北卡罗莱纳大学凯南-弗拉格勒商学院创业研究中心负责人泰德•佐勒表示，该院2015届学生学习创业课程的比例“近来激增”， 280名学生中有103人在学习此类课程，占比约 40%。
On their Kickstarter video, Columbia Business School MBA candidates Connor Wilson and Nolan Walsh stand in a room where a group of male and female models cavorts around a pile of boots and shoes as they shower dollar bills upon it. “Welcome to the world of fast fashion,” Walsh says. “Models, celebrities, and huge advertising budgets, all designed to sell us inferior products that wear out quickly.”
The Kickstarter campaign set a record for sales in the first 24 hours, and Wilson and Walsh have received more than $275,000 in orders for their $199 Thursday Boot Company boots. Production started about a few months ago.
“I really like the idea of growing something small into something big,” says Wilson, a former investment analyst and portfolio manager for Thornburg Investment Management.
The two Columbia MBAs are part of a striking trend among business school students toward entrepreneurship. MBA program officials are seeing dramatic growth in student demand—including, for example, annual increases of 20% to 30% at Harvard Business School—for entrepreneurship-related offerings. Increasingly, MBAs are rushing to apply their business skills to their own enterprises.
The Graduate Management Admission Council’s recently released 2014 Alumni Perspectives Report reveals a significant rise in the number of business school graduates launching new businesses. From a survey of self-employed alumni who graduated from 1959 to 2013, GMAC has found that 45% of 2010-2013 grads started businesses directly after finishing B-school, while 80% of self-employed alumni from years past worked several years for an employer before embarking on entrepreneurial ventures.
Wilson says he and Walsh, both 29 years old and interested in “fashion broadly and boots specifically,” identified a market gap between “precious,” costly boots sold at a high markup and “cheap, low-quality fashion brands.” They also saw an opportunity to combine the durability of work boots with a fashionable product, Wilson says.
Wilson say that he went to business school to become an entrepreneur, and he chose Columbia because of the quality of education, its focus on entrepreneurialism—Dean Glenn Hubbard has for more than a decade touted the school’s entrepreneurial offerings—and its location in New York City, now reported to be the nation’s second-largest startup ecosystem, behind Silicon Valley.
Columbia mentors, including 37 Angels founder Angela Lee, helped the two students, and they received assistance from the Columbia Startup Lab’s summer program, where they took advantage of office space, legal advice, and marketing expertise, Wilson says.
“That was where we hashed out the idea that became Thursday Boots,” Wilson says.
Across the U.S., business schools are ramping up entrepreneurship programming, as students pursue dreams of lucrative innovation, and startup glory.
At the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School’s Goergen Entrepreneurial Management Program, lecturer Patrick FitzGerald has seen a tripling in the number of his students setting forth post-haste into entrepreneurial enterprises over the last four years. Now, 7% of Wharton students are starting companies right after graduation, a five-fold increase over 2007, FitzGerald says.
At the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School, some 40% of the class of 2015, 103 out of 280 students, are studying entrepreneurship—a “recent surge,” says Ted Zoller, director of the school’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.
“Entrepreneurship is entering the mainstream in the economy and therefore it’s starting to enter the mainstream in the business schools,” Zoller says. “You’re starting to see people increasingly seeking out high-growth venturing as a pathway for their professional success.”
The U.S. tech boom, expanding from the West Coast, has served as the primary impetus toward entrepreneurship, Zoller says.
“We’ve seen really the rebirth of Silicon Valley, and the most important companies that are making strides are the ones that have IPO’d in the last five years,” Zoller says. “Students are increasingly interested in these types of companies.”
At the same time, technological advances and the availability of cheaper talent, such as skilled bachelor’s degree graduates, outside Silicon Valley have made it easier and far less expensive to start companies, FitzGerald says.
“Where it used to cost $200,000, you can now build a company for half that,” FitzGerald says. “You can build something quite quickly and quite cheaply.”
As these tech-driven companies are spreading, highly ranked business schools are right on their heels, Zoller says. “Any top 20 business school needs to be relevant in every technology hotspot,” Zoller says. “You’re seeing all the major business schools focusing on New York, Chicago, Boston, Silicon Valley, and increasingly overseas: Shanghai, London.
“In tomorrow’s business market, business schools will need to be where the greatest growth is.”
Many schools are planning satellite operations in these tech hubs, and they are forging links with graduates already entrenched in them.
“Many of them have built the capacity to create a really cohesive cadre of alumni in each of these markets that helps their students get placed and become leaders in the given region,” Zoller says.
Stanford’s Graduate School of Business saw a considerable jump in interest in entrepreneurship in the class of 2013, with 18% of grads starting businesses within a year, compared to 13% in 2012. The percentage didn’t change much in 2014 over 2013, but the types of startups did. Seventeen per cent of class of 2013 entrepreneurs went into finance, 13% into Internet services, and 11% into media and entertainment. In 2014, those who went into finance dropped to 11%, while Internet services and media and entertainment both plummeted to 2%; 9% went into each of three areas: energy and clean technology; health care; and software.
This year, Kenan-Flagler started the Adams Apprenticeship program, selecting the top entrepreneurial prospects from its student body to work with UNC entrepreneur alumni for a year, with each participant committing to becoming an entrepreneur within five years of graduation.
Demand for the Harvard Business School’s Rock Center for Entrepreneurship’s services has been surging in recent years, says director Meredith McPherron. The center’s New Venture Competition matches students with mentors and judges around the world as they develop and ultimately pitch their ventures.
In the Rock Accelerator program, which receives more than 120 applications for 20 spaces, student founder teams receive $5,000 to $8,000 to work on business ideas, while student “Venture Partners” help select and support participant teams. In the Summer Fellowship program, students either work at an existing startup or work on their own startup, between their first and second years. “Over the last couple years, we’ve had enormous pickup in demand on that,” McPherron says.