MBA or Startup? Posted at 0:00, Wed, 20 August 2014 in Industry Insights

Over the last few weeks I have been introduced to people that are looking to make the next step in their career. They are often-times working in a large business and weighing up their ‘what next’ options. The options are often:

• Get another job (possibly overseas)
• Do an MBA (or further study)
• Work in a startup

My first question is always the same. What made you come to this decision?

Unsurprisingly the answers are often a combination of the following:

• I want to work in a more dynamic business
• I feel like I have hit a ceiling and need new challenges
• I am passionate about disruptive technology
• I want to work with smart people
• I want a work culture that inspires me

As a specialist in building early stage technology businesses my counsel is always around the last option. My response to their answer is often the same: How much risk can you take on?
When you are used to a stable business and wage most people take on financial risk – unfortunately working in an early stage startup comes with high risk – high failure rate, pay cut etc. If you can take on this risk I would recommend working in an early stage business. This high risk high-reward option has more benefits above and beyond the potential monetary upside. Most entrepreneurs describe the experience as like doing an MBA …but on steroids.

What people are describing is a highly concentrated, highly accelerated learning experience where you are needing to adapt to rapid change and make decisions quickly. On top of this is often exposure to a broad variety of activities I call it “stacking the dishwasher” – this means you do whatever you have to do that is most important to the business at the time.

As a trend we are starting to see the corporate sector realise the benefit of this experience and ask for start-up experience. This is often within their ‘innovations’ or ‘emerging business’ areas. If you are interested in dipping your toes into this area check out the reading list below.

Reading List

ReWork – David Heinemeier Hansson
Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh
Lean Startup – Eric Ries