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Are MBAs Bad for Tech Companies?

Good in-depth article from the NYTimes on declining standards and educational deficiencies at business schools.

When startups and tech companies talk about the dangers of MBAs, this article provides the perfect evidence behind those risks.

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Comment by Cameron Souza on April 22, 2011 at 12:07am
Yes. Think about all the largest and most successful tech companies - Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. How many of them were started by MBAs? Zero. They were all started by techies. MBAs definitely have their place, but being the founder of a tech company generally isn't one of them (of course, there are always exceptions.)
Comment by Marcus Sortijas on April 21, 2011 at 1:02pm

I thought this quote summed it up:

Brand-name programs — the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of Business, and a few dozen others — are full of students pulling 70-hour weeks, if only to impress the elite finance and consulting firms they aspire to join.

My impression is that MBAs are trained to work for a large corporation, not a scrappy startup.  That's not to discount their value.  As a company grows, I imagine that structure and processes become more important, so MBAs can add value at that stage.  In the early stages, product development and aggressive marketing skills would be more helpful.


This quote also stood out for me:


It is near-universal student folklore that accounting and finance are where the hard work happens. Accounting majors write cash-flow statements and conduct audits. Finance majors learn how to design investment portfolios and (one hopes) how not to destroy the global economy with collateralized debt obligations.


One of my college roommates was a double-major in accounting and economics, a big-time quant. He had nothing but withering criticism for business majors.  He would say things like that previous quote all the time.


This is a bit of a tangent, but I'm noticing more voices calling for "creating your own opportunities."  As in rather than spending the money on an MBA, start your own small business instead.  I've read similar arguments against film school, where pros have said you're better off shooting an independent film.  The idea was that great work trumps a fancy degree. 

Comment by Daniel Leuck on April 15, 2011 at 7:13am

It was interesting discussing this on the show last night. You brought up an interesting topic. Far more successful tech companies are started by programmers who develop business skills along the way than MBAs who have to go in search of their tech guy (or offshore everything.) That isn't to say an MBA isn't valuable, but they seem to be more valuable as the fourth or fifth hire than as the founder.


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