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在哈佛、沃顿、哥伦比亚,MBA创业热正如火如荼

Ethan Baron 2015年01月12日

眼下,MBA学生纷纷追寻创业梦想,期望通过创新获得丰厚利润和辉煌成就。有鉴于此,美国各地的商学院都在增加与创业相关的课程。

    在众筹网站Kickstarter上发布的宣传视频中,哥伦比亚商学院MBA学生康纳•威尔逊和诺兰•沃尔什站在一个房间里,一群男女模特围着一堆靴子和鞋子欢欣跳跃,而威尔逊和沃尔什则朝着那堆鞋子撒美钞。沃尔什说:“欢迎来到快时尚的世界,模特、名人以及巨额广告预算都是为了向我们兜售不耐穿的劣质产品。”

    这则视频在24小时内带来了一个销售记录,威尔逊和沃尔什的星期四靴业公司接到了超过27.5万美元的订单,购买他们199美元一双的靴子。该产品已于数月前开始生产。

    威尔逊之前是索恩伯格投资管理公司的一名分析师及投资组合经理,他表示:“我真的很喜欢这种将小业务做大的想法。”

    威尔逊和沃尔什两人是商学院学生创业热潮的真实缩影。MBA项目工作人员发现,学生对创业相关课程的需求显著增加,比如说在哈佛商学院这一需求的年增幅为20%-30%。越来越多地, MBA学生正迫不及待的将其商业技能应用于自有的企业。

    美国管理专业研究生入学考试委员会新近发布的2014年校友展望报告显示,创办新企业的商学院毕业生大大增多。该委员会对1959至2013年毕业的个体经营者校友调查显示,45%的2010至2013届毕业生,刚从商学院毕业就直接自行创办企业。而往年毕业的个体经营者校友中,有80%的人是工作几年后才开始创业。

    威尔逊与沃尔什都年仅29岁,威尔逊表示,他们两人都对“整个时尚产业特别是靴子”很感兴趣,并且发现在标价过高的“高价”靴子与“廉价劣质的时尚品牌”间存在市场空白。威尔逊称,他们还发现了将时尚性与工装靴的耐用性相结合的商机。

    威尔逊称,他读商学院是为了成为一名企业家,而他之所以选择哥伦比亚商学院,一是因为该校教育质量卓越,且重视培养企业家精神——十多年来,哥伦比亚商学院院长格伦•哈伯德一直大肆宣传该院的创业相关课程;二是因为该校位于纽约,而纽约据报道目前是全美第二大创业基地,仅次于硅谷。

    威尔逊表示,他和沃尔什获得了包括37 Angels创始人安吉拉•李在内的哥伦比亚大学导师的帮助,并得到了哥伦比亚创业实验室暑期项目的支持,后者向他们提供了办公场地、法律咨询以及市场营销专业知识。

    威尔逊说:“创办星期四靴业的想法就诞生于此。”

    鉴于MBA学生纷纷追寻创业梦想,期望通过创新获得丰厚利润和辉煌成就,美国各地的商学院都在增设与创业相关的课程。

    宾夕法尼亚大学沃顿商学院高尔根创业管理项目讲师帕特里克•菲茨杰拉德看到,过去四年来,匆匆进入创业企业的学生数量增长了两倍。菲茨杰拉德表示,如今,沃顿商学院有7%的学生毕业后立即自行创业,这一比例是2007年的5倍。

    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%。

    佐勒表示:“创业正成为经济的中流砥柱,因此,它也开始成为商学院的主流。越来越多的商学院学生正在寻找高增长性的创业机遇,作为通往职业成功的途径。”

    佐勒称,由美国西海岸蔓延开来的科技热潮是创业热的主要推动力。

    佐勒说:“我们见证了硅谷的重生,那些正快速发展的大牌企业,很多都是在过去5年内上市的。学生们对此类企业的兴趣日益浓厚。”

    菲茨杰拉德表示,与此同时,技术发展以及在硅谷以外雇佣娴熟的本科生的成本下降,使得创业更加容易,创业成本也大大降低。

    菲茨杰拉德表示:“过去,创建一家公司需要花费 20万美元,如今只需花一半的钱。现在,你可以实现迅速且低成本创业。”

    佐勒表示,随着这些科技驱动型公司不断扩张,顶尖商学院正紧随其后。佐勒说:“排名前20的商学院都需要占据所有技术热点地区。我们可以看到,美国各大商学院正聚焦纽约、芝加哥、波士顿、硅谷,并日益关注海外,比如上海、伦敦等地。”

    “在未来的商学院教育市场上,商学院需要占据增长最快的地区。”

    许多商学院正计划在上述科技中心运作卫星项目。他们正与已经扎根上述地区的毕业生建立联系。

    佐勒说:“许多商学院已经有能力在上述各市场建立真正具有凝聚力的校友网络,帮助本院学生在特定地区落脚,并成为地区领袖。”

    斯坦福大学商学院发现,该院2013届毕业生对创业的兴趣大增,18%的学生在毕业1年内创业,而2012年该比例为13%。2014年与2013年相比,创业比例变化不大,但创业公司的类型发生了很大变化。2013届毕业生中,17%的创业者选择了金融行业,13%选择了互联网服务业,另有11%选择了媒体和娱乐行业。2014年,进入金融业的创业者比例降至11%,选择互联网服务以及媒体和娱乐行业的比例双双跌至2%;而进入能源与环保技术、卫生保健和软件这三个领域的创业者比例均达到9%。

    今年,凯南-弗拉格勒商学院开启了亚当斯学徒项目,从该院学生中选择最具潜力的未来企业家,与北卡罗莱纳大学企业家校友共事1年,所有参与者都致力于在毕业5年内成长为企业家。

    哈佛商学院洛克创业中心负责人梅雷迪思•香农表示,近年来,对该中心服务的需求大涨。该中心的创业大赛在学生开发并最终推销自身创业项目的过程中,将他们与导师和来自世界各地的裁判配对。

    在洛克加速器项目中,120多位申请者竞争20个席位,学生创始人团队获得5000-8000美元,用于实现其商业创意,而学生“创业伙伴”则帮助选择并支持参赛团队。在夏季奖学金项目中,学生在第一学年和第二学年之间,可在已有的新创企业中就职,或者自行创建新创企业。香农说:“过去几年,对此项目的需求大大增加。”

    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.

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