From Harlan T. Beverly, PhD, Texas Evening MBA ’04

Every year, thousands of students flock to MBA programs nationwide to learn the craft of business. In recent years, many of those students  have come with a gleam in their eye, that of launching and succeeding with their own startup.  At The University of Texas at Austin, MBA applicants can earn a scholarship for their idea, assuming their idea is strong enough. One of the key questions about entrepreneurial education, though, is this: what does it take to succeed at a startup? And more to the point, is that something you can learn in an MBA program?

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2016 TVL Scholarship winners Josh Berrington (left) and William Wilder (right)

Researchers in entrepreneurship have typically focused on the attributes of the founding team as key predictors of success.  While it is obvious that certain characteristics like risk tolerance, persistence, and charisma could be helpful in getting an entrepreneur started, there is still much debate about what it really takes to have a successful startup.

In 2004, I was one of those MBA students with that startup fire in my eye.  Now, a dozen years later and with three successful startups under my belt, I believe that there are many critical things that a student can learn in an MBA program to help better their odds of success.  Here are three things I learned as part of my MBA that I have leaned on to beat the steep odds of startup success (less than 1 in 10).

First and foremost: Define success before you begin. 

Not every startup idea is destined for an IPO or billion-dollar exit.  An MBA helped me to learn how to assess the business potential of a startup idea and set realistic goals for what success looks like.  All too often, startups fizzle out because they reach too high or even achieve limited success…but fail to exit at the right time.

Second: Learn, learn, learn. 

No matter what it’s called – “market validation” or “lean startup” or listening to customers – learning, and adapting is essential to success.  My MBA helped me understand both what I needed to learn (pricing for example), and how I could learn what I needed from real customers quickly.

Finally: Success is never achieved in a vacuum.

My MBA helped me to understand the importance of networking. Hiring and firing are essential leadership skills as a company grows, and an MBA not only helps you understand the leadership principles, but also helps you develop team-based skills to work well with others. For me, it was at UT Austin that I met the co-founders of my first company, as well as many future business partners.

Clearly there are many things to learn and skills to develop as part of an MBA. Can they help an entrepreneur be successful?  Absolutely.  The University of Texas’ Jon Brumley Texas Venture Labs has proven capable of developing MBA students into successful startup founders. The new Texas Venture Labs MBA Scholarship is now open and accepting qualified applicants with world-changing startup ideas. Learn more about the application requirements and submit your application today!