Not Just A Piece Of Paper: MBA Advice For Startuppers

need-mba

A little business savvy never hurts, in any startup.

By Anagha Nadkarni (Co-Founder, Appguppy)

People seem to agree that you don’t need an MBA to be a successful entrepreneur. Broadly speaking, that’s true. However, the MBA I recently completed from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has positively contributed to my company’s entrepreneurial success.

Getting an MBA doesn’t make you into an entrepreneur, but it can provide you with a solid foundation and experiences to make you a better entrepreneur. Here are some tips on choosing and managing your MBA program for entrepreneurial success.

Tip #1 – Think carefully about what you need. Choose an MBA program based on that need.

Every MBA program will provide you with a solid foundation in marketing, finance, accounting, strategy and leadership. But choosing an MBA program is about more than considering classes, cost or academic reputation.

When choosing an MBA program you must think very analytically about your needs as an entrepreneur, and what a program offers you to fill that need. For instance, if you’ve been working on your business for a while, you may need a program like AMR at UCLA Andersen that would provide you with uninterrupted time, class credit and human capital to essentially incubate your business as a student. Or, you might be interested in schools with their own venture funds that could provide you with financing, such as the Frankel Commercialization Fund and the Wolverine Venture Fund at the Ross School of Business.

Attending a program that doesn’t offer you programs and options to meet your immediate needs is a waste of your time and money.

Tip #2 – Make sure to look beyond the business school network for co-founders. Pick a program that encourages cross-departmental interaction.

Investors love cross-functional teams. Teams with diverse skill sets can move faster to execute on ideas because they don’t need to spend time and money to farm out work they can’t complete. It’s tempting to go to business school and bring four other MBAs on board to help you launch your idea.

The daily camaraderie that builds between business school classmates in a full-time program can set the foundation for a good working partnership. However, some of the best co-founders for your idea and business may be lurking in other departments. Does the university you’ll be attending have separate graduate programs for engineering, sciences, public policy or design?

Make sure to pick a program that doesn’t isolate itself from other graduate departments and that has a high rate of cross-pollination in classes. Reach out to students from other departments. Some of the most successful business school entrepreneurial teams I’ve seen have been made up of MBAs, scientists, graphic designers and every academic combination you could think of.

Tip #3 – It’s not all about your business. Learn something new.

Don’t forget that you’re also going to business school to learn something. MBA programs at respected universities have a wide variety of programs to help you create a personal 2 year roadmap of rewarding learning experiences. There are opportunities to learn and travel in foreign countries as well as options to work abroad for a summer or intern at organizations you’ve long admired.

You could be running a tech-focused business and still get more out of marketing and leadership than you do entrepreneurial electives. Keep in mind that a lot of life is very inter-related and things don’t necessarily work out in a linear fashion. Business school programs that offer rich learning experiences and the freedom to set your own goals will make you a better entrepreneur in the long run.

I’ll admit that getting an MBA as part of the entrepreneurial journey is never going to sound as sexy as wearing a hoodie and dropping out of Harvard to make billions. But for many entrepreneurs, an MBA may offer the stepping stones and core skills needed to succeed.

A little business savvy never hurts, in any startup.

Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.

About the guest blogger: Anagha Nadkarni is a Co-Founder of Appguppy. After leading marketing initiatives at companies including Patni Computer Services and Converge, she worked as an attorney for the US Government, specializing in real estate transactions to drive urban development in Southern California. After amassing a $500M closing portfolio, she left law for the business world to reach her goal of democratizing mobile for the everyday person. Follow her on Twitter at @asnadkarni.