Business schools were not always self-styled bastions of entrepreneurship, but start-up fever is reaching a peak among today’s MBA crowd. A US MBA ranking published this month by the Princeton Review revealed that Harvard Business School is top for entrepreneurship.
Harvard took the no 1 spot for the second consecutive year. The percentage of Harvard MBA students founding their own businesses was 27% in 2011.
The ranking is based on the percentage of faculty, students and alumni actively and successfully involved in entrepreneurial endeavours; the number and reach of mentorship programs; scholarships and grants for entrepreneurial studies; and the level of support for school-sponsored business plan competitions.
Nearly 40% of Babson’s MBAs have launched start-ups in recent years. “I see a lot of entrepreneurial students,” said Babson College entrepreneurship professor Donna Kelley, adding that there is now more visibility and excitement around entrepreneurs.
Michigan’s Ross School of Business and Kellogg School of Management are ranked at fourth and fifth in the league table respectively.
“Interest in entrepreneurship grows at a rapid pace,” said Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Ross School of Business.
She said that the school focuses on providing students with the opportunity to manage real funds and interact with mentors who are successful entrepreneurs or venture capitalists. Ross runs four student-led VC funds, the largest of which is armed with $7 million.
Elite business schools in the US and Europe are seeing record numbers of their students launching companies. According to FT data more than 35% of 2011’s MBAs at MIT Sloan School of Management launched a start-up; 34% at UC San Diego; 36% at Oxford University’s Saïd School.
“Being surrounded by mindful and intellectually adventurous people gives you an extra motivation to start your own business,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, founder of Italian internet company Homyn.com who earned an MBA at MIP Politecnico di Milano.
Approximately 40% of the class of 2011 at Stanford GSB founded a company, according to the FT data, although this has since fallen back to 16%, Stanford said this month.
“Entrepreneurship is something the students are interested in,” said Maeve Richard, Career Management Center director at Stanford GSB.
“It is easier to start a business right now,” she added. “And when the valuations are strong, is does make it very attractive.”
Business schools have strived to bring a market to business founders, who have in the past shied away from MBA programs, which are viewed by some in the start-up community as too rigid and costly.
Yet demand for such courses is riding high. The Fox School of Business, ranked no 10 this year by the Princeton Review, has seen entrepreneurship program enrolment increase by 380% over the past four years.
Dr M Moshe Porat, dean of the Fox School, put the success down to the school’s emphasis on innovation and the promotion of small business development.
Business schools are increasingly trying to “teach” students to be entrepreneurial in all that they do — whether launching a start-up or a new venture within an established corporation.
“It’s not just about starting your own company…. These students are learning skills of innovation that are applicable across every walk of life,” said Steven Fox, acting managing director of the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at BYU’s Marriot School, ranked seventh this year.
Jeff Skinner, executive director of London Business School’s Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said: “Increasing numbers of businesses know that in order to recruit the best talent they must show that they take innovation seriously and have programs for enabling those with great ideas to be able to work on them inside the business.”