Question of the week #12

Images-2I've noticed women that receive angel
and VC funding often have MBAs from Ivy League schools (Or male
co-founders). Have you noticed this trend? If so, why do women need
the Ivy stamp of approval when the same doesn't seem true for men?

This is a really interesting question.  There is no doubt there appears to be a theme in many of the Women Entrepreneur of the Week posts that I have written over the past few years. Many of these women have their MBA's from a roster of impressive schools. 

I believe there are a few parts to this answer.  Let's begin with "have you noticed a trend".  Many of the MBA programs are teaching entrepreneurship as part of the curriculum so it is not surprising that many graduates find themselves moving in an entrepreneurial direction post-graduation.  Many of those graduates start working on their business plans while in school.  They have incredible access to research and people to really flush out their ideas before graduation.  So perhaps it is a trend but I see it as a good thing for women and the economy.  Many of these business models might just become good solid life style businesses while others become something bigger.

Are move women receiving funding because they want to an Ivy League school?  I don't think so I just think there are more out there in the marketplace so the odds are more will get funded.  Growing your business from scratch is like getting a MBA.  You learn to grow a business through trial and error versus a classroom environment. 

Are more women getting funded with a male co-founder?  I am not so sure about that either.  I am a big believer that gender balance at the co-founder level statistically have a better chance for success.  When people are coming from different thought processes as most men and women are is a very good thing for a partnership. 

Personally I do not believe that going to an Ivy league school or getting a MBA from any school is a stamp of approval for anyone starting a business.  There is no doubt that many super smart people get MBAs but that is no the end all be all.  People go to business school for a variety of reasons.  They are trying to pivot their career, they are not getting the type of jobs they want when they graduate from college, they are looking to educate themselves in a different environment before embarking on their business, etc. 

It might look like a trend but I just think there are a lot of people with MBAs because the job market was so weak that many college graduates continued on to get their MBA after being in jobs that didn't rock their boat and felt that going to graduate school would help them enter the work world at a different level.  The curriculum is geared towards entrepreneurship so many ended up trying to start their own thing.  More MBAs starting companies in turn has more MBAs getting funded. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. falicon

    I also think that getting an MBA requires a driven and determined person, and generally is a person already seeking ‘more’ from life…and starting a company takes the same qualities.I suspect that achieving an MBA also gives a lot of people the confidence in themselves that, with hard work and dedication, they can achieve their goals…again, a trait that is *very* needed in starting a company.So when you mix a driven, confident, and skilled person with a weak ‘traditional’ job market that turns out to not be very rewarding…and I think it makes a lot of sense that many of the best are taking their fate into their own hands and starting companies…

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great insight

  2. Kate Greer

    Great question/observation. I’m a big believer in proof by numbers and would love to see the statistics on this one. I bet they shift by the day. Until a couple of years ago, you probably wouldn’t have thought “I want to start a startup — I should go to business school.” MBA programs have evolved.Still, a lot of great startups have come from founders that didn’t even finish undergrad. I have to believe that some of the most successful companies may not be here today if they had enough experience and education to know the risks they were taking, the challenges they would face, how hard it would be, etc. Fully committing is half the battle. It’s the reason that I was a better, more fearless skier in 5th grade than I am today. I’ve taken some nasty spills through the years! And, I hate to say it, but I think the brave, naive young woman sans-MBA equivalent of those founders we herald may not have the same shot as her male counterparts.

  3. JLM

    .Bit of natural selection at work here — Occam’s Razor really.Most MBA programs now require a bit of experience, business experience.Having a bit of experience and then pivoting to go to grad school almost always signals a bit of disaffection with what one is doing. Natural enough or they would not be looking elsewhere.Disaffection is what fuels the fires.The best schools seemingly get the “best” applicants — natural selection.But you have to wonder how bad it is to be the 501st applicant to a great school that only takes 500. Still a bunch of winners.Becoming an entrepreneur in the short term is the path less traveled and — like the deep end of the gene pool who first came to America on a ship, adventurers all — attracts those who are willing to take a bit of risk.While I think good schools do provide a superior education and the networking is marvelous, getting an MBA is like going to a military school. You will learn practical things which will save your ass and you will pay attention to what you are truly interested in.Because shortly your life will depend upon your proficiency.In this manner, folks tailor their own curriculum to what they think they are going to do.The University of Texas Grad School of Biz (McCombs) has had an entrepreneurial focus — not exclusive — for a quarter of a century. Texas being a natural entrepreneurial environment may have guided this direction.You can learn to be an entrepreneur just like you can survive on Ramen noodles. Good complementary skills, no doubt..

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      If I never have to eat another foodlike substance that must be reconstituted with hot water, I’ll be happy 🙂

  4. Kirsten Lambertsen

    I don’t have an MBA from an Ivy League school or any other kind of school.In 1999, I was sitting with the choice of trying to get my MBA or starting my own business. I went with the latter. (It didn’t occur to me at the time to do both.)Not coming from an Ivy League school definitely presents challenges to an entrepreneur. MBA programs deliver built-in networks of activated people, and those networks often provide lower-friction access to capital.I had to build my network by hand. And I get to feel that little burning sensation when someone like a founder of AngelList advises that I need to get an Ivy League grad on my team in order to get funded. Yes, he said that.I have every respect in the world for people who’ve achieved Ivy League degrees. Many of my best friends are Ivy Leaguers 😉 But the degree, in and of itself, is not proof of anything. It could just be proof of powerful family connections.I have a place in my heart for all the non-Ivy-League, non-degree’d, self-taught scrappers out there. The DIYers. The Punks. They’re my people. And they do have to try harder.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i love the scrappy people too.

    2. Guest

      Love your last paragraph. Well said!

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Thanks 🙂

      2. John Revay

        I like the use of “Punks” as well.

  5. takingpitches

    My experience is that the last go-around in the 90s having a MBA — just as a stamp — mattered much too much.The Industry Standard used to have this ridiculous feature called the MBA draft, looking at the top “tech” second year students coming out that year. (See e.g.,…This time around; it matters less. Show me what you can do.Do agree that for someone motivated the time and the access during the MBA years and the alumni network can be a tremendous help for someone so motivated. But purely as a badge, it matters much less in my experience.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Yes, as someone who was around then, too, I agree.