Should An Entrepreneur Get An MBA?
By Eurie Kim WG’09, investor at Forerunner Ventures
When people ask me whether they should get an MBA if they want to start a company, I respond with: It depends. Do you already have an idea and a team? If not, what type of company do you want to start? Have you started a company before? What do you think you will get out of an MBA that you can leverage in the company building process? The answer to the question depends on where you’re starting from and where you’re trying to go.
As a Wharton graduate myself, I have to say that it was a great experience, one I wouldn’t trade for the world. But the greatest benefit I got from my time at Wharton was not necessarily a set of core business skills, or a ground breaking new idea to go and execute. The most valuable aspect of my MBA experience was the broad range of people I met, who helped spark new ideas and growth. There are not a lot of opportunities in life where one can befriend 800+ people in a two year time frame, all of whom have done vastly different things than you have done in your own life. With this diversity and inspiration, you can’t help but expand your thinking and push yourself to new heights.
So, no – you don’t “need an MBA” to start a company. You need a great product, a great team, a lot of passion and tenacity, and of course, some relevant experience, capital, and a lot of luck are pretty nice to have as well. If you feel that you lack any or all of those things, then perhaps an MBA program will give you an opportunity to explore new ideas, meet talented people, and try your hand at entrepreneurship with the safety net that school provides, so that when you graduate, you’ll have a better sense for whether you’re really ready to take on the life of an entrepreneur.
Most startups fail. People often forget that as they look at the successful ones and think, “that’ll be me.” An MBA won’t guarantee success, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s more likely to just guarantee that your bank account will be $100k+ lighter (which of course some say would say could have been better used actually building a product instead of thinking about building a product). That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my two years at Wharton and I am grateful for the rich ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, professors, and alumni that I’m connected to as a result. My MBA experience has played a large role in expanding my access to opportunities and ideas in the entrepreneurial world and is an investment that I believe will continue generating returns for me throughout my life and career.
Bio: Eurie Kim WG’09 is an investor at Forerunner Ventures, an early stage venture firm dedicated to partnering with ambitious entrepreneurs to define and dominate a new generation of commerce. Over the past 10+ years, Eurie has evaluated and aided a wide variety of companies in their quest to define business models, identify target markets, and overcome operational and competitive challenges to drive growth. Representative Forerunner portfolio companies include: Birchbox, Bonobos, Cotopaxi, Dollar Shave Club, Darby Smart, Hotel Tonight, Wanelo, Warby Parker.