases and for others it would be a waste of time and money. 

When MBAs make sense:

  • You’ve worked 5 years or more in any industry that you now want to move from
  • You are looking to be tied to a ivy league school network (think Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Stanford)
  • You want to have a senior management position at a bigger startup (50-100+ people)

When MBAs don’t make sense:

  • You want to work in early-stage companies and you want experience¬†
  • You can’t afford it without going into crazy debt
  • You have only worked 2-3 years in an industry that you don’t love and want to move to an early-stage company
  • It’s not a Tier 1 business school (sorry, but it’s true)

Talking about having (or getting) an MBA can be a sensitive subject in the startup world. Often people who haven’t gotten their MBA go off on current MBA students about how stupid they are for spending the money on an MBA (to their face actually; which I may or may not have participated in at one time in my life).

There are definitely benefits to having an MBA; the problem is that if you plan on staying in your industry you will be taking yourself out of the game for 2 years. That can be industry suicide. 

Bottom line: I think the best situation is if you do a part-time MBA. NYU and Columbia have pretty good programs in NYC. This way you stay in the game and get the MBA you want/need. But even the part-time MBA is sort of irrelevant for a large chunk of startup people.

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MBAs Thoughts entrepreneurship early-stage school jobs life
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