Harvard vs. Stanford MBA: Which One is Better for Entrepreneurs?

October 15, 2010 · Leave a Comment 

Harvard Business School (HBS) and Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) are arguably two of the most prestigious brands when it comes to MBA degrees. But which one is better for students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Why a Harvard MBA Is Better than Stanford for Entrepreneurs

Harvard has earned a reputation for being an institution for the corporate elite — an academy that breeds those MBA graduates who become directors, senior executives, and partners of the world’s most powerful corporations, investment banks, and management consulting firms.

Harvard Business School wants to break this myth and has gone through a very impressive process of reinvention.What Harvard lacks in geography is made up for by the amount of resources it now has for the field of entrepreneurship.

For example, Harvard has a separate entrepreneurship faculty, while Stanford has no dedicated department for entpreneurship. Harvard has a greater percentage of its professors and also a larger number educating students on entrepreneurship compared to any other business school.

Harvard has 35 professors who teach entrepreneurship. All first-year Harvard MBA students are required to take a course in entrepreneurship and can pick from nearly two dozen second-year elective MBA courses on the topic — more or less equal to the number of entrepeneurship courses available at its rival Stanford.

Furthermore, Harvard has a dedicated building devoted to the topic of entrepreneurship, the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship. The $25 million building was donated to the business school in 2003 by the HBS alum who invested in two tech giants, Intel and Apple.

Finally, Harvard says almost 25% of the whole venture capital sector is made up of HBS alumni. An HBS entrepreneur seeking to raise startup capital can simply search the HBS alumni database and reach out to one of the school’s alums for advice.

Why a Stanford MBA Is Better than Harvard for Entrepreneurs

Renowned for producing remarkable entrepreneurs, Stanford has wisely taken advantage of its geography to function as an incubator for Silicon Valley. Over the years, it has rightfully earned a reputation for being the preeminent business school for entrepreneurs.

At Stanford, entrepreneurship is taught not through required courses on entrepeneurship, but by pulling from traditional disciplines in marketing, finance, and organizational behavior. One out of four elective MBA courses at Stanford is on the topic of entrepreneurship. More importantly, 95% of the students sign up for at least one class in entrepreneurship.

What is interesting is Stanford’s courses are taught by a professor along with a practitioner. Because it is located just down the street from Sand Hill Road, recognized for its high concentration of venture capital firms, the school has VCs and startup entrepreneurs that come to Stanford GSB as lecturers, including Intel founder Andy Grove and ex-Cisco CEO John Morgridge.

Without a doubt, Stanford’s Palo Alto location is an enormous component of the school’s advantage. The university resides in an incubator. Stanford students live in Silicon Valley and on a campus where they are a stone’s throw away from the schools of medicine, engineering, design.

Except for startup capital, almost everything you would need to launch a business is right on the Stanford campus and within walking distance, from talented co-founders you could start companies with to professors who are extremely connected and willing to coach young entrepreneurs.

In terms of percentage, roughly 15% more Stanford than Harvard MBA grads are likely to either launch their own businesses or work for startups right out of school. Almost 10% of Stanford GSB’s graduating class start companies immediately after graduation, compared to about about 4% to 6% at Harvard.

So, Which MBA Is Better: Harvard or Stanford?

The truth is, the vast majority of MBA students still go for safe high-paying jobs in finance and consulting to pay off their MBA tuition debt. But both Harvard and Stanford say that more than half their alumni end up running their own companies within 10 years.

Both institutions have produced successful entrepreneurs. Mark Pincus, founder and CEO of Zynga (one of the fastest growing tech companies of all time), is from the class of 1993 at Harvard Business School.

In the end, you can’t go wrong with either of these prestigious names.

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