Darren Herman has a great blog and recently covered his experience attending the DFJ East Coast MBA Venture Challenge at Columbia University. The awards for the winners included $250k in seed funding.
Darren’s take was that while some of the ideas were good, he was shocked that so many of the companies presenting had little or no traction.
Darren goes on to comment that he’s surprised given how cheap it’s become to build startups that so few of the presenting companies had made significant progress.
Here are some reasons I’m not at all shocked an MBA startup competition lacked the progress you might see from scrappier founders.
Theory vs. Practice
Prioritization To start a company on less than $50k, while feasible, does require a level of hunger that might not be present among budding MBAs at Columbia. Undoubtedly these kids have multiple high-paying opportunities at Hedge Funds, PE, etc…Convincing themselves to forgo homework assignments and commit 100% of their time and resources to a startup is not the type of ’risk management’ they are learning.
Lack of Technical Skills My guess is while many of these kids presented great ideas, few if any of the presenters were programmers. Programmers are necessary to make most new businesses happen. Not only do B-schools not enroll many technical people, but they also fail to provide them as resources.
Surprisingly Under Resourced. Even though these are MBA students from one of the wealthiest endowed B-Schools around, I guarantee you that the kids still suffer from a lack of resources and support. While some B-schools are better than others, most business schools still do not have the resources or support systems available to students that they should (at least in terms of entrepreneurship). At top schools it’s impossible to get teachers to help you, it’s competitive among students and time for brainstorming and creativity (when ideas would be hatched) are limited. Plus even the highest GMAT scorers still need the balls and the suaveness to use their diplomas and connections to meet the right people. That’s something they can’t teach in the classroom.
Overall I agree with Darren that it’s a shame there were not demos and more traction among the students. But, I’m not surprised.
As a current MBA student myself, more often than not I have had to look outside my school to find the connections and resources necessary to learn about startups and technology. I think there is big opportunity for cross-school collaboration and I think there are significant prospects for tech savvy programmers willing to team with sharp and creative MBAs.
If anyone has suggestions or would like to help address this problem, please contact me. This is something I am passionate about, have witnessed firsthand and an area I see major opportunities to make substantial, positive impacts.