Alex's Tech Thoughts

The Startup World Doesn’t Care Where You Went To School

The most important thing in the startup world is passion. The startup world doesn’t care where you went to school or what your GPA was. If you have passion and determination, you can conquer all.

This is the key to ace your startup interview: let your passion for the company shine through. If you aren’t passionate about the company, that’s okay. Maybe you are passionate about the role. Let that emanate and be known.

But always remember, just because someone has a schooling edge that DOES NOT mean they will have a passion and determination edge. Play to your strengthens and let nothing stop you.

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The Different Life Cycles Of Risk

I recently had lunch with an incoming NYU senior. He is going to be graduating in December and figuring out what to do. I told him that at this point in his life, he should take as much of a risk as possible. He doesn’t have a wife, kids, a mortgage, etc. It is his time to shoot for the moon.

This had me thinking about various cycles of risk that people experience in their lifetime. A majority of people are risk-adverse. Others love and thrive on risk. I believe a good portion of the population will entertain risk if it is calculated. 

For me, the calculation of risk is that at a young age, when you have little responsibility, you should be taking the most risk. Once you graduate school, you will probably take less personal risk, but still have chance to join a risky opportunity (i.e. a startup) with a substantial amount of reward. As you get older and have more responsibilities and dependants, your risk-taking goes way down. 

This is all pretty obvious. The point I am trying to make is that if you are currently in school, you should dream big, take risks, and shoot for the moon. You may not reach the moon but you’ll definitely get to the stratosphere.

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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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