A Solution to the MBA/Entrepreneurship Paradox

5 Sep
cunning plan

As cunning as a fox that's Professor of Cunning at Oxford University

There’s a paradox that comes with doing an MBA and then trying to be an entrepreneur.

I’m not talking about whether or not MBAs make good entrepreneurs, or whether anything you learn on an MBA is useful for a startup. Sure, most MBAs go off to become management consultants or work in finance, but from my school I think there’s at least 10% that go off and start companies after their degrees.

No, I’m talking about the paradox of leaving a degree with a shed-load of debt and trying to “bootstrap” a startup. You can reduce many costs to try and extend the metaphorical runway, but the massive £500-600 a month loan repayments that kicks in 3 months after you finish the course makes for quite an elephant in the room.

The problem is that when you explain to investors what your personal bootstrapping cash burn-rate is you have to inflate it from a fairly reasonable £21k to around £30k (gross salary equivalents before tax), which doesn’t sound much like bootstrapping to an investor.

Put bluntly, the MBA loan repayments make it damn difficult to live cheaply after your course finishes. Of course not everyone has to take such a big loan to do the MBA, but I think I’m far from the minority (Note: my running out of runway problem doesn’t even include my loan repayments as I’ll have run out of money before they even start. Ha!).

Fear not though, I have a cunning plan that might cure this paradox!

Problem: Business schools want to encourage entrepreneurship. MBAs are expensive and most students have to take chuffing huge loans to pay for them, which impedes entrepreneurship.

Solution: business schools refund the MBA loan to the bank and converts it to convertible debt based on the startup the student has started during the course. The loan would convert to equity in the startup at the first qualifying financing round. If they don’t raise any finance within a certain time-period, then the loan reverts to a normal personal debt, with interest accrued.

There would of course have to be some safe-guards to prevent wide-scale abuse and people setting up fake companies after the degree, but I’m sure with some more thought it could be possible.

Of course it will never happen. The amount of money the school would “lose” in the short-term would be massive. Perhaps a benefactor could finance the scheme?

I know it sounds like a fairly hare-brained scheme, but put it this way – if a business school really believes its MBA programme is compatible with entrepreneurship and it really believes in the students it recruits, then it should have confidence in the businesses they start. If they got one or two home runs, then they could make a good return.

Potentially true

I was considering titling this post, “would anybody like to pay off my student loan for me?”, but that seemed a bit too blunt.

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2 Responses to “A Solution to the MBA/Entrepreneurship Paradox”

  1. capitalisthippie September 6, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    This house believes business schools should waive their fees in return for equity against a person’s future earnings OR fixed monthly cash payments, whichever come last. Nice article, sir!

  2. Dipl.Kfm. Udo Granops September 8, 2011 at 8:55 pm #

    Very good article! MBAs and entrepreneurs are not always the same. one is looking for a job, the other for a a place to shape the world.

    Making money with or out of a startup is a plan for the future, when the sales iscoming or business is really flying. But always expect to cut your personal spendings first because VCs don’t like to see their money go down your drain, these times are over!
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