Applications to two-year full-time business schools have declined for
the past three years. Yet some of today’s best-known startups—Rent
the Runway, Birchbox—were launched at B-school. What’s an MBA good
for? We spoke to Dave Gilboa, who co-founded his business with fellow
students at Wharton, and Amanda Hesser, whose company has made
the Inc. 5000 three times—sans a founder with an MBA. —CATHERINE PERLOFF
DISCUSS Do Entrepreneurs Really Need an MBA?
ADVANTAGE; HESSER According to Financial Times survey data from 2017, fewer than
20 percent of 2014 business school alums in the U.S. had started a company, and the rate of
entrepreneurship for grads has dropped at many top B-schools in the past year.
the best place
school a waste of
time? You could be starting a
It gives you a solid
understanding of core
fundamentals. But the most
important skills taught
are softer: organizational
design, giving and receiving
people—which often aren’t
taught to someone coming
up in their career.
A lot of people use B-school
the way I did, to explore ideas
and see which have the best
chance of succeeding.
Warby Parker would not exist
Before B-school, I sent
emails to CEOs and VCs to
see if we could get coffee. I
didn’t have a great response
rate. When I was at Wharton,
every person I reached out
When we talked to industry
experts, they’d tell us why our
idea wouldn’t work. If we had
had jobs, it would have been
easy to abandon the idea.
In a class, you look at
case studies, which have a
survivorship bias. When
you’re building a business,
there’s so much uncertainty.
Navigating that is the most
important skill—and one
you get only in the real world.
We’d spent time in
our industry, and knew the
opportunities and flaws.
I don’t think we would have
understood them in a deep
way without that experience.
I built my network in the food
industry—it made a lot of
things much easier. An MBA
gives comfort to investors,
especially if you’re a woman.
I thought about getting one,
but that would have played
into prejudices that I didn’t
think should exist.
To me, domain expertise is
by far the most important
thing you can get in the early
part of your career if you
want to start a business.
B-schools relevant for
A SURPRISE FIX FOR FOUNDERS
Founders index high for mental
illness, but no one needed to
tell that to Ronn Dunnett, who
makes pricey handmade snare
drums for musicians like Neil
Peart of Rush. He battled severe
depression for years. He tried
therapy and multiple medications, to no avail. Then, last year,
Dunnett learned about a promising new treatment—ketamine.
although an FDA-approved
anesthetic, is better known for
sending club kids into nonresponsive and severely dissociative k-holes. But in recent
years, it has earned a reputation
as an effective off-label treatment for depression and suicidal
thoughts. Findings from numerous studies bolster that rep—
and hundreds of entrepreneurial
docs have opened clinics. Like
Steven L. Mandel, who founded
Ketamine Clinics of Los Angeles
in 2014, and who treated
Dunnett. (Off-label use is legal,
but insurance companies don’t
cover it.) “Ketamine was my hail
mary,” says Dunnett. “I can finally
feel pleasure.” Before treatment,
he’d gone as far as to plan his
suicide—in the garage, with his
motorcycle. “This isn’t hyperbole—this gives some people
their lives back,” says Mandel,
who adds that about half
of his patients are entrepreneurs. Take care of yourselves
during the long, gray days
of winter, all. —WILL YAKOWICZ
No. 2 DIAL IT BACK. See that guy? The one who, Hitchcock says, is “wearing black suits,
the hair’s all spiked up. He’s got the big sunglasses on, several rings, a large bag.” He really
needs to stop trying so hard. Or, as Hitchcock puts it, “take it down a thousand.”