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商业

创业公司CEO到底需不需要MBA学位

Dan Mitchell 2014年07月11日

有商学院教授认为,如果Snapchat首席执行官斯皮格尔拿过MBA学位,他就不会拒绝Facebook公司30亿美元的天价收购。但问题是,如果他当年去读MBA了,或许根本就不会有如今的Snapchat。


    无论是否公平,工商管理硕士(MBA)学位不值得去读的观点正在迅速演变成一种共识。有些人的利益跟MBA的未来息息相关,因此,他们就像抓住救命稻草那样拼命进行反驳并不让人觉得意外。

    上个月底,商学院教授斯科特•罗斯坦撰文替MBA叫屈。他的论据是,如果照片分享网站Snapchat首席执行官埃文•斯皮格尔从斯坦福(Stanford)大学毕业后再拿个MBA学位,他现在的境况就会好得多,他就能更好地评估那些曾经摆在他面前、最终却没能打动他的那些机会,比如去年秋天Facebook 公司30亿美元的收购报价被斯皮格尔一口回绝。随后不久,Snapchat进行了一轮融资,筹集了5000万美元资金,但对这家公司的估值却降到了20亿美元。

    罗斯坦写道:

    创始人埃文•斯皮格尔(在斯坦福大学获得学士学位)想继续持有多数股权,虽然这很容易理解,但在Snapchat至今仍无收入的情况下,让10亿美元从自己的手边溜走仍然让许许多多的人感到意外(当然,判断斯皮格尔是否得到了团购网站Groupon的青睐还为时尚早)。收购谈判包含了很多博弈理论,但如果了解分析和估值背后的科学,就能在掌握更多信息的情况下做出决定。

    也就是说,Snapchat目前还没有收入,外界也没有听说它在创收方面有什么计划。这家公司是值30亿美元,还是只值20亿美元呢?或者1000亿美元?大家在这方面的猜测和斯皮格尔并无高下之别,罗斯坦也是一样。但罗斯坦认为,估值“科学”能为斯皮格尔提供答案,还能帮助他决定,到底应该考虑哪些收购建议,拒绝哪些。罗斯坦赞赏了一番组成MBA课程主体的现实世界案例分析之后,举了一个非现实事例,说的是一位拥有MBA学位的初创型企业CEO通过对收购建议进行数据分析赚了很大一笔钱。

    罗斯坦在文章中说:“所有初创型企业的核心都是它的价值,而构建这个核心的基础是一系列金融原理和指标(产生现金流的情况、盈利、销售额等),而不是情感。掌握这些基本商业原理能让一位创业者用脑子、而不是用心来做决定。”

    在某种程度上,或者说对有现金流、盈利和销售额等要素的公司来说,情况确实如此。但就Snapchat而言,除了“等”这个要素,其他东西它一样也没有。这家公司有的只是数百万虚度光阴的青少年相互发送的几百万转瞬即逝的照片和信息,而且还不知道有多少讨厌的家伙给别人发了不知道多少张恶心的自拍照。因为脑子里没概念,斯皮格尔能做的就只有跟着感觉走,情况就是这样。

    不过,肯定有更好的例子,比如有具体收入和切实经营计划、进而可以正儿八经地展开分析的初创公司?这样的企业当然存在。但对MBA不利的一项依据是,许多攻读MBA的学生在本科阶段就已经掌握了所有获得MBA学位需要了解的知识——罗斯坦对这一点并没有提出反对意见。对于希望成为金融顾问、投资者或者分析师的人,MBA也许有价值【但注册金融分析师(CFA)可能要好得多】。但在美国商业史上,无论是最近还是很久以前,有一种情况俯仰皆是,那就是,很少或者根本没有接受过正规商业培训的企业主凭借绝妙的主意或者坚持不懈,最终取得了巨大成功。这些年轻的创业者都没有受过多少科班培训,但他们都聘请了经验丰富的管理者来经营自己的公司。在这方面,人们马上就会想到谷歌(Google)、Facebook和雅虎(Yahoo)。如果愿意,斯皮格尔也可以这样做。

    The argument that it’s not worth it to pursue an MBAis fast transforming into a truism, whether fairly or not. So it’s no surprise to see some desperate straw-grasping from people who have a stake in the degree’s future.

    On Monday, Scott Rostan, a business professor, offered an MBA apologia resting on the idea that if Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel had only earned an MBA after graduating from Stanford, he’d be in a much better position today. He’d be more able to evaluate the insensible deals being thrust at him, such as Facebook’s $3 billion offer last fall, which Spiegel rejected. Soon after, the company was valued at $2 billion after a $50 million financing round.

    Rostan wrote:

    While it’s easy to understand why founder Evan Spiegel (holder of an undergraduate degree from Stanford University) wanted to retain majority ownership, passing up that additional $1 billion when Snapchat currently has no revenue surprised a lot of people. (Of course, it’s too early to tell whether Spiegel pulled a Groupon.) Negotiations for an acquisition involve lots of game theory, but understanding the science behind the analysis and valuation can promote better-informed decisions.

    So Snapchat has no revenues and no known plans for how it will ever draw any revenues. Is it worth $3 billion, or only $2 billion? Or is it worth, perhaps, $0 billion? Or $100 billion? Your guess is as good as Spiegel’s. Or Rostan’s. But Rostan thinks that the “science” of valuation would supply Spiegel with the answers and help him decide which offers to consider and which to reject. After extolling the benefits of the real-world case studies that make up much of the MBA curricula, Rostan offers no real-world examples of an MBA-holding CEO of a startup getting a great deal for him- or herself after running offers through spreadsheet analyses.

    Rostan writes that, “at the core of any startup is its value, which is based on a set of financial principles and metrics (cash-flow generation, earnings, sales, etc.), rather than an emotional feeling. Understanding these basic business principles allows an entrepreneur to make decisions with his head rather than his heart.”

    And that’s true, to a point, for companies that have cash flow, earnings, sales, and “etc.” But Snapchat doesn’t have any of those things, unless the “etc.,” comprises millions of time-wasting teenagers sending millions of vaporous photos and messages to each other, and who knows how many creeps sending who knows how many distasteful selfies. In the absence of information for his brain, all Spiegel has to go on is his heart, such as it is.

    But surely there are better examples — startups with measurable revenues and solid business plans that lend themselves to formal analysis? Of course there are. But one of the arguments against MBAs — not addressed by Rostan — is that many students learn all they need to know about this stuff as undergrads. If you want to be a financial advisor, investor, or analyst, maybe an MBA will be valuable to you. (Or maybe a CFA would be far, far better.) But American business history, both recent and long past, is filled with stories of owners with little or no formal business training either getting great deals for their companies or holding on to them and managing them to great success. And all kinds of young owners without much formal training have hired experienced executives to manage their companies. Google GOOG -0.34% , Facebook FB -0.46% , and Yahoo YHOO 2.57% come immediately to mind. Spiegel could do the same if he wanted.

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