In the last two parts of the series, we explored the factors that made MBA graduates entrepreneurial, and whether it is worth aspiring entrepreneurs’ time to get an MBA. In this third part of the MBA & Entrepreneurship series, let’s explore how should current MBA students grasp entrepreneurship.
As part of the INSEAD Entrepreneurship-in-Residence (EiR) programme, I have been going back to campus every few months to have one-to-one chats with current MBA students about entrepreneurship.
The students came with different objectives, including:
- A business idea (or a series of ideas) to validate;
- Seeking advice on a business that they have already started
- Evaluating tech job opportunities which will help their eventual entrepreneurial journey (and sometimes, interview tips);
- Generally trying to figure out what to do with life.
A sense of familiarity
After close to 100 sessions, here are some of my observations:
- Most students came with the familiar optimism that I kind of miss (yes I was like that about five years ago);
- The optimism is often mixed a sense of uncertainty (which I am very familiar as well);
- There are many interesting ideas – some of them are really unconventional (another reason why I enjoy such sessions);
- Most of the ideas are still in fuzzy stage – it would take quite bit of validation & pivoting for them to be become investible;
- The pressure of finding a job (especially when most around you are busy preparing for consulting case interviews) really gets into one, even though you are not into consulting at all; ultimately, many took a loan to come to B school – and they have been living for months without an income;
One thing I am very happy about is that most students actually enjoy the entrepreneurship modules from the school. Yes nobody came to me talking about business plans, five forces or any other kind of fluff.
A common question many asked is: “The time here goes so fast, how should I maximise this year to prepare myself (for eventual entrepreneurship journey)?”
- Talk to people – good MBA schools are usually a very diverse place. It is a good place to learn from fellow students, industry speakers who come to campus, and entrepreneurs-in-residence;
- Think – internalise what you learn from people and other sources, draw mind maps, and seek clarity in business models as well as associated opportunities, risks;
- Think carefully (and iteratively) about the ecosystem: i.e. who are the players that could impact the business, the enabling factors/infrastructure, timing and luck; validate those thoughts with the experienced people you speak with;
- Make a trip (or if you have enough time, do an internship) at where the action is: typically Beijing or the Valley. In addition to visiting companies and talking to people, also try to experience any innovative products and services that are unique in the market (such as Alipay or WeChat Pay in China);
- Take simulations or any similar intensive experiences if they are offered – and if you decide to try with a project with a team, do things as real as you can;
- If you do not already play poker, learn it.
And finally, do not be in a rush when you graduate. As we have been saying over and over in The Low Down: it is important to run fast, but it is equally important to make sure you are running fast towards the right direction.
Enjoy in the meantime!