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MBA vs Undergrad & Master in Business for Entrepreneurship

Anonymous A

Dear preplounge community members

I will soon reach my Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from a Swiss University of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule). My grade will be average around 4.5 where 6 is the maximum grade. My problem is that i dont have any business skills and i want to learn as much i can before i start a company. I've worked only in the software industry as developer. I'm interested in Entrepreneurship (Tech Startups) and management consulting. I could think about to work as management consultant and stay there or switch after some years of consulting to entrepreneurship. I'm allowed to enroll for a bachelor of arts degree at the University of St. Gallen in the second year and finish the degree in 2 years instead of 3.

My Questions now are:

Does an MBA give you all the basic business fundamentals to successfully build and scale a company from zero to 100+ employees?

Is there a possibility to go into a school like INSEAD for an MBA with my computer science degree. I'm not sure because i think that i need better grades and a more recognised university instead of a university of applied sciences?

When i compare an MBA of INSEAD with a Master of Arts in Business Management at the University of St. Gallen. I can see that i've to study 3.5 years full time to reach the degree in St. Gallen and the INSEAD MBA only 11 months. So will i learn more with the undergraduate and master degrees St. Gallen instead of 11 months at INSEAD because i invest much more time?

The costs for swiss cizitens to study at the university of st. gallen is very low (BA + MA around 10'000$ )when you compare it with an INSEAD MBA (> 100'000$)

Which way would you go? Every answer and experience is welcome.

Thanks very much for your help :-)

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Francesco replied on 09/09/2018
#1 Expert for coaching sessions (1600+) | Ex BCG | 800+ reviews with 100% recommendation rate

Hi Anonymous,

many questions here. I generally agree with Guennael and added my perspective based on my experience as founder post BCG.

Does an MBA give you all the basic business fundamentals to successfully build and scale a company from zero to 100+ employees?

An MBA is not the best path to learn how to build and scale a company. The best way to learn how to do so is to actually start your own company. Many entrepreneurs achieve success after two or three attempts, often failing in the first one (think Travis Kalanick). You learn how to become successful as entrepreneur acting as entrepreneur, not studying it.

An MBA will mainly give you three things:

  • Business knowledge (in broad sense - including soft skills)
  • The opportunity to "reset" your previous career and become interesting as an hire for companies that otherwise would have not found you interesting
  • A network of Alumni from the program

Out of these, the most relevant for building a company is the third one (good option to raise money/sell your company in the future). However, you have to consider if it is worth to pay $100k+ and invest 1-2 years for such opportunity, versus investing the same money and time in your own business (and learn exponentially more on how to build a company).

There is also a big hidden problem with MBAs - it will increase a lot your opportunity cost to found your own company. Founders usually get $0 or very low pay for the first year or two. Out of an MBA you could easily do $100-150k. You may also have debt deriving from enrolling in the program. And you will be older, maybe with a family and kids. This makes a lot more risky/difficult to start your company then.

This doesn't mean you cannot succeed building a great company with an MBA - there are several examples of successful founders who did it. But if you want to build your own company, there are probably better ways to invest such time and money.

Is there a possibility to go into a school like INSEAD for an MBA with my computer science degree. I'm not sure because i think that i need better grades and a more recognised university instead of a university of applied sciences?

There is no much sense to do an MBA right after a bachelor degree, thus you would have to work for some years. If you get a top brand name (eg MBB) you can definitely get there.

So will i learn more with the undergraduate and master degrees St. Gallen instead of 11 months at INSEAD because i invest much more time?

You will learn more technical stuff in your bachelor+master. But as mentioned you don't do an MBA to learn technical stuff only.

The costs for swiss cizitens to study at the university of st. gallen is very low (BA + MA around 10'000$ )when you compare it with an INSEAD MBA (> 100'000$). Which way would you go? Every answer and experience is welcome.

If your final goal is to build your own company, I would go for the following options:

  • If you have a solid team, tested idea, can ensure funding and are ok with the idea you will probably fail, you can consider starting your own company right after your bachelor or master. The odds will be against you (as it is always the case when you start a company) but you will learn a lot and in the long term you will more likely to succeed (and you just need to succeed once in this game).
  • If you don't have all the above, an alternative good path would be to complete your bachelor (and master if needed) and to work in a top consulting firm or for a startup/top tech company for the time needed to ensure you have a proven concept, team, funding and are ok with the idea you could fail. Then move to your company. The more you wait though, the higher will be your opportunity cost, thus I would recommend not to stick to that too much.

As final remark, the place where you start your company is critical. Be sure you research in advance the best geography where to start your business, and be willing to relocate if needed (not necessarily in Silicon Valley).

Best,

Francesco

(edited)

Guennael replied on 09/09/2018
Ex-MBB, Experienced Hire; I will teach you not only the how, but also the why of case interviews

Question: Does an MBA give you all the basic business fundamentals to successfully build and scale a company from zero to 100+ employees?

Answer: No academic degree will ever prepare you for that. An MBA may help you figure out where to find the answer to some questions / issues you would face, but (1) there's no guarantee, and (2) the time and money spent on an MBA could be spent doing something else. How many of the Tech industry's most famous founders have an MBA? Right.

Question: Is there a possibility to go into a school like INSEAD for an MBA with my computer science degree. I'm not sure because i think that i need better grades and a more recognised university instead of a university of applied sciences?

Answer: Yes of course - but you might want to apply to other MBAs than just INSEAD, which is extremely competitive. Your first career & achievements will also be extremely important obviously, but you are starting behind the curve based on the grades & school you shared

Question: When i compare an MBA of INSEAD with a Master of Arts in Business Management at the University of St. Gallen. I can see that i've to study 3.5 years full time to reach the degree in St. Gallen and the INSEAD MBA only 11 months. So will i learn more with the undergraduate and master degrees St. Gallen instead of 11 months at INSEAD because i invest much more time?

Answer: Probably. Then again, INSEAD is one of the very top MBAs for a reason. Curriculum is extremely intense, and a lot of the value is due to networking & opportunities presented to the graduates

Question: The costs for swiss cizitens to study at the university of st. gallen is very low (BA + MA around 10'000$ )when you compare it with an INSEAD MBA (> 100'000$)

Which way would you go? Every answer and experience is welcome.

Answer: I am not sure why you are even considering an MBA if all you want is starting your company / work in tech. Just do it, just go for it now. Why wait? Ok, so you crash and burn the first time. So what? Get back up and try again. By the time you'd have your MBA, you will have already acquired tremendous applicable experience for a fraction of the cost.

PS: Silicon Valley for example doesn't always look very favorably upon MBAs (or consultants for that matter).