Startup VS. MBA?

A background to share: I used to be a technical guy (chip designer) and don’t think there is any value in an MBA, have no respect for marketing, etc… Eventually, I did go back for an MBA.

Two points to make:

  1. You don’t need an MBA to succeed in a startup.
  2. MBA gives you a good network (if it’s a top program) and let you “know what you don’t know”. Wisemen said: “Entrepreneurs usually fail because they don’t know what they don’t know.” Also, note that MBA, at least the good programs, is not about theory, but rather history. It’s about analyzing real business cases from the past of successful or failed companies. History can teach a lot and provides models for your analysis and decision in the future.

“If you want to do a startup, it’s better if you get (1) operating experience (2) in the space / sector that you want to do a startup in. Why? Because you can compete better if you understand a sector well and have experience executing in that sector. So to get op exp, what role/position is helpful to your future startup effort?

Product management or Sales.

Product management because you see all aspects of a product and work with all relevant departments in the company. As a manager of a product, you need to see if there is a market need, what’s the biz model, what features to build and can engineering do it, is there enough funding, what is the marketing plan, etc… so you are almost like a CEO of a small startup.

The other position is sales. Why is that important? As a founder, you have to sell to everyone! First of all, your most important job is recruiting. When you recruit, you need to sell your vision, your company, the position, etc.. you need to also sell to investors, customers, and even suppliers.”


I guess Robert Kiyosaki is a good example of getting rich by learning and working with the “rich dad”. Sharp mind is the result of highly focused observation, analysis and practices. A lot of non MBA people can create good companies. MBA provides the knowledge and network – but without a sharp mind, an MBA holder may only be a brilliant consultant.


A common MBA is just an advanced BA. It helps you to explain better what happens, not really enhance your leadership to be a true entrepreneur


I have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing entrepreneurs; one was young, hungry, could sell anything to anyone, had a raw sense of an opportunity and would take the risk. No MBA, no degree, just an MBA of life. Another had the whole Harvard piece, was super business smart in finance, investment and strategy. Different start-ups require different skills. It’s not the MBA you need, it’s a discipline to develop those ‘right skills’ and fill the gaps with other skilled people. An MBA might help you get that quicker, equally working with the right people can get you the skills too.


Simple answer: yes. MBA’s teach you a framework to think and work from – you may not need it but it sure is damn helpful.


My comment was a sarcastic response to Trung Huynh about his parents forcing him to get an MBA. It reminds me of the story told to me by several professors at RMIT. Many of the parents when asked about why they wanted their child to attend the school simply said “we want them to become businessmen” without any idea of what it will take.

While the intentions are good, simply saying you must have an MBA to succeed and putting pressure on the kids to do so is counter-productive.

In the immortal words of Judge Smais “Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.”


Be careful when you use examples like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, etc. when you want to draw a conclusion about startups in Vietnam. Are you talking about getting an MBA abroad and becoming an entrepreneur in Vietnam? Don’t compare apples to oranges. Those founders might not need MBA’s because tech start-ups in the US don’t require them to. The business environment in Vietnam might be different. Or maybe a college graduate in the US (even the ones who dropped out) might have all the skills and knowledge to start her own business while her counterpart in Vietnam does not. Therefore the Vietnamese entrepreneur-wanna-be needs to go to business school to learn more.

Think about what you currently have right now (and be brutally honest to yourself, because nobody else can). Think about what you need to go from here to successfully execute a start-up. I always believe that most Vietnamese young people should pursue the highest level of education that they could possibly afford. It is still valid for Vietnamese entrepreneurs, unless your CUSTOMERS (not you) prove otherwise. I myself will drop out immediately if a customer is willing to write a big check to me and I can work out a viable business model from that transaction. But I still go talking to successful people who have MBA’s and people who don’t have MBA’s to understand if an MBA can help me take my business to a new level where I could not imagine at the first place.

And don’t fall into the trap of generalization (do I???). It might be true that entrepreneurs are risk-takers, but why on earth an MBA graduate has to be different? After all, most of them take an extremely high risk when entering an MBA program. The financial risk alone, on average, is no less than $150K (in the US). They have about 5 years of relevant experience before entering MBA program. They can articulate and execute. They are risk-takers and they are smart. Or at least some of them are.


Entrepreneur is heart, Education(MBA) is brain. We can’t learn for heart. Và em hoàn toàn đồng ý với quan điểm này. Học gì thì học nhưng kiến thức thì nhiều mà vận dụng được mấy phần mới quan trọng. Một vấn đề khác, Start-up và MBA là 2 chuyện hoàn toàn khác nhau, thậm chí nói là chẳng ăn nhập gì cũng được. Anh học MBA có thể k start-up mà làm 1 cty lớn, anh start-up có khi k cần học MBA. Trên quan điểm của em, khi anh có idea, anh có accompany, và anh cũng có thêm được kiến thức của MBA để start up? Vậy thì WHY NOT? Biết nhiều thì tốt nhiều hay hại nhiều phụ thuộc vào mỗi người : nhưng hãy luôn nhớ rằng entrepreneur is heart and we never know how big the heart is


MBA là investment đối với người học nhưng lại là 1 “món hàng” của các university. Và nó cũng nằm trong quy luật thị trường: nó cần và tốt cho người dùng thì nó tồn tại, ngược lại nó phải bị đào thải. Thực tế hiện tại có rất rất nhiều chương trình MBA ra đời, tất nhiên 1 phần do xu hướng đang lên của cộng đồng nhưng phần lớn là do các OUTCOME mà chương trình MBa thực sự mang lại.


Toastmaster SG “Tại sao trong hầu hết các leading tech start-up đều có bóng dáng của những người rất trẻ?”. Quan điểm cá nhân em nghĩ, start-up founder không cần và không nên take MBA. Start-up xoay quanh vấn đề là think different và take risk, một người take MBA trở nên too smart để có thể get out of rules và take risk. MBA chỉ dành để giúp quản lí và phát triển hoạt động của start-up, còn founder cần phải stay stupid để liên tục take risks mới có thể think different được.


Vậy Entrepreneur là gì?

Theo tự điển Wikipedia thì “An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and assumes significant accountability for the inherent risks and the outcome”. Hiểu nghĩa đại khái là người “dám nghĩ dám làm” những cái MỚI. Như vậy Entrepreneur cũng có thể hiểu là NHỮNG NGƯỜI ĐEM LẠI GIÁ TRỊ SÁNG TẠO CHO NỀN KINH TẾ NÓI CHUNG.

Tiếp đến phải hiểu chương trình MBA dạy ta những gì? Theo Havard Business School thì chương trình MBA nghiên cứu và giảng dạy những lý thuyết khoa học được ứng dụng trong kinh doanh.

Từ hai khái niệm này có thể hiểu nôm na Entrepreneur thiên về “nghệ thuật” còn MBA thiên về “khoa học”.
Tất nhiên trong nghệ thuật không thể thiếu phần của khoa học và trong khoa học luôn có chỗ đứng cho nghệ thuật. Hai khái niệm này không loại trừ nhau mà bổ sung cho nhau. Trở lại câu hỏi “Khởi nghiệp có cần MBA không?”. Nguyên không dám đưa ra câu trả lời dứt khoát cho vấn đề này, nhưng xin đóng góp những kinh nghiệm của chính bản thân Nguyên.

Nguyên là dân MIS, tức là nặng về technical nhưng có một số kiến thức về business. Lúc ra làm Entrepreneur thì đụng phải toàn những vấn đề mà người ta dạy trong bằng MBA: Tài chính, HR, sales marketing, accounting, etc. Đem những khúc mắc ấy ra hỏi những MBA thực thụ thì những ý kiến góp ý của họ phần lớn là dùng không được, đơn giản là lúc họ đi học được dạy cả những kiến thức áp dụng vào các tập đoàn lớn và các start-up, nhưng lúc đi làm thực tế thì toàn làm những công ty lớn nên không có kinh nghiệm thực tế của start-up. Vậy là mình phải mày mò tự học lại từ sách vở, ví dụ như cuốn “What would you learn at top-tier business school”. Sau khi tự bổ sung kiến thức và đem ra áp dụng thì quả thật là có hiệu quả tức thời.
Các MBA ra làm start-up và thành công phần lớn không phải ở lĩnh vực công nghệ mà là các lĩnh vực có business model lỗi thời và họ chỉ ra được một business model mới.

Vậy theo Nguyên nghĩ, làm Start-up cần những kiến thức MBA, nhưng là những kiến thức trong lĩnh vực hẹp của mình, đồng thời không nhất thiết phải theo học một khóa học MBA chính quy. Ngược lại nếu bạn học MBA, sẽ rất khó làm start-up vì có quá nhiều quy tắc kinh doanh trong đầu, phần lớn chỉ áp dụng cho các tập đoàn lớn, nên bạn sẽ không thích ứng được với môi trường của một start-up, vốn đòi hỏi những tính cách như: Liều lĩnh, ngu ngốc(theo lời STEVE JOB), điên khùng (theo lời của JEFF BEZOS).


“An MBA gives you two things: network and knowledge”


An MBA gives you two things: network and knowledge. Harvard alumni hire Harvard grads or at least pick up the phone when they call. If you can get into a top program, then it’s worth it because you will join an elite network of business leaders globally; otherwise, an MBA becomes nothing but knowledge. You can get knowledge many ways. A startup is a great way to learn. MBA is a quicker and less painful way to learn. It’s also more general and broad about many business topics instead of very narrow knowledge that a startup can give you (ex: how to win in a startup doing Groupon clone). In an MBA program, you do case studies, historical cases of real companies for you to learn from and to build your mental models of different business situations. For example, we might say Marketing is not important. But do we know that Marketing is not just advertising, that it’s the whole strategy for getting your customers to demand our product(s)? Intel won because of their “Intel Inside” marketing campaign or that Coke is nothing but sugar water without marketing? Anyway, back to the value of an MBA. A good way to think about it that fits most of the comments above is: an MBA is like a sword and its value depends on the person that uses it. If you are a warrior and have entrepreneurial blood, it can help you with your startup. If you are not a risker take or don’t know how to use your MBA, it won’t help you. Also, if you want to be in general management, then an MBA helps. If you want to do a startup, it’s better if you get (1) operating experience (2) in the space/sector that you want to do a startup in. Why? Because you can compete better if you understand a sector well and have experience executing in that sector. So to get op exp, what role/position is helpful to your future startup effort? Product management or Sales. Product management because you see all aspects of a product and work with all relevant departments in the company. As a manager of a product, you need to see if there is a market need, what’s the biz model, what features to build and can engineering do it, is there enough funding, what is the marketing plan, etc… so you are almost like a CEO of a small startup. The other position is sales. Why is that important? As a founder, you have to sell to everyone! First of all, your most important job is recruiting. When you recruit, you need to sell your vision, your company, the position, etc.. you need to also sell to investors, customers, and even suppliers. This is a topic that requires at least 2-3 hours of discussion; otherwise, you might draw the wrong conclusion. Let’s have an offline event for this so we can discuss further all the fine points.


I guess no, I made up my mind, so I don’t get analysis paralysis on to MBA or not to MBA. I guess that is my blind-spot, and I’m happy with my blind-spot, cause it allows me to stop getting noises and distractions from outside and spend time with my startup instead.


Isn’t this analysis paralysis too? Just try out an MBA course if you’re so curious about whether it’s useful. Then you can always quit later. Or start a company; make tons of money; then go back to school to see how it is like; if you’re still curious. A friend of mine just made some good money; went to Harvard to see how it’s like and loved it.


This is my personal take (stereotype 101 ;P): MBAs are analytical, entrepreneurs are driven. MBAs sit and wait until things are in order and execute, entrepreneurs seek orders from chaos and execute. MBAs get stuck in analysis paralysis to the point they can’t get out, entrepreneurs get stuck in action paralysis to the point they can’t get out. In sum, MBAs are for thinkers, startups are for doers. If you want to learn, go to the field and learn, don’t go to an MBA school.


Bằng cấp có 1 giá trị cho ta kiến thức. Khởi nghiệp & thất bại giúp bạn có kinh nghiệm. Có MBA cũng tốt, không có củng không sao…đi thuê bạn nào có MBA quản lý. Các Founder của cty lớn, có ai có MBA đâu. CEO thì có 🙂


“In my opinion, entrepreneurship is a matter of the heart, and education is a matter of the brain. It is difficult to teach a heart.”

https://hbr.org/2010/11/does-an-enterpreneur-need-an-m

Share & Spread the love
Close Bitnami banner
Bitnami