Praise of Folly: An MBA’s pursuit of entrepreneurship

By Neda Navab

Dear MBA,
           Congratulations! You have checked off all requisite life boxes:
·  Fancy undergrad degree: check.
·  Fancy job at prestigious company your mother took pride in: check.
·  Fancy admissions letter from top MBA program: check.
            What is there left in the world to conquer, you well-read and well-bred twenty-something? Why, to start a tech company, of course!
            As you have witnessed during Field 3, anyone can start a company! And with a nice landing page, you too can place in the top ten most novel ideas created by the future business leaders of the globe (http://www.everydaydinner.com/).
            As you have learned in your TEM courses, there is a standard set of practices that even a McKinsey consultant could execute on to launch a company:
1.    Find a market with a problem, and a product to solve it. Americans *need* a monthly box to refresh their refrigerators’ condiment supply. I present to you, ToppingsBox.
2.    Meet your customers and test product-market fit. 40% of the ten sectionmates who responded to the facebook post of a surveymonkey questionnaire said they would be upset without ToppingsBox.  
3.    Create an MVP. Package ToppingsBox in your parent’s garage for added effect.
4.    Develop a business model. No, that’s alright. Monetization can wait.
5.    Get funding. Note: female entrepreneurship is #sohotrightnow.
6.    Sell company. Rinse. Repeat.
            Congratulations! You have now checked a new box: Founder. Right? Wrong. The entrepreneurial expectations on campuses today are shaping MBAs’ paths; however, it is a mis-shaping. MBAs are inheriting a set of expectations dooming them to failure in the land of startups, for not everyone who masters the lean startup methodology can be an entrepreneur (http://www.vark.com/).
            If entrepreneurship truly is the *relentless* pursuit of opportunity without regards to resources currently controlled, than MBAs who lack a Reality Distortion Field (RDF) are puppets in the desperate scramble among business schools to lay claims on the next Zuckerberg.
            While MBAs possess the skills to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors, a degree of self-deception and madness is critical. Like Steve Jobs, entrepreneurs cannot get dragged down by the 90% of people who “can’t see into the future unless there is proof in the present.” And like the founders of AirBnB, entrepreneurs must rely on their passion for pursuing a solution in order to climb out of the “trough of sorrow,” where their true mettle is tested.
            Does this then imply that lean startup is incompatible with an RDF? No, for it is an RDF that compels an entrepreneur to fully exploit the lean methodology to an eventual product solution. Through their force of vision, “RDF entrepreneurs” lure top talent to their companies, compete successfully for the best money, and hammer away at a product concept until they achieve product-market fit.
            Thus, an RDF is a necessary, but not sufficient, quality for entrepreneurship. Armed with an RDF, a talented team unafraid to push back, and a problem in the world they so desperately want to fix, MBAs can be a potent force for change in the world.
Yours,
An MBA in pursuit of entrepreneurship



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