Today is my last day as Operations Lead at oneforty. In the fall, I'll be headed to the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan to pursue my MBA.
Because I've been asked a bunch of questions about this, I figured it might be fun for others to see (and critique!) my thinking.
Why business school?Amongst startup folks, MBAs get a bad rap. Some smart people don't even want to interview MBAs. But it turns out that a lot of companies won't interview you without one. I literally have an e-mail in my Inbox from a recruiter at a very prestigious company that is one of the largest traditional recruiters of MBA students who loves my experience, but can't hire me without a graduate degree. While we can debate the pros and cons of the company's position, it does mean I'm precluded from even considering a position with this firm until I have my MBA.
An MBA isn't a substitute for startup experience and drive, but it doesn't preclude it either. From my perspective, it's easier to go to school full time and work on startups part time (both mine, and helping others) than working at a startup full time and trying to swing a part-time MBA. My read is this: getting an MBA has the highest option value out of the things I could do with myself at this point in my career.
Besides, there's precedent - if Tristan can pull it off at Foursquare and Stanford, then I can certainly pull it off as a part-time consultant while I'm at school.
Out of the top ten business schools, Michigan was easily the best fit for me. The environment at Ross is very different than some other schools; Rossers are driven, but not competitive. They have fun without being self-indulgent. They're friendly without weird forced group hugs (thanks, John, for unwittingly providing me that dig at your alma mater). The new building is the best learning facility I've ever seen. And I couldn't be more excited about having a chance to watch the first night game ever at the Big House. I hate Notre Dame.
Of course, professionally, it's a slam dunk. Every single company that traditionally recruits MBAs that I would want to work for recruits on campus at Ross. If I want to go the strategy consulting route, I can do that. If I want to join a large technology company in a product management or product marketing role, I can do that. If I want to get hands-on experience with consumer marketing at a CPG company, I can do that. And, yes, if I want to join or found a startup, I can still do that.
In addition, Michigan has more top-ten graduate programs than almost any other school in the country. This means that I can complement my formal business school education with classes from the law, engineering, and other schools on campus. For example, you know how the Lean Startup movement has strong roots in the Lean Manufacturing processes pioneered by Toyota? The guy who wrote the books on Toyota's processes is a professor at Michigan. If there's ever been an opportunity to do a formal academic dive on the base assumptions underlying lean startups, this is my best chance to do so. I don't need to wait for someone to modify an existing class to incorporate Lean Startup principles; I can write a few chapters of the damn textbook myself.
I'm 29, which puts me at the upper edge of your traditional full-time MBA student. I didn't feel comfortable putting off school, if I was going to go at all, any longer. Being older also means I have a number of friends who have already finished B school. Talking to them, one of the most frequent pieces of advice was to take the summer "off", so I decided to do so as well, now that oneforty closed its Series A round, launched e-commerce, and moved to its more permanent offices in Central Square. The Company is in a great position, and I can take the summer to learn Ruby on Rails, travel a bunch, and make the most of an opportunity to do interesting things before I take on new obligations.
I'll be taking a desk as an Advisor at TechStars here in Cambridge for the next month (thanks Shawn), helping out the startups there with product, marketing, positioning, pricing, and other questions/issues. In addition to the 2010 Boston TechStars companies, I'll also be helping out at a small handful of more established startups in town. I'll also be blogging more regularly, and tweeting some more as well.
I want to close this out by offering my thanks to Mike, Michael, Robby, Yifei, Jamie, and Jason for being awesome to work with. I also want to especially thank Laura for letting me come out from Chicago, run the Series A process (from first meeting to close in 37 days - beat that with a stick), do customer development, user testing, marketing, and own point on a myriad of other tasks as well as letting me leverage her insane, awesome network for my own personal benefit. You really should consider joining the team.